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Durham County Council

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Durham County Record Office


Durham County Record Office is responsible for collecting and preserving the archives of people and organisations in County Durham and Darlington, and making those records available to as many people as possible.

Record Office search room

Archives are our memory - they provide a unique access to our past. They are the written records of people's day-to-day lives.

Archive collections

The archives we care for reflect all aspects of the life and work of the people of County Durham and Darlington. They include the records of:

  • Durham County Council and its predecessors
  • other local authorities which no longer exist
  • The Durham Light Infantry
  • churches
  • businesses of all types
  • families and estates
  • schools and colleges
  • clubs and societies
  • individuals and families

We hold over four miles of records, which are stored in strong rooms where they can be protected from theft and fire, and where the temperature and humidity are controlled. We always welcome new deposits or gifts of records from individuals and organisations. We do not charge for looking after archives.

Documents from 1122

Our earliest document dates from about 1122, but not all are old. For example, we hold up-to-date minutes of the county council and parish registers from 2013. Archives are usually paper and parchment, but can also be photographs, films, sound recordings and electronic records. 

Using archives

People use archives for a wide variety of reasons to:

  • support the rights of citizens
  • provide opportunities for learning
  • preserve culture and heritage
  • strengthen family and community identity
  • support administrative and business activity

For example, you can use them to check council decisions, establish legal rights, view plans of your house, access official documents like court, hospital or care records, pursue a personal interest or hobby such as family and local history, investigate archaeological or environmental issues, or research a book or television programme.

Visitor information

About 5,000 people visit the Record Office each year. Admission to the search room is free. Our space is limited, so to help you enjoy your visit to the full, we have to ask you to make an appointment in advance. Our most popular records, for example parish and non-conformist church registers, are available only on microfilm. We use microfilm to save the original documents from wear and tear, ensuring their survival for future generations.

Other ways to access the archives

Many people who are unable to visit contact us by email, post or telephone using our contact details below.

Website

The Durham County Record Office website has an extensive online catalogue describing the archives we keep. You can view over 40,000 photographs from our collections online.

Unfortunately you cannot view all the archives from home using our website. This is because the collections are so large (four miles of shelving). Instead you can search the catalogue and:

  • plan a visit
  • order copies of documents you want to see
  • use our research service

The website also contains information about our resources for family history.

Charges for the service

Admission to the Record Office is free.

We do make a charge for copies of documents. If you cannot visit the Record Office yourself, we can make a search on your behalf. Short, specific searches are carried out free of charge, although there will be a charge for any copies we provide.

For longer or more complex requests, we offer a research service for a fee.

Group visits and talks

As well as providing facilities for individuals to visit the Record Office, we also welcome visits by groups. Alternatively, we can come out to talk to your group or society. A charge is made for group visits and talks. Contact us for further details.

Depositing archives

Archives that you give or bequeath to the Record Office, or deposit with us for safekeeping, are cared for free of charge. We do, however, reserve the right to charge for cataloguing or conservation work carried out on those documents if they are subsequently removed from the Record Office.

Specialist copying service

Do you have precious letters, photographs or plans that you want to share or need additional copies of? Durham County Record Office provides a high quality digital copying service for records that are:

  • fragile
  • too large to handle or copy easily
  • at risk of fading
  • in need of expert handling during the copying process

Documents are laid flat and photographed with an overhead camera to avoid any damage. Preserve and share your records by getting digital copies which you can share with family and friends.

We have copied mining plans, engineering drawings, photographs (and photograph albums of all sizes), churchyard plans on rolls of wallpaper and even oil paintings. For advice and prices please contact Durham County Record Office using the details below.

Conservation service

The preservation of archives for future generations often requires the skilled attention of our Conservator. Paper and parchment documents are repaired using traditional and modern techniques, in our well-equipped workshop. Ask us about the service we offer to conserve the documents or pictures that you keep at home.

Please see our information about disruptions, in case this service is affected.