When you arrive
Information about the facilities in the Record Office and County Hall.
Use our picture gallery to see around the Record Office before your visit.
Visitor car park
There is a free visitor car park near the public entrance to County Hall. Please be aware that this car park is often very busy and it can be difficult to find a space at peak times.
There is overflow parking south of the County Hall site. Turn left out of the County Hall gates onto the southbound carriageway of the A691. Take the first exit on the left before you reach the railway bridge. Bear left, through the red and white parking barrier, and follow the road to the end. There is a free car park on the right. A lighted footpath leads from the end of the pond to the County Hall entrance.
Park and Ride
You can also use Durham City Park and Ride to get to County Hall. If visitor parking at County Hall is full, the Sniperley Park and Ride site is only a mile away and the bus stops right outside County Hall.
There is an electric vehicle recharging point outside the public entrance to County Hall
You will find disabled parking bays on the left of the public entrance to County Hall. If you are unable to find a vacant disabled bay please phone the County Hall facilities team on 03000 268335 to ask for assistance.
Access to the Record Office
There is ramped access from the disabled parking area to the public entrance of the building, avoiding two flights of steps.
Inside County Hall, the Record Office is located on the lower ground floor which is a few steps above the public entrance level. There is a customer access lift to the left of the Help Desk to avoid these steps. Help Desk staff will assist you to operate the lift.
On the lower ground floor level you pass through two sets of automatic doors to reach the Record Office. Open the first set of doors by swiping the card issued to you at the Help Desk. The second set of doors is controlled by a push pad on the wall.
A disabled toilet is located on the right hand side of the corridor leading to the Record Office, just past the lockers.
In the Record Office search room there are two microfilm readers where wheelchair users are given priority.
For readers with visual impairment, there is an IRIS video enlarger offering high magnification, negative images and a range of high contrast colours to meet special viewing requirements.
The Help Desk is just inside the public entrance to County Hall.
Please report to the Help Desk where staff will issue you with a visitor pass/swipe card on a lanyard.
Wear this pass at all times while you are in the building and use the card to open doors fitted with an access control. Please return your pass to the Help Desk on your departure.
Help Desk staff will direct you to the Record Office which is on the lower ground floor of County Hall, leading off from the left of the Help Desk area.
Toilets are located on the right hand side of the corridor leading to the Record Office.
- Men's toilets are just past the two sets of automatic doors.
- Women's and disabled toilets are just past the lockers.
- There are additional public toilets in the public entrance foyer.
Please remember that you cannot eat or drink anything in the search room, even sweets. If you need to take medication or have regular drinks of water you can do this beside the lockers outside the search room, or in the seating area behind the Help Desk.
Vending machines for hot and cold drinks and snacks are located beside the Help Desk at the public entrance.
There is a drinking water dispenser beside the vending machines.
The Bishops' Table canteen
'The Bishops' Table' canteen in County Hall serves:
- Breakfast from 8.30 to 10.30am
- Lunch (hot food) from 12 noon to 1.30pm
- Sandwiches and beverages from 12 noon to 2.00pm
You can also eat packed lunches in the canteen.
When the County Hall facilities are closed you can obtain food at a nearby public house or in Durham city centre.
You'll find a Co-operative Bank cash machine inside the public entrance to County Hall. There is a 95p charge to withdraw cash from this machine.
Outside the search room there are lockers for bags, files, folders and anything else that you are not allowed to bring into the search room. These lockers are free. You can return to your locker and refer to notebooks or bulky files of notes if you need to.
There is additional space to hang coats if they are wet or you do not want to fold them up in a locker.
Please hand items which are too large for the lockers to search room staff.
Please read the Search Room rules that apply in this Record Office to make the most of your visit.
When you arrive
When you arrive in the Record Office you should sign the visitors' book, stating your name, address, purpose of research and locker number. By signing the register you agree to obey the rules and regulations of the Office.
Please turn mobile phones off while you are in the search room.
A member of staff will give advice on the records likely to be of use to you and will also explain how the search room is arranged. There are separate areas for looking at original documents or microfilm copies.
There are power sockets for laptop users beside microfilm readers and most, but not all, tables.
There is free public wireless internet access in the search room and other parts of the building. Select 'PublicInternet' (no password required).
Staff do all document copying for you outside the search room.
You can sometimes use your own digital camera to make copies - there is a fee to pay and conditions apply. See what to bring with you for more details.
We have 10 table spaces and a large map table in the reading room for researchers using original documents. Book a table space before you visit.
We have 18 microfilm readers in the microfim room. Please book a microfilm reader before you visit.
There are two microfiche readers in the microfilm room. You don't need to book these.
There is a self-service microfilm reader printer to make copies from microfilm or microfiche. Each copy costs 50p. The machine is coin-operated and accepts all coins between 50p and 5p. It does not give change.
Public access PCs
There are six public access PCs (four in the reading room and two in the microfilm room) offering internet access to most websites, including:
- Durham County Record Office website
- Durham County Council website, including online indexes to registrars' birth, marriage and death certificates
- Free access to Ancestry and Find My Past
All public access PCs are linked to a printer. Copies cost 50p.
There is an ultra violet (UV) lamp in the reading room to help with deciphering faint handwriting.
High quality IRIS magnifier
An overhead video camera linked to a PC monitor allows you to study the fine detail in photographs or enlarge small print.
We have a small local history reference library. All library books are listed on our online catalogue so you can check before you visit.
Some books are not stored on the open shelves. Please ask staff for assistance.
You cannot borrow books from the search room but we can usually photocopy pages for you.
Indexes and transcripts
Printed indexes and transcripts of many of the records on microfilm are located in the microfilm room to help you search popular family history sources as quickly as possible.
In Guides to Records you'll find information leaflets summarising the indexes and transcripts that you can use during your visit.