Durham Cathedral needs no introduction as a building, famously described as "the best cathedral on earth" by Bill Bryson, author and former Chancellor of Durham University. Its collections are no less remarkable, exemplified by the extraordinary survival of its medieval manuscripts and archives in the transition from dissolution of the Benedictine Priory to a cathedral of the New Foundation under Henry VIII.
The University's partnership with the Cathedral for the care and custody of its archive goes back to a report for the Pilgrim Trust in 1939. Deliberations were delayed by wartime necessities, and the archive was placed in the university's care in 1948. From then on, it has been looked after, catalogued and made available for research by university staff, but retained throughout within the cathedral precincts.
Other collections of archives have been given to or deposited with the cathedral at various times during the 19th-20th centuries, and custody of these is now divided between the University Library and Collections, and the Cathedral Library, as outlined on the Other Collections page.
Manuscripts and printed books, and the cathedral's music manuscripts, remain in the custody of the Cathedral Library. Research access to these collections is managed by cathedral staff. The cathedral website includes further information on these and on the important object collections belonging to Durham Cathedral, including Anglo-Saxon stones and embroideries.
Use the form below to search within the catalogues for the Durham Cathedral Archive only (medieval and post-Dissolution).
Click on the linked image below to open the search interface for all our library, archive and museum collections. Further guidance for searching the archives and special collections is available on our website.