How to book
Booking to consult original documents
You’ll need to consult these in our Search Room, where space is limited. To avoid a wasted visit, we recommend booking your space. If you know what you’ll require, order these a few days before you visit and we’ll have the first few items ready.
On Wednesday to Friday, you can also request items onsite up to 1pm. We aim to deliver documents from our stores to you within 30 minutes, but at busy times this may take longer. It’s our responsibility to ensure the safe delivery, handling and return of documents.
If you want to visit on a Saturday you must make an appointment and order all documents in advance. We don’t have sufficient staff to get out items on demand.
District Authority records
All records from district authorities 1835 to 1974 (collections: DA1-DA45) are held in our out-store and collected weekly. Please order anything which has a DA reference at least a week in advance of your visit. During November and December 2019, we are sorry that collections from our out-store may be delayed. Please give us as much notice as possible if you’d like to view anything with a DA reference.
Occasionally, access to documents may be restricted if
- the originals are very fragile
- environmental conditions may cause damage
- cataloguing is incomplete
- the information is sensitive
- restrictions have been applied by the owner
In particular, if you’d like to view documents less than 100 years old (or more for particularly sensitive records), requests should be made at least one week in advance of your visit and preferably in writing/email. We can then advise further. Please see our policies page for more guidance.
If you’d like to view items in uncatalogued collections again let us know in advance. Access will depend on how well this can be supervised and the physical state of the documents.
We have one table for large maps, so it’s worth booking our map table in advance to make sure there’s sufficient space. Most large maps have been copied onto aperture card so you can check these first to make sure the map covers the right area.
Early parchment documents and parchment maps containing coloured pigments are vulnerable to changes in humidity. In particularly cold climatic conditions we won’t be able to produce certain parchment/vellum maps and manuscripts. We don’t have air conditioning, and during especially cold weather relative humidity drops and old parchment shrinks and becomes brittle, causing stress to the parchment. There’s also potential for the ink/pigment to become detached when handled. We’ll try to alert you when appropriate.
Microfiche, microfilm and computer booking
Many popular family and local history resources are on microfiche or microfilm.
If you want to look at parish or non-conformist registers, you’ll need a microfiche reader (although many pre-1900 registers are now on FindMyPast). We have plenty of microfiche readers so there’s no need to book in advance – just ask a member of staff when you arrive.
For many newspapers you’ll need to reserve a microfilm reader, but please check the individual title and date with staff as some are original only. If you’re looking for maps, you may need a microfiche and microfilm reader. Let us know and we can advise.
You can book a computer in advance for a maximum of two hours. You’ll need to register with us to use the computers.
Microfilm readers and computers can get busy, so please book in advance.