Victoria County Histories (VCH)
VCH stands for Victoria County History. This is a series of county-based volumes dealing with local history,
social history, archaeology and historical architecture. The coverage of the VCH is England is patchy - some
counties have many detailed volumes, others few or none.
The VCH was started in 1899 and dedicated to Queen Victoria. It is still going. Its large red encyclopaedia-style
volumes contain dozens of sections dealing with town and parish histories, antiquities, historical demography and
social, economic, industrial, educational and ecclesiastical history. The county boundaries used are those which
existed in 1899 - all areas now within newer counties such as Tyne and Wear, Cleveland, West Midlands or Merseyside
are included in the older historical counties which they were part of before the local government reorganisations
of the 1970s and 1990s.
Until 1899, there had been no attempt to research and publish England's local and regional history in a systematic
way. Many VCH volumes were produced in the period 1899-1925, after which activity became more sporadic. Publication
is dependent on available funds and support from institutions such as universities and local councils, which
provide accommodation and facilities for the VCH researchers. As a result, some counties, such as Oxfordshire,
have many volumes which go into great historical detail. Others have very little, or no coverage as yet.
County Durham's VCH was re-launched in 1999 after many years of inactivity. It is now based at the University of
Durham. So far, town histories of Darlington and Sunderland have been completed, and efforts are being made to
catch up with other counties in terms of VCH publication and coverage. Durham, however, does have the benefit of a
famous pre-VCH county history, which may in fact have provided one of the models upon which the VCH was originally
based: the History of the County Palatine of Durham, by Robert Surtees (1779-1834).
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