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 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 navigate 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.
Many words within the database are links. Clicking on a link 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 extra information about accessing sites. 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.
If you continue to need help using this website please contact us and we will endeavour to assist you with the problem in question.
Our mapping system shows the location of archaeological features in County Durham and Northumberland as part of the Keys to the Past project. Behind the scenes the maps use ‘GIS’ (Geographic Information System) functionality to bring you specialist mapping features.
Accessing the Mapping System
Maps can be accessed from numerous links throughout the Keys to the Past website. Be aware that all map links open in a new browser window. To close the map window, click the ‘Close Map’ button, you will then return to the main Keys to the Past website.
Locating a Feature
Each archaeological feature from the Keys to the Past project can be displayed on a map, with its location indicated by an ‘X’ symbol. It is possible to get more information about anyone feature (or group of features) by clicking on one of the ‘X’ symbols on the map.
Clicking on a Feature
Clicking on an individual feature will allow you to jump to further details held within the Keys to the Past records.
Where features are located very close together or several archaeological finds have been made in one place a group of ‘X’ symbols may overlap or lie on top of each other. In these cases simply click on the group of features to reveal a detailed list to choose from.
Interacting with the Map
It is possible to interact with each map in the following ways:
- Click on ‘Zoom In’ to view more detail at a smaller scale.
- Click on ‘Zoom Out’ to view less detail at a greater scale.
- Move around the map by clicking on either North, East, South, or West on the compass.
- View a historical map of an area (see instructions below).
- Compare maps from different time periods (see instructions below).
- Click on a feature of interest for further details (as detailed above).
Viewing and Comparing Historical Maps
Historical maps are available at a scale of (or below) 1:10,000. Click the ‘Historical Maps’ button to jump to the correct scale and enable our extra historical mapping features.
Various historical maps can be viewed by selecting an alternative time period from the drop-down menu.
To compare maps from different time periods, simply click the ‘Compare Maps’ button to enable the split-screen feature. You can then select different time periods for the top and bottom maps from their corresponding drop-down menus.
Click the ‘Single Map’ button to exit the split-screen feature.
Printing a Map
To print a map, click the ‘Print Map’ button, the map will appear in a new window. You can then print the map using your standard browser print options. For example File>Print. To continue interacting with the maps simply close the map printing window.
Searching the Records
Using the Simple Search
The idea of the simple search is that typing a ‘keyword’ into the search box and click ‘Go’ will find a list of results that broadly match the word you have entered. For the best results keep the keyword quite specific as very general terms such as ‘Roman’ or ‘Chapel’ will return many results and as a result, the search will take more time to complete.
If you do not find the results you require, double-check the spelling of your keyword to ensure it is correct. Note that many place names in the North-East have a number of different spellings, so you could try an alternative.
Using the Advanced Search
The Advanced Search should be used to find more precise search results. On the advanced search page, there are a number of drop-down lists and clickable buttons which enable you to select various search options.
The first option allows you to choose which area of the North-East you would like to search. Simply choose between sites from Durham, Northumberland, or ‘Both’ to search both counties at the same time.
The second option allows you to choose a specific town, village, or parish to search for. Clicking on the dropdown list for ‘Place-name’ will show all parishes and major place-names in the area. Note that It is possible to scroll through this list using the down and up arrows in the dropdown box. To save time, try clicking in the dropdown box and typing a letter this will allow you to jump to the places beginning with that letter. Once you have highlighted the place name you are interested in, left click with your mouse to add the place name to the box.
Lists of types of archaeological sites, historical periods, and legally protected sites can be used in the same way. Simply select options from one or more of the dropdown boxes before clicking the Search button. Note that advanced searches can use any combination of the drop-down lists. For example, it is possible to search for all the Roman forts in Northumberland, all the medieval bastles in Durham which are also Listed Buildings, or all the post-medieval churches in Hexham.
The final option allows you to only search for sites for which we have an image within the record. Simply click on ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as preferred.
Click the ‘Search’ button to begin the search or click ‘Reset’ to select alternative options.
Having chosen your method of searching and clicked the search button the system may take a short time to compile a list of results that match your criteria. Once the list is complete it will appear on the ‘Results page’. To view further details and see individual records that match your search simply click on the hyperlinked titles.
To see a map displaying all of the search results which match your criteria, click the ‘See map of these results’ link. Please note that only those searches with less than 250 results can be displayed on a map.
Each record within the Keys to the Past database holds the appropriate information as well as some standard details.
The ‘Reference Number’ is the unique identifying number for a particular archaeological site found on our database. The reference number for sites from Durham begin with the letter D and those from Northumberland begin with N. When communicating with us about specific records please use these numbers wherever possible.
The ‘Historical Period’ shows the approximate date associated with the recorded site, and in turn, links to a general overview of the archaeology and history for the period in question.
The ‘Legal Status’ indicates any specific legal protection that a site may have. Clicking on the legal status link will provide you with an explanation of the term. Please note that this information may not be up to date therefore it is essential that before any work is carried out on any site the County Archaeologist is consulted.
Under the ‘See Also’ further information relevant to a site can be found. A link to ‘Source of References’ provides a list of published information about the archaeological site in question. Clicking on the ‘Location on a Map’ link will allow you to view a map showing the placement of the site. Note that once the map window is active it is possible to move around the map, zoom in and out, and also view historical maps.