A PROJECT to create a history centre for County Durham has been given a £150,000 boost.

Durham County Council submitted a planning application last month to restore and refurbish the Grade II-listed Mount Oswald Manor as a home for the county’s archive, heritage and registration services.

Now the authority has been told it has been successful in applying for a grant from the Wolfson Foundation to help create an exhibition space within the centre, should planning permission be approved.

An inspiring exhibition programme is a key part of the proposed history centre development and the money will help make this possible.

Councillor Joy Allen, cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been successful in our application for support through the Wolfson Foundation.

“We have carried out a great deal of consultation with the public in advance of submitting the planning application, and exhibitions featured very highly as something people felt the centre should provide.

“This money will help us open up our collections to a wider audience by enabling us to create engaging, inspiring and interactive exhibitions in all public areas of the development.”

In addition to the county’s archives, which are currently accessed more than one million times a year, the centre would house historic registration records, historic environment and archaeology records and local studies collections.

The Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Collection would also be included, bringing together all items from the collection with DLI archives cared for by Durham County Record Office, for the first time since 1998.

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

Paul Ramsbottom, Wolfson Foundation Chief Executive said, “At a time when funding for archive services is increasingly under pressure, we were impressed with the significant commitment made by Durham County Council to create this new history centre at Mount Oswald Manor.

"We are pleased to be able to support them in their ambition to open up these important collections with a dedicated exhibition space, making them accessible to the people of County Durham in new and creative ways.”

The application for Durham History Centre has been submitted by Durham County Council and, if it is approved, the ownership of the Manor House and surrounding land will be transferred by owners, The Banks Group, to the county council for a nominal fee to secure its future use.

It is hoped that construction can begin in 2021, with the centre opening to the public in 2023.