HISTORY buffs can research Halesowen and Cradley's past at Dudley's new £6 million archives and local history centre which opened this week.

Located next to the Black Country Living Museum, it is the first public building built by Dudley Council for 20 years and replaces the outgrown, ageing facility at Coseley.

It houses the borough's archives which date back to the 12th century - including every back copy of the Halesowen News - and it is hoped the resources will be well used by local historians and people interested in tracing their descendants.

Councillor Stuart Turner, cabinet member responsible for archives, said: “It’s great that our new archives and local history centre is now open to the public. It really is looking fantastic and represents a superb resource for residents.

“ Fully trained archivists are on hand in the centre to get people started with their research and investigations and to offer expert advice and tips.

“Genealogy is a fascinating hobby and its appeal has increased significantly in recent times with TV shows such as Who Do You Think You Are. I hope people will come along and have a look at all that the centre has on offer.”

The centre holds a vast quantity of archive material which would stretch for two miles. The priceless collection is housed in state-of-the art strong room in temperature controlled conditions.

The energy efficient building also contains learning and conference rooms, local studies and rare books libraries, a research area, a search room, free access to www.ancestry.com and public Wi-Fi services.

The first visitor through the doors on Tuesday was genealogist Terry Rogers, who said: “I have been a regular visitor to the archives old building in Coseley and have been really looking forward to the opening of the fantastic new centre.

“The facilities are brilliant and I look forward to using them. I’d encourage people to come along and find out more about their local area or family, there really is a wealth of fascinating historic information held here. People would be amazed at what they could discover.”

The Tipton Road centre is part of a major redevelopment project in the Castle Hill area of Dudley, made possible with part funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

It is open to the public Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9am until 5pm, except Thursdays when it opens from 9.30am until 7pm.