Durham County Record Office – whose huge archives include five miles of documents dating back to medieval times – is going to have to move. As a result, local people are being invited to give their opinions on proposals for a new history centre for County Durham.

 The office will need to find a new home as plans to develop Durham City’s Aykley Heads area have been given the green light.

 Durham County Record Office has been based on the same site since it opened in 1963, but the archives’ accommodation has now become outdated. There is also little space to store additional materials as the collection expands.

After evaluating a number of different options, Durham County Council has decided to consult on the idea of developing a history centre in the disused Mount Oswald manor house on Durham City’s South Road.

The manor house – a grade-II-listed building – would be renovated so it could provide appropriate accommodation for the archive collection and have sufficient space for future storage.

The centre would also have the facilities to hold events, exhibitions and educational sessions, as well as providing high-quality opportunities for people to engage in research and volunteering.

In addition to housing the Durham County Record Office archives, the history centre would host a wide range of other documents connected with the county’s history. The centre would also house Durham Register Office, allowing weddings and other ceremonies to take place in the atmospheric setting of Mount Oswald manor house.

To help with the cost of the restoration, the council would need to submit a funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The restoration would also involve the building of an extension to house the archives.

People can have their say about the proposals online or by attending a number of drop-in sessions.

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, Cllr Ossie Johnson, said, “Our archives span 900 years of Durham’s rich and wonderful history and are accessed over a million times a year as people search records and historical information online, by phone or in person.”

“However, as their current home at County Hall is no longer fit for purpose, these new proposals would ensure our irreplaceable heritage is protected for future generations.”

Durham County Record Office holds records from medieval times to the present day. Its archives contain five miles of written and photographic records, which cover all aspects of County Durham’s history.

The council’s cabinet member for transformation, Cllr Joy Allen, said, “This proposal to create a Durham history centre is very exciting and offers us a unique opportunity to make our precious archives far more accessible to residents and visitors alike.”

“Co-locating complementary services in such a distinct and attractive venue would also enhance the services we offer and help attract many more visitors to the venue, and as such boost the city’s economy.”

“The consultation offers everyone the chance to be involved in shaping the future of our archives, historical records and registration service, and I would urge people to give their views.”

Drop-in sessions will be held at:

  • Clayport Library, Monday 29th January, 2 pm to 7 pm
  • Durham Register Office, Aykley Heads House, Durham, Saturday 3rd February, 11 am to 3 pm
  • Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Monday 5th February, 2 pm to 7 pm

There will also be presentations on the proposals at Area Action Partnership board meetings.

The consultation will end on Sunday 18th February.

(Featured image courtesy of Thomas Heynie, from Flickr Creative Commons)

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