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Proposed Durham History Centre consultation

You were invited to have your say on proposals for a new history centre for Durham


In order to help create over 6,000 new jobs in Durham City, we have agreed to redevelop Aykley Heads and relocate County Hall.

As the archives we care for in Durham County Record Office require specialist storage and span over five miles of shelving, we would need to find them a more suitable location.

We consulted in autumn 2015 to find out what would be the key priorities for a new location for the archives and the Durham County Record Office. The outcomes identified were:

  • easy access and good parking or public transport
  • better links between the archives and other record services
  • a location in or near a town centre
  • modern research facilities and digital access

What are we doing?

Having considered a number of options, we felt that Mount Oswald manor house best reflects the public views. The proposal will enable us to seek a significant contribution of up to £4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the cost of a new history centre which would house the archive and Durham County Record Office, currently in County Hall, as well as other similar services across the county.


The proposals would bring Mount Oswald manor house back into use and create a centre containing a wide range of vital records which document the history and heritage of the people of County Durham into one location. Currently these are stored in four separate locations. It would also become the new home for the Durham Register Office which would offer significantly enhanced facilities for weddings and civil ceremonies in a historic setting.


Our proposals in detail

  • Renovating the existing manor house to offer enhanced facilities for weddings and civil ceremonies, as well as naming ceremonies, renewal of vows and other celebrations. It could potentially offer a refreshment area for guests as well as provide quiet spaces for those registering births and deaths. This would mean:
    • the relocation to the new site of the existing Durham Register Office from Aykley Heads House along with all the registration records and ceremony rooms at Bishop Auckland Register Office
    • an enhanced countywide venue for weddings and ceremonies catering for the most simple weddings to large celebrations
  • Creating a new wing to the manor house to bring together our historic records, archives (and potentially other collections) in excellent environmental conditions to preserve, store and display collections for generations to come. It would allow space for over five miles of shelving for records held in the archives alone with space for growth into the future. The collections would include:
    • Durham's 900 years of archives now stored in outdated and unsuitable facilities in County Hall
    • local history books and photographs
    • the historic archaeological and environmental records

The facility would also allow us to think about housing other collections which are of great importance to Durham. One of these could be the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Collection, offering a long-term home for the objects beyond their current five year arrangements.

We believe the benefits of the proposed centre include:

  • a quality centralised service offering speedy access to records with improved facilities for preserving our records
  • a high quality, historic environment with beautiful grounds for ceremonies
  • a location which is accessible by public transport and closer to records in the university
  • improved education facilities for schools and visitors
  • improved search rooms, research facilities and access to computerised records for the public
  • improved volunteering facilities and opportunities
  • new exhibition areas for heritage collections including mining, war and other major events
  • increased numbers of people visiting and taking an interest in heritage, culture and other services available.


You could give your thoughts through online forms and drop in sessions. The consultation closed on Sunday 18 February 2018.

What happens next?

Consultation results

What people said

We had 607 individual responses to the survey. 83% of respondents were in favour of the proposals.

  • 73% of respondents believed that we should offer all seven functions at the new centre
    • Copies of birth death or marriage certificates (historic registration records)
    • Durham County Record Office and archives
    • Historic archaeological and environmental records
    • Local history books and photographs
    • Military/DLI collection
    • Registration of births, deaths and marriages
    • Venue for weddings and ceremonies
  • The most popular activities and learning opportunities all received over 80%
    • Exhibitions about County Durham and North East life
    • View visiting exhibitions
    • Multi-media access to historic records
    • Adult talks about history and heritage
  • Respondents highlighted the following as important facilities for the centre all received over 80%
    • Disabled access
    • Easy access via public transport
    • Parking
    • Seating area for taking a break/refreshments
    • Exhibition space