SOME of York's oldest and most fascinating historical records are now available online, thanks to a university project.

The Registers of the Archbishops of York is one of the most important collections of historical materials to survive in England today, and as of yesterday is available online.

Access to more than 20,000 images of the Registers - which date from 1225-1650 - is free and the new website has a growing searchable index of names, subjects, places and organisations.

Professor Mark Ormrod, the University of York’s Dean of Arts and Humanities, said: “The launch of the Archbishops' Registers website brings to fruition a major project in the Digital Humanities, its content and method being of truly international importance.

“Bringing together the very best of modern technologies with the highest traditions of academic research, the continuing work on the Archbishops' Registers will ensure free and remote access to the wealth of information and interest contained in these priceless historical documents.”

It is one of the largest online facilities of its type, and lets people research a vast range of topics - from architecture to almsgiving, church furnishings, weapons and war.

The York Registers were handwritten on over 10,000 individual parchment folios, are one of the earliest, largest and longest locally-produced series of archives from the period. They predate the Archbishops of Canterbury's equivalent documents by 50 years, and are unparalleled in Europe.

They record activity across the whole of the North of England - and have first hand accounts of things like the Black Death, and the dramas of the Tudor monarchy from Henry VIII's marriages to Thomas Cromwell's fall from grace.

The project to digitise them took 15 months and was funded by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, with specialist conservation and imaging work at the University’s Borthwick Institute for Archives, and technical development carried out by the University of York Digital Library.

Each Register had to be individually assessed and treated by a specialist conservator before ultraviolet imaging was used to reveal text unseen for hundreds of years.

The Registers can be found at