History Research Volunteers

Love history? Fancy doing a bit of historical sleuthing? Join our team of volunteers to helps us uncover new stories from the past…

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.

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.

What’s involved?

We’re looking for people who can help us:

  • Carry out the research into forgotten history uncover new stories from archives
  • Research different topics about the history of St Mary’s church, Barnard Castle, and the wider surroundings
  • Create new content and blogs for the history segment of the website
  • Help us compile material to offer a blue plaque activity for Barnard Castle

You will benefit from:

  • Personal development and skills training
  • New skills to help you uncover forgotten historic gems
  • Spending time with like-minded people and make new friends
  • Uncovering forgotten historic gems
  • A sense of achievement in helping to spark a local appreciation for the town’s history
  • Taking pride and ownership of your work
  • Increased confidence

What is required?

There is no minimum number of hours per week or month that you need to commit. We are happy for any time you can give to us and we are very flexible around changes in your personal circumstances.

When you join us, you must be:

  • Willing to learn and be part of a friendly team
  • Willing to commit long term and use the training we give you to help us with our research
  • Responsible and good at managing your own time
  • Punctual and able to meet deadlines for any tasks you commit to
  • Friendly, respectful, and professional when working with each other

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.

Do I need previous experience?

No previous experience or qualifications are required. This is an opportunity to learn and grow. You might start by knowing very little about archival research, but Professionals from the Durham County Record Office will teach you about the workings of their archives and help you get acquainted with their records and methods of research. Before long, you will find yourself being confident in conducting your own research and disseminating the history to the rest of the world.

Do I need to be local?

Being local to Barnard Castle will always be an advantage, but you can also join us from further afield, or even remotely – archival research and writing history blogs are all possible from anywhere with a decent internet connection!

Due to the pandemic, physical access to the Record Office archive is not possible, so most of your research must take place online. You should also venture into newspaper archives and other archives.

How does it work?

We’ll start with an introductory meeting in late May to introduce ourselves, and our work so far. You will be able to ask any questions about the opportunity to help you decide if you want to join us.

The archival research workshops with the Record Office will take place on May 26th, June 9th and June 16th via Zoom.

We will then give you a choice of topis to research, and we will meet up regularly – via Zoom, and/or in person at St Mary’s when it is safe and relevant to do so.

We will provide training and support to develop your skills and confidence until September 2021. From then on, you’ll take a more leading role in your research with support from a volunteer co-ordinator.

Do I need to be religious?

No, you do not need to be religious. People of all faiths, or none, are welcome. You simply need to be interested in the history of a religious building which has been at the heart of a community for nearly 900 years – the St Mary’s history volunteers are primarily interested in researching and sharing stories about the people of Barnard Castle, as held within the archives of St Mary’s. All we ask is that all volunteers are respectful of others’ beliefs and avoid religious discussions or expressions of faith that might leave others feeling uncomfortable or excluded

What’s your mission?

Over the last year, we’ve been working on a project called Windows to the World, which aimed to restore the building, and open up the wealth of history hidden inside for the benefit of the town. Our mission is to continue that journey, and keep on sharing the forgotten stories of Barnard Castle; for nearly 900 years, St Mary’s Parish church has stood at the heart of the town, and been a place where the ordinary townspeople gathered, connected, kept town records, or buried their dead. By dusting off our archives, and with a little sleuthing, we’ll be able to uncover new stories to tell about the town’s past. The history of St Mary’s Parish church aims to be a common ground for all – residents, tourists, and visitors alike.

How do I apply?

Send us an email with the subject “History Research Volunteer” with one or two paragraphs telling us why you’re interested in getting involved. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!