Historic England Online Archive
Have you been looking for old photos, maps etc. to include in your family history? If you have and you haven’t included the Historic England Online Archive in your search you are very possibly missing out on a great resource. The archive holds significant collections of archaeology, architecture, social and local history material and the good news is that over a million of these records are available online.
Historic England Online Archive Contents
The Historic England Online Archive is made up of the collections of several organisations, all of whom are dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of England.
- Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. The organisation was founded in 1908 and it’s aim was to create an inventory of the historic monuments throughout England. The archive consists of RCHME’s research notes, photographs and drawings covering many of England’s historic buildings.
- The National Buildings Record. Established during the second world war, it was tasked with collecting photographs and other records of buildings and sites at risk during and after the Second World War. Very valuable for those places that were heavily bombed.
- National Library of Aerial Photographs. This organisation no longer exists, but their records have been preserved in the Historic England Archive. The collection consists of over two million vertical aerial photographs taken by the RAF and Ordnance Survey and record many parts of England where the landscape has changed beyond recognition.
- English Heritage. An extensive collection of photographs, plans and drawings of the sites in the care of the organisation.
How Can You Access the Historic England Online Archive?
The online search is very easy, simply click on the search tab and fill in the search box. There are filters available, but personally I use a general term such as the county that I am interested in and then work through the entries, that way I feel I won’t miss out on any gems that might just been what I am looking for.
However if you are focused on a listed building you can click on The List which is an advanced search of material concerning buildings, monuments, battlefields, wreck sites and gardens. Very useful if you are undertaking a house history. There is also a link to the Heritage at Risk Register which records protected historic sites that have been assessed as “at risk” of damage.
If your search is solely on images then there is the England’s Places search facility which is where I spent many a happy hour looking at what they have to offer.
What is the Historic England Online Archive useful for?
Apart from browsing on a rainy day the archive can help put your ancestors into historic context. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and certainly adding images to your family history gives life to the written words that come from our research into documents and registers.
You can use the collections to:
- Expand your family history
- Find out about your home’s history
- Learn about your local area
- Research individual buildings and archaeological sites
- Discover England’s changing urban and rural landscape
The Historic England Online Archive is, I suspect, not that well known, but should be bookmarked as the go-to place for images to help you bring alive your family history.
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