History Centre project
A new history centre and registration service for County Durham
We are restoring the grade II listed Mount Oswald to create an exciting new local history centre for the county and a new register office.
The centre will bring into one central location the story of the history and heritage of the county, as told through historic records, photographs and objects. The project will bring Mount Oswald back into use, adding a high quality, visually appealing extension which will complement the existing building.
- There will be enhanced registration facilities in a stunning location with weddings and civil ceremonies able to welcome up to 100 guests.
- There will be free entry to our permanent and temporary exhibitions exploring the history of County Durham.
- You will be able to learn about the lives of people and their stories through our fun and interactive countywide outreach programme.
- Our exhibitions will bring to life the fascinating history of County Durham from pre-history through to the modern day.
- We are developing an activity programme with storytelling sessions, kids takeover days, behind the scenes tours, volunteering opportunities and community projects.
- There will be an exciting education programme for local schools.
Mount Oswald will replace the Aykley Heads House and Bishop Auckland register offices, although a facility to register births and deaths will remain in Bishop Auckland.
What can you expect on a visit to the history centre
On entering the history centre, you will find yourself in a modern, welcoming and exciting space. It will be open and airy with large windows overlooking the grounds. There will be a friendly face at reception or you can walk straight through to the exhibition space which will have innovative and immersive areas alongside traditional displays. You might choose to bypass the exhibitions and head straight for the café which will look out onto the grounds.
The county's history and heritage will be celebrated all over the centre, not just in the exhibition space. We know toilets are important, so there will be plenty, including accessible toilets and a Changing Places facility. If you're visiting for a wedding or ceremony, the beautiful and grand ceremony rooms feed off from the exhibition area so you'll be able to explore the displays and enjoy the café before or after the event.
The journey continues upstairs where you can continue to explore the collections with lots of fun touch screens and digital map tables. If you're visiting for a registration appointment you can wait in the private waiting room or use the time to explore local history through the variety of digital screens on offer.
There will also be state of the art research facilities - everyone will be welcome whether you just want to browse collections, find out about your own history or carry out detailed research.
There will be a dedicated volunteer room and upstairs there will be a classroom for school visits.
There will be something for every visitor, whatever age, wherever they've come from, whether they want to spend one hour or half a day exploring. We can't wait to welcome you in. Our aim is to put visitors at the heart of the experience so you feel represented, understood and celebrated. This is your history, your heritage, your stories.