Historic Environment Record
We maintain an Historic Environment Record (HER), which is a computerised index that records all aspects of our surrounding environment that have been built, formed or influenced by human activity.
The county's archaeological information is managed and organised on a computer database, which is combined with Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping technology. The computer database is supplemented with various types of information, such as plans, photographs, reports, books, maps, etc.
The computerised system also records references to other, non-digital sources of information. The HER is the principal source of information about the historic environment of County Durham and Darlington. Councils, developers, consultants, academic researchers and members of the public all use the HER.
Currently, Durham's HER has approximately 15,000 records, which is constantly being edited and updated. New research or finds are continually added, and eventually made available to the public through the Keys to the Past website. This website contains an edited version of both Durham and Northumberland County Council HER's. It is a useful tool for local researcher but should not be used to inform planning application supporting documents as it does not have all the data available.
Any research requiring up-to-date results should be made by consulting our Archaeology Section directly. This is essential if your enquiry concerns any planning matters. We are pleased to announce that the HLC project data for Durham County Council and Darlington Borough Council is now available to be included in HER searches. The data is still in a draft form, and will not be finalised until the final report is completed in 2013. However, as the core data is unlikely to change significantly, and in the interests of making the data available to users, it has been decided to allow access to the core data.
The information on the HER is copyright to Durham County Council.
Please note that archaeological contractors / heritage professionals must not use "Keys to the Past" as a primary source for planning reports. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) clearly states in Section 12 paragraph 128, that the primary source to be consulted for heritage issues is the county/local HER.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have produced a FAQ document which aims to explain the Historic Environment Record to users. It is based on enquiries about the system that the HER Officer has been asked on more than one occasion about things users are unclear about. It will help users understand better the information they have been sent, and its limitations. Please see the following document for details:
Reference Collection guide
A brief summary of the various types of collections held within the HER, and how they can be accessed, so users can make best use of the HER, and get the maximum information from it. As work is done on the collections, to make them more accessible, it will be updated periodically. Please see the following document for details:
How to get the most out of the HER
The following document explains how we think you can best query the HER to get the best results. The document also explains a little about our data to help you make best use of it.
Information Services Policy
Access to the HER is governed by our Information Services Policy. This gives details on what information you will receive, and what information we need from you to process your request. Please see the following document for details:
We charge contractors and consultants for commercial enquiries relating to planning matters.
Services the HER provides
County Durham HER is a public record, and we welcome enquiries and further information from anyone with an interest in the archaeology of the county. It is held at County Hall in Durham City, where members of the public can make an appointment to see it.
We are able to provide the following resources to researchers:
- desk space and a computer terminal (which needs to be booked in advance)
- expert staff on hand to assist, advise and answer queries
- access to websites with interpreted information and a fully searchable version of the current/up-to-date HER database
- printing/photocopying at a minimal charge