A long-awaited history centre has opened in a North East town giving residents access to a building closed since the 1990s.

The new Local and Family History Centre in Hartlepool has now opened after receiving the civic seal of approval during an official opening from the town’s Ceremonial Mayor.

Described as a "must" for history boffins or residents looking to explore their family history, the centre holds an extensive selection of local and family history resources previously in storage at the Community Hub Central on York Road.

The centre is free for everyone to use, and those Hartlepool Libraries membership can also use its computers to access online resources such as Ancestry, Find My Past and the British Newspaper Archive free of charge.

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The Northern Echo:

Speaking on the centre's opening, Cllr Brian Cowie said: “I’m delighted to formally open the Local and Family History Centre.

“For many years the Local and Family History Service was in a small area of Community Hub Central, but now that it has its own dedicated space in Sir William Gray House its huge range of historical documents and resources is much easier for people to access.

“It opens the door to a fascinating journey of discovery for Hartlepool residents and, indeed, anyone interested in the town’s history.

“Looking ahead, the centre staff are also looking to expand the service even further to provide workshops and talks to residents, groups and schools.

“Last but not least it also means that residents once again have access to this fantastic building, which has not been open to the public since the closure of the Gray Museum and Art Gallery in 1994.”

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The Northern Echo:

The centre has maps stored which show the town's growth, electoral rolls recording who lived where, an extensive collection of Hartlepool and West Hartlepool parish registers of births, and deaths and marriages dating as far back as the 1500s.

It also possesses thousands of photographs plus the Ward Trade Directories, described by Hartlepool Borough Council as the "yellow pages of yesteryear", as well as the Hartlepool Mail on microfilm dating back to 1878.

The Local and Family History Centre is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 3pm with no appointment necessary.