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Archives and Special Collections: Churches and Religion: Church Buildings

Our collections

There are three main sources within the Durham Diocesan Records relating to church buildings and repairs within County Durham.

  • Papers relating to faculties (typically including correspondence and plans, as well as fomal petitions, citations and grants of faculty), by which alterations to consecrated churches and buildings within churchyards are approved.  Consecrated churches in active use are exempt from Listed Building Control, being subject instead to faculty jurisdiction for structural alterations, furnishings and memorials and other changes or reorderings.
  • Records of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches, most notably the quinquennial (5-yearly) inspection reports by architects on churches (1955 to present, see diocesan website for current reports), and a reference set of chiefly mid-20th century photographs of church exteriors and interiors.
  • Visitations by the archdeacons (including returns from churchwardens) had a particular focus on the fabric of the church and any repairs, though some information relating to church buildings can also be found within the clergy visitation returns in response to episcopal visitations.

The Durham Cathedral Archive includes extensive plans and drawings from the 19th and 20th centuries, for both the cathedral church and other buildings within the precincts. Key ecclesiastical architects featured within the plans include the following:

  • Anthony Salvin (1799-1881)
  • Ignatius Bonomi (1787-1870)
  • Philip Hardwick (1792-1870)
  • George Pickering (clerk of works, 1842-1853)
  • Charles Hodgson Fowler (1840-1910)
  • George Pace (1915-1975)
  • Ian Curry (1930-2012)

These are supplemented by reports and financial records relating to repairs and building projects, for both medieval and modern periods. The medieval building accounts are not in a single sequence but references are brought together in the list of medieval accounting material, and highlights include:

Modern architects' reports, files and plans are not listed online, but summarised within the summary guide to the cathedral archive (section DCD/N).  Detailed lists of reports and plans can be made available on request.

Early modern and modern accounting material, including scattered references to repairs and work on the cathedral church, is listed in our Post-Dissolution: Accounts catalogue.

The Ushaw College Building Records include plans for the chapel by Augustus Pugin, Edward Welby Pugin and by Dunn and Hansom, along with plans and papers relating to other College buildings.

Two major local firms of church architects are represented within our collections, each with a long history of involvement in the building and maintenance of churches throughout County Durham and beyond.

  • The firm of Hayton, Lee and Braddock took over the earlier practice of Cordingley and McIntyre.  Their diocesan papers include project files in relation to work on churches and vicarages, along with a large set of separate plans which currently remains unlisted, and miscellaneous photographs and plans relating chiefly to Auckland Castle, and to Darlington St Paul church and vicarage.
  • The drawings in the collection of William H. Wood (who took over the practice of Charles Hodgson Fowler, later part of the firm Oliver, Leeson and Wood, later Wood and Oakley) relate to churches, furnishings and parsonage houses across County Durham, with some in Northumberland and other counties.

Note that the architectural plans of Charles Hodgson Fowler are kept at Durham County Record Office, under catalogue reference D/HF.

Availability online (digital images)

Except for the 15th century Cathedral Galilee building accounts, and current quinquennial inspection reports for Anglican parish churches (as noted above), these collections have not been digitised.  Only the catalogues are currently available online.

If you would like to purchase digital copies of specific items from any of our collections, please use our online enquiry form.

If you are a member of teaching staff at Durham University and would like to use material from Archives and Special Collections within your lectures or seminars, we may be able to scan or photograph items for this purpose.  Please contact us as early as possible with any teaching digitisation requests.

See also our guide to Digitised Collections Online for further information on our digital resources.

Access to original sources

Our collections are at one of two sites.

  • Palace Green Library: open Monday to Friday (appointments recommended - required during April and May, see below), 10am to 4:30pm
  • Ushaw College Library:  access is currently limited. Please submit an enquiry form for further details.

For further details, see our guide to Visiting us in person.  To make an appointment, please use our enquiry form.  Please give three working days notice for appointments and include a full list of document references or shelfmarks so that we can best enable your research access.

See information on Using Our Collections for further information on accessing our collections and on our facilities and services.

Details of opening times can be found in our Library Sites guide.