Call for Volunteers

Do you love history? Are you outgoing and passionate about sharing that love? Or are you just a curious mind with a fancy for doing a bit of historical sleuthing? We have two great opportunities for you!

St Mary’s Parish Church is one of the oldest buildings in Barnard Castle. Built at around the same time as the famous castle, St Mary’s sits at the heart of the town, and its story. We’re looking for 25 volunteers to explore the heritage of this remarkable building, and preserve it for future generations.

History Outreach Volunteers

We’re looking for 10 – 15 people who are curious about the past and want to help us share the forgotten stories of Barnard Castle with residents, tourists, and visitors alike. You will be supported by the St Mary’s History Research Volunteers who will dive deep into the archives to find out more about the forgotten history of Barnard Castle and its oldest church. They will share their findings which you can turn into an exciting programme of tours, talks, and blogs that will unlock the history of Barnard Castle, to be enjoyed by tourists, visitors, and residents alike.

Find out more:

History Research Volunteers

Our archive, which is mainly in the local record office, is filled with documents dating all the way back to the medieval period. We’re looking for 10 people who are curious about the past and want to dive into the archives with us to research the forgotten stories of Barnard Castle’s past. You will receive training on how to explore the archives and do your own historical sleuthing! You will then use your training to help us with our research and uncover new stories. We’ll share our findings with the St Mary’s History Outreach Volunteers, who will create an exciting programme of tours, talks, and blogs that will unlock the history of Barnard Castle, to be enjoyed by tourists, visitors, and residents alike.

Find out more:

Training (History Research Volunteers only)

Training will be offered for the History Research Volunteers and will begin on the 26th May 2021. 

We will be meeting for an informal virtual cup of tea before the first training session (we’ll try to arrange a date that suits everyone) where you can ask any questions about what’s involved and what’s required. This is your chance to figure out whether this is for you or whether you want to jump the ship after all!

Three archival training workshops will take place on Zoom and are hosted by the County Durham Record Office:

Workshop 1 – Introduction to Archives and Local History, Wed, 26th May, 6pm

Getting to know what the Record Office is and how to search their database. Focusing on 19th century and later sources, we’ll be looking at trade directories, maps, parish registers and other sources that are available digitally.

Workshop 2 – Reading Old Handwriting, Wed, 9th June 6pm

A class on how to read documents from the 1700s, possibly looking at one or two early records. The examples will be local, from Barnard Castle if possible.

Workshop 3 – Barnard Castle in the 1700s, Wed, 16th June 6pm

We’ll have a look at what documents exist and how to understand them.


This is a unique opportunity to delve into the archive to try and find answers that have been lost to the maelstrom of time. For example:

  1. The Reformation (mid 1500s): was Barnard Castle more ‘Catholic’ or Reformed? How did the changes in worship and tradition impact the church? Were they welcomed or not?
  2. The Commonwealth (mid 1600): this saw the appointed clergy booted out of office and churches being used in very different ways (some as stables) – what happened in Barnard Castle?
  3. The upheavals of the arrival of William and Mary (1685): Clergy had sworn an oath of loyalty to the crowned King James II. When he declared himself to be Roman Catholic he was ‘deposed’ and the Protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary were invited to take the throne. Having sworn an oath to James, many clergy felt they could not break their oath and were removed from office. What happened in Barnard Castle?
  4. The whole of the 1700s is assumed to be a period of decline, but there is no evidence of either at the church. What happened in Barnard Castle and St Mary’s?

Our project is funded by the National Lottery, which allows us to pay for your training. We only have a very limited number of spaces available in our training workshops, and the project cannot succeed without the help of dedicated research volunteers, so please only sign up if you are currently prepared to commit time to this opportunity on an ongoing basis.

If you’re interested, send us an email with the subject “History Outreach Volunteer” OR “History Research Volunteer” before May 20th with a sentence or two telling us why you’re interested in your chosen role. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!