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Archives in London

The richness and diversity of the archival collections located in London is second to none � a world quality resource. The archives are both the corporate memory of the nation and a cultural asset for society at large. 

The collections are distributed among 366 different record offices and institutions, ranging in size from the National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office)  and the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library at one extreme to the small archive collections held by a professional body or City livery company at the other. 

Local authority services provide a network of care for local archives, with the London Metropolitan Archives serving the whole Region and most boroughs supporting an archives service for their immediate area. London is also the home to a great many business, professional, religious, charity and higher education archives.  Many of the National museums and libraries � with extremely large archival collections � are also located in the capital.

Some of London�s archives are within public, academic and specialist libraries. Others are administered separately. Some merely look after the records of their parent organisation, but many of the rest are �collecting repositories� which care for archives and provide facilities for public access on behalf of other bodies.  Many important records � the parish registers from churches, for instance � are safely preserved and made available for use in this way.

Archive service providers in London include:

  • Professional bodies (including Royal Societies)         96
  • Education (including schools and universities)          63
  • Museums and galleries                                      50
  • Business archives                                             39
  • Local Government                                            36
  • Religious archives                                             26
  • Charities                                                         16
  • National institutions                                           14
  • Medical archives                                               12
  • Performing arts                                                7
  • Film archives                                                   6
  • Estates                                                          1


For information on the whereabouts of these archives and their collections see below  

Whatever you interest, there will be archives relating to it here in London


About London�s archives � some interesting facts

London is especially noted among archive users for the:

  • Wealth of archival materials in London
  • Accessibility of archives services to Londoners
  • High concentration of National archive institutions located in and serving London
  • Sheer strength and diversity of the archival presence in the capital (one third of the Nation�s archives are held in the capital)
  • Significant number of business archives in London (47% of the country�s business archives are here)
  • Diversity of archive collections (50% of the UK�s specialist repositories are in London)
  • Strong links between archive, library and museum services
  • Existence of a London Archives Users Forum (LAUF)


London�s archives attract users from all over the country and from all around the world � contributing to tourism and the London economy

There�s nowhere quite like London for exploring the past through archives


Finding out about archives services in London

All London�s archives services are listed � with full contact details � in the ARCHON website developed by the Historical Manuscripts Commission (now part of the National Archives). ARCHON lists all the archive repositories in the United Kingdom, and the London archives are listed at here

 For each archive repository, the ARCHON website will tell you:

  • The postal address
  • Telephone and e-mail contact details
  • A link to the repository�s website

 It�s really very easy to find out


Locating and finding out about archive material in and/or relating to London

There are a number of websites you can visit in order to locate and find out about archive material either held in the Capital or relating to London.  These include:

The NRA contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history.

The National Archives holds the archives of central government from the time of the Norman Conquest to the present day

The London Metropolitan Archives is the principal archive repository for the London Region and holds a wide range of official and private archives. These include the records of the old Middlesex County Council and Greater London Council and other London-wide bodies

A2A aims to create a virtual national archives catalogue, bringing together a mass of information about the records are held in geographically dispersed archives offices in England

AIM25 is a major project to provide electronic access to collection level descriptions of the archives of over fifty higher education institutions and learned societies within the greater London area

The Archives Hub provides a single point of access to descriptions of archives held in UK universities and colleges

These are just a few of the available sites � to find more, follow the links in the ARCHON portal  and in AIM25

Once you get started, there�s a whole new world at your fingertips


What�s on in London?

Many of the larger archives services hold regular programmes of exhibitions, talks, walks and events. Check out their websites � or just visit - to find out what�s going on.  Good ones to try include:

Don�t overlook the smaller and specialist archives � they will have occasional events too.

Archives also participate in �Open House�, �Local History Month� (May) and �Black History Month�

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Name Description Contact details
Lambeth Archives Recently launched (December 2003) website of Lambeth Archives provides online access to its best 6,000 images  Minet Library, 52 Knatchbull Road, London
Tel: 0207 926 6076  

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