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Libraries and Special Collections in County Durham

Theology and Religion

With magnificent Christian architecture and extensive research collections, the region of Durham is an ideal location for the study of theology and religion. Ranging from Catholic recusancy to Cathedral history, the theological research collections in the Durham area attract countless researchers from across the globe.



Medieval monasticism

Widely renowned as the best-preserved Benedictine monastic library in the British Isles, Durham Cathedral Library boasts substantial material relating to the study of medieval monasticism. The collections reflect the fact that the monks of Durham Cathedral formed one of the most important Benedictine communities in medieval England.

Of particular relevance are the Durham Cathedral Muniments, held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections. Produced every year from 1277 to the dissolution of the monasteries, these accounts provide a crucial insight into medieval monastic life.

Material relating to medieval monasticism and Catholicism can also be found in Ushaw College.


Early Modern Catholicism 

The research collections in the region of Durham chart the fate of Catholics throughout Europe following the sixteenth-century Reformation, as well as providing a crucial insight into post-Reformation attitudes towards Catholicism. 

Relevant collections held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections include the Howard LibraryPoor Clares’ Library (Darlington) and the Routh Library, which contains the only known copy of the first version of Thomas More's Opus contra Lutherum (1523). 

In addition, a significant volume of early modern Catholic material can be found in the Ushaw College library and archives. The Radclyffe/Derwentwater Papers relate to recusant Catholic families from Northumberland whilst the Richard Russell Papers in the Lisbon Archive shed light upon the negotiations between England and Portugal during the seventeenth century. 

Other relevant collections include the Douai Miscellany, the Lisbon College Teaching Papers and the Jacobite Papers. The latter can be complemented by Jacobite material located within the Clavering of Greencroft collection held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections. 


Catholic Revival

The numerous research collections in the region of Durham also stand testament to the nineteenth-century Catholic revival. 

Several collections held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections relate to nineteenth-century Catholic emancipation, including the Papers of Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, the Papers of Henry George, 3rd Earl Grey, the Van Mildert Papers and the Chevalier/Corrie Correspondence.

These collections are complemented by the material held at Ushaw CollegeLargely designed by A. W. N. Pugin and other gothic revivalist architects, the architecture of Ushaw College alone is a magnificent symbol of the 19th-century Catholic revival whilst its role as a Catholic seminary reflects the central role that Catholicism came to play in nineteenth-century society.

The research collections at Ushaw College also reflect the state of Catholicism in the nineteenth century. Relevant collections include the Wiseman Letters, the Tate-Slater Letters, the John Henry Newman Letters, the Wilberforce Letters, the Manning Letters and the Thomas Wilkinson Papers.

Click here for a full list of the archival collections held by Ushaw College.


Church of England 

The history of the Church of England is well-represented in research collections throughout the region of Durham.

Several collections relating to the Church of England can be found in the Durham University Archives and Special Collections

Collections of particular importance include the Durham Cathedral Muniments, Bishop Cosin's Library, the Cosin Letter-booksthe Chevalier/Corrie Correspondence, the Grey Pamphlets, the Papers of Charles Robert, 5th Earl Grey and the Hudleston Papers. Together, these collections chart the history of the Church of England from the Reformation to the twentieth-century. 

In addition, detailed information about Church of England parish registers can be found in the Durham County Record Office archives whilst the post-1851 collection at Durham Cathedral specialises in church history.


Quakers 

A small but significant volume of material relating to the Quaker families of north-east England can be found in the Durham University Archives and Special Collections.

The Sunderland Friends Library is a collection compiled entirely by and about Quakers from the foundation of the Society of Friends onwards whilst the Backhouse Papers comprise the family and business papers of the Backhouse family of Darlington and the Gurney family of Lakenham Grove, Norwich. 

The Backhouses and the Gurneys were prominent Quaker bankers and the papers illustrate Quaker doctrines and activities and Quaker attitudes to such topics as war, slavery, prison reform and the payment of church rates. Other English Quaker families united to the Backhouses by ties of kinship and business interests are also represented in the collection.

The Quakers are also well-represented in the Durham County Record Office, which holds the minutes of the Durham Quarterly Quaker Meetings from 1671 to 1927.


Diocese of Durham and the Prince Bishops

The research collections in the region of Durham contain a large volume of material relating to the Diocese of Durham and the Prince Bishops.

The Durham Diocesan Records, the Durham Diocesan Records: Bishop's transcripts of parish registers and related records, the Durham Cathedral Muniments and the Chevalier/Corrie Correspondenceall held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, chart the development of the Diocese of Durham from the Reformation to the twentieth century whilst the church records held by Durham County Record Office trace the history of the Diocese of Durham from the sixteenth century onwards.

The region of Durham also boasts a number of research collections relating to the Prince Bishops who oversaw the Palatinate of Durham from the eleventh to the nineteenth century.

Relevant collections held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections include Bishop Cosin's Library, the Cosin Letter-Books, the Cosin Manuscripts and the Van Mildert Papers.

Researchers interested in the Prince Bishops of Durham should also visit Auckland Castle and Durham Castle, both of which were home to the Prince Bishops of Durham for over 900 years. The architecture of both buildings stands testament to the eclectic tastes of the various bishops and the collections housed within both castles also reflects the personal interests of the bishops who lived there. 


Christian architecture 

There is a substantial volume of material relating to Christian architecture in the region of Durham.

The Foster AlbumsFoster Papers and Foster Slides, all held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, contain research notes and photographs relating to early Christian architecture whilst the Romans Collection of photographs chiefly relates to Thomas Romans' interest in church architecture. 

Other relevant collections include the Greatorex Photographs, the Robert Blair Papers and the Karthoum Cathedral collection in the Sudan Archive.

Extensive records relating to the building of Durham Cathedral can be found in the Durham Cathedral Muniments. There are architectural drawings by a range of architects, including Anthony Salvin, and drawings from firms of architects to the Cathedral, such as Hayton, Lee and Braddock. 

At Ushaw College, St Cuthbert's Chapel, the Lady Chapel, and the mortuary chapel of St Michael were largely designed and constructed by A. W. N. Pugin and his sons. Together these chapels form a unique and remarkable assembly of 19th and early 20th century Catholic architecture at its best.

Examples of Anglo-Saxon Christian architecture include Escomb Saxon ChurchSt Peter's Church at Wearmouth and St Paul' Church at Jarrow.


Devotional literature

Devotional literature is strongly represented in research collections throughout the region of Durham.

Many examples of devotional literature are held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, ranging from medieval books of hours to ephemeral prayer cards and religious images. Relevant collections include the St Chad's College MSS, the Howard Library Manuscripts, the Bamburgh Library Manuscripts, the Microfilms of Ushaw College Medieval MSS and Poor Clares' Library (Darlington).

Devotional literature can also be found in Durham Cathedral Library, which boasts a vast number of bibles, missals and breviaries, as well as Ushaw College, which possesses several beautifully illuminated books of hours, primarily dating from the fifteenth century, and Catherine of Braganza's prayer book.


Missionary work

Material relating to missionary work can be found in research collections across the region of Durham.

The Elizabeth Copley Letters and the Backhouse Papers, both held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, provide a crucial insight into missionary work in the nineteenth century. 

The Elizabeth Copley Letters relate to a Protestant mission to the Catholics of Ireland and a Protestant educational mission to girls and women in Syria and Lebanon whilst the Backhouse Papers record Quaker missionary trips to Ireland in the 1820s and North America in the 1830s.

Other relevant collections held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections include Jackson, H. C.Alison, O.C. and Gwynne, L. H.

In addition, Ushaw College possesses some interesting Jesuit material which records early Jesuit missions to the Middle East. 


Hymnology

The Pratt Green Collection, held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, is regularly used by academic researchers for the study of hymnology. The collection includes eighteenth- and nineteenth-century tune books, the papers of the hymnologist John Wilson (1905-1992), hymns and related correspondence of H.C.A. Gaunt (1902-1983), "English hymns and authors", as well as the papers of Fred Pratt Green himself.


Clergymen's records

A considerable number of clergymen's records are held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections.

Many of these records relate to the Prince Bishops of Durham such as the Van Mildert Papers, the Cosin letter-books, the Cosin manuscripts and Bishop Cosin's Library, which includes a Book of Common Prayer (1619) annotated with Cosin's proposals for the 1662 revision.

Other clergymen's records include the Jabez Bunting Transcripts, the Bishop Basil Bunting Papers, the Wharton Papers, the Headlam and Headlam-Morley Papers, the Hudleston Papers, the T. S. Evans Papers and the A. S. Farrar Papers.

The Sudan Archive, also held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, also contains a number of clergymen's records including M. and M. Russell and Jackson, H. C. 

A number of clergymen's records can also be found in the Ushaw College Archives.

Religion in the Sudan

The Sudan Archive, held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, contains a substantial volume of material relating to religion in the Sudan and its neighbouring countries.

Collections of particular importance include the papers of M. and M. Russell, which include transcriptions of southern Sudanese religious songs, the papers of G. H. Martin, which contain official church records and personal correspondence regarding church affairs, the papers of L. E. Humphreys, which include articles on Christianity in the Upper Nile, and the papers of G. F. P. Blyth, which relate to church matters in Egypt. 

Other relevant collections include Acland, P. B. E.Hitch, Dr B. M.Alison, O.C.Haywood, J. A.Gwynne, L. H. and Hassan R.


Religion in the Middle East and Asia

The research collections in the region of Durham provide ample scope for the study of religion in the Middle East and Asia.

The Oriental Manuscripts, held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, include a number of religious texts whilst the Durham University Oriental Museum boasts a vast range of religious objects from across Asia and the Near and Middle East. 

The Chinese Collection includes a large number of soapstone carvings depicting deities and popular religious figures whilst the Himalayan, Tibetan & Central Asian Collection contains a number of ritual objects from Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, and Afghanistan. 
The Indian and South Asian collections contain artefacts that relate to the major religions to emerge from the sub-continent: Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. They take the form of sculpture in stone (including Ghandaran sculpture), wooden artefacts, furniture, textiles, jade, metalwork, arms and armour, manuscripts, calligraphy and miniature paintings.

Theology

A number of theological works can be found in the Durham University Archives and Special Collections. Collections of particular relevance include the Bamburgh Library, the Maltby Library and the Routh Library.


Special Collections and Theology

Explore the Durham University Special Collections and discover their inimitable potential for the study of Theology and Religion.

The Meissen Collection

Comprising over 15,000 titles, the Meissen Collection at Durham University is the largest gathered German-language collection of theology in England.

Ushaw College

Established as a Catholic Seminary in 1808, Ushaw College represents the largest and most significant concentration of buildings, archives, books, art-works, and other artefacts related to the history of Catholicism in the North of England.