The Fitzhugh Library was set up as a charitable trust in 1990 to maintain and expand an existing collection of local material which would be made available to the public for referenced and research.

The area covered is the old Palatinate of Durham before the 1974 boundary revisions, plus the ecclesiastical parish of Romaldkirk.

The first available location was above the Visitor Centre at Bowlees, which proved too remote to attract many callers. Later, the library was housed in premises in Hall Street, Barnard Castle and has now been moved to Woodleigh next to the Scar Top in Flatts Road.

At present, the Library contains over ten thousand items - books, maps, periodicals, ephemera, together with about 13,000 photographs and some 20,000 newspaper cuttings. Everything is card and computer-indexed for easy reference. The indexing system was conceived by a Victorian Librarian named Ormerod and differs from the Dewey Decimal System in using normally only three digits. It is simple and easy to use and, remarkably, meets the needs of the twenty-first century with very minor modifications.

The material housed in the Fitzhugh covers many topics. Apart from books on history, archaeology, biography and genealogy, there are strong sections on mining (lead and coal), railways, churches, education, architecture and sport. Two shelves are given over to material about the ecclesiastical parish of Romaldkirk.

Whilst we try, within a very limited budget, to buy what books we can, we also hope to grow in two other directions:

One is by gift. There must be an immense amount of local material still hidden away in drawers and cupboards awaiting the all-too-common fate of being thrown out or destroyed as useless. As a charitable trust with an unchanging policy of conservation, we can offer a safe and permanent home.

The other is the use of photocopy. We do not regard ourselves as book-collectors but rather as information-holders so we are quite happy to photocopy any original which would otherwise be beyond our reach.

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