Keys to the Past

Using this Site


The backbone of the 'Keys to the Past' website is a database containing information about every known archaeological site in the Durham and Northumberland area. This includes information from all periods of the region's past, from the slightest traces of earliest prehistory, through the Roman Wall and Medieval castles and churches to monuments of the recent industrial past.

County Councils have long held such databases listing these sites, now known as Historic Environment Records but previously known as Sites and Monument Records, which are central to the planning process. However, the 'Keys to the Past' project is the first time that such databases have been completely reworked to allow easy access for the public. Ultimately, it is hoped that 'Keys to the Past' will become the first stop for everybody with an interest in the archaeology of the Durham and Northumberland, whether school children or academics.

Finding your way around

The main sections of the website are permanently available as links at the top of every page, you can use these links to navigator around the website or jump to a particular section. 

Where a section of the site contains more than one page of information you can use the left hand navigator to move between the pages, or where available use the alphabetical list to jump to each section.

The database of records at the heart of this site can be explored in a number of ways. Initially you might try to Search the Records using a simple keyword search or alternatively undertake an advanced search using dropdown menus to refine your choices.

Once you have reached a record of interest it is possible to view the 'location on a map'. You can view both modern and historical maps relating to all records in the database, and also compare maps from different time periods to see how landscapes have changed.

More in-depth information about searching the records and searching maps is available in this section.

Many words within the database are hyperlinks (highlighted in blue and underlined). Clicking on hyperlinks will take you to further information, either in the form of a glossary entry, which defines the word in more detail, or in a related web page.

Although the core of the 'Keys to the Past' website is formed by the database, there is a host of other information available. The Thematic and Period Overviews aim to give you an idea of how the North-East area has changed through the centuries, while the Sites to Visit section lists some of the archaeological sites that are open to the public, as well as highlighting the favourites sites of some local people. The Local Histories section offers short potted histories of every parish in Northumberland and County Durham.

Our Get Involved section provides the latest information on News and Events as well as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to archaeology. Why not see our list of useful links for easy access to relevant information in other areas of the world wide web or use our contact details for post, email, telephone and fax information.

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If you continue to need help using this website please contact us and we will endeavour to assist you with the problem in question.