24th Jan 2018

You are 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, Durham County Council has agreed to redevelop Aykley Heads and relocate County Hall. 

Having considered a number of options, the proposal will enable us to seek a significant contribution of up to £4 millon 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 City Register Office which would offer significantly enhanced facilities for weddings and civil and ceremonies in a historic setting.

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; 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, as well as modern research facilities and digital access.  After looking at the site options, we felt that Mount Oswolds manor house best reflects the public views.  We now want to share our ideas about what could be based in the new centre, get your views on what services and facilities it should offer and find out what would make you want to visit.

Our proposals include:

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.
  • 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 the council’s 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 space of 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 HallHall
  • 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.

·         Enabling the redevelopment of Aykley Heads which could help create over 6,000 jobs.

How to have your say

You can give your views on the proposals, and what you would like to see included in a new history centre, now at or complete this survey.

The consultation will close on Sunday, 18 February 2018.

What next

This stage of the consultation your views will help shape an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Consultation will take place throughout the process including the design stage.

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