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Durham University

Special Collections

Durham County Record Office

The County Durham Record Office site provides information about opening hours etc, and also a link to its comprehensive online catalogue.

The records held by the County Record Office fall into four broad groups:

(a). The official records of the County Council and its predecessors and records of other superseded local authorities in the county, including district councils and their predecessors, poor law unions, civil parishes, school boards and individual schools. This group of records dates mainly from the 19th century although the archives of the city of Durham begin in 1179/80.

(b). Records of Church of England parishes in the dioceses of Durham and Ripon (part only of the latter). The Record Office holds parish registers and other records for the whole of the Durham diocese, including those areas now in the counties of Tyne & Wear and Cleveland. The records of ancient parishes can date from the 16th century, but most of the records in this category relate to the period from 1850.

(c). Public records, as defined in the Public Record Acts, deposited locally: including the records of the Court of Quarter Sessions (16th-20th century), National Coal Board records (records of pre-1946 colliery companies), hospital records, and petty sessional records.

(d). Private records deposited by land-owners, families, businesses, individuals, societies and other organisations.
The two outstanding collections are:

The Strathmore papers - Bowes family, and Bowes Lyon family, Earls of Strathmore, concerning their family affairs, estates in Durham and Yorkshire, mining interests, including material on the 'Grand Alliance', involvement in public affairs etc.

The Londonderry papers - political, estate and family papers of the Marquesses of Londonderry. The records reflect the prominent part played by the family in national and local affairs. Particularly notable are the papers of the 3rd Marquess, including his correspondence and despatches when, as Lord Stewart, he was Adjutant General to Wellington in the Peninsular War and subsequently Ambassador in Vienna, 1815-1822, and his later political correspondence with Peel, Aberdeen, Derby, Wellington etc.. The bulk of the estate papers relate to the family's important colliery interests and development of Seaham Harbour in the 19th century.

Among other collections held are the Brancepeth Castle estate papers, and papers of the Pease, Headlam, Hodgkin, Wallis and Shotton families. The papers of the recusant Salvins of Croxdale throw light on the state of Catholicism in the North, 17th-19th century Business archives held include the records of the Consett Iron Company, dating from the middle of the 19th century and informative about the industrial expansion of North-West Durham generally. Trade Union records include those of the Durham Miners' Association.

The Record Office also holds large scale Ordnance Survey plans (1856 onwards), copies of the 1841-1901 census returns for the pre-1974 county, and extensive runs of local newspapers.