Plans approved for dynamic heritage hub in the heart of County Durham

Artists impression of entrance

A vision to create a new history centre showcasing County Durham's rich heritage can now become a reality after plans were approved this week. 

Durham County Council have been given the go ahead to restore the grade II listed Mount Oswald Manor House and turn it into a vibrant and interactive local history hub, bringing together archive, heritage and registration services at a central location near Durham City.

Reaction to the proposed history centre has been overwhelmingly positive and now that planning permission has been granted, the manor house's present owner, the Durham-based Banks Group, will transfer the site to the council for a nominal fee to secure its future use and benefit for local people.

It is hoped work can begin on site next year with a view to opening to the public in 2023.

Telling the county's story

Aimed at telling the story of County Durham's past through historic records, photographs and objects, Durham History Centre will provide a secure future for the more than five miles of county archives, charting almost 900 years of history, which are currently located in County Hall. It will also provide a home for historic registration records, environmental and archaeological records, and local studies collections. And, for the first time since 1998, all items from the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) collection, currently housed at Sevenhills in Spennymoor, and the DLI archives, which are currently cared for by Durham County Record Office, will be brought together under one roof.

The project will also see the relocation from Aykley Heads of Durham Register Office, offering enhanced facilities for weddings and civil ceremonies making the most of the  historic setting and the surroundings of the manor house.

Inspiring and engaging 

An inspiring and engaging exhibition programme will be at the heart of the new centre, with a focus on the stories of working people and everyday families. Plans include state of the art search rooms, including innovative digital facilities, a dedicated learning space, exhibition and interpretation spaces, and a café. There will also be themed activities and events, as well as a countywide outreach programme for children, schools and communities

Earlier this summer, Durham were awarded a £150,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation to support the creation of an interactive exhibition space within the centre, where visitors will be able to discover the county's rich history through nationally and internationally significant collections.

The project has also secured a £43,500 Stage 1 development phase grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). This will be used to develop an exciting and engaging activity and events programme, while also allowing the council to progress the centre's ambitions for innovative digital engagement and digital exhibition elements, ahead of a Stage 2 application next year.


To learn more about the consultation process visit here

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Did you know?

Perhaps Sunderland's most prominent landmark is Penshaw Monument. It was built in 1844 in honour of the first Earl of Durham, John George Lambton. Penshaw was modelled on Theseion, the Temple of Thesus in Athens.


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