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English Heritage Archive and Library


The Engine House
Fire Fly Avenue


01793 414600


01793 414606




The archive, formerly The National Monuments Record until 2012, is the public archive of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. The Archive includes records from many different organisations which the commission inherited or acquired such as the  Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME), the National Buildings Record (NBR), National Library of Aerial Photographs and English Heritage

The Archive is primarily used as a resource for researching individual buildings and places, social and local history and archaeological sites and not necessarily just listed buildings. The archives are found in the Public Search Room and the Historic England Library in Swindon. Resources include over 12 million photographs, drawings, plans, reports, sales particulars and publications from the 1850s to the present day covering the whole country.

The Archive houses the archives of English Heritage as well as its predecessor organisations. These include the National Buildings Record (NBR) established in 1941 to conduct photographic surveys and gather photographic evidence from a variety of sources of England's architecture and buildings. The was done to provide the authorities with a record of buildings that could have been targeted by enemy bombing raids. The NBR was merged with the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) in 1963. The RCHME was established in 1908 to record and publish an inventory of ancient and historic buildings and monuments by county and parish. A new body was established in 1984 called English Heritage with a remit to protect and preserve the built heritage. In 1999 the RCHME and English Heritage merged and it is the archives from these organisations that are housed at the Archive and Reference Library in Swindon. English Heritage separated into two organisations in April 2015; the English Heritage charity which cares for the National Heritage Collection of more than 400 historic places and their collections and Historic England.

The holdings at the Archive include:

§ The RCHME county inventories published between 1910 and 1993.

§ Building files containing drawings, notes and photographs of buildings from the RCHME and English Heritage fieldwork.

§ Estate agent and auctioneer sales particulars of land and property.

§ The 'Red Box' collection containing photographs of historic buildings consisting of religious buildings and country houses, historic buildings and modern architecture. There are also street scenes and village-scapes

§ Aerofilms Collection containing air photographs which includes RAF and Ordnance Survey photographs.

§ Survey of London which comprises of a topographical and architectural history of London containing photographs, estate maps and plans.

The Library holdings include:

§ 60,000 books, journals and reports covering all aspects of the historic environment.

§ Pevsner’s Buildings of England series

§ Victoria County History

§ Selected Post Office and Kelly’s Directories

§ RCHME Inventory volumes 

Online resources (Note that the online catalogues do not cover the entire collections held in the archives)

Historic England Archive (Online descriptions of over 12 million historical photographs, documents, plans and drawings of historic buildings, scenes and archaeological sites, reports and publications on architecture dating from the 1850s)
Britain from Above (Online access to over 95,000 oblique aerial photographs consisting of the oldest and most valuable photographic negatives in the Aerofilms collection, dating from 1919 to 1953. The collection itself holds over 4 million aerial photographs covering the whole of England and dating from the early 20th century to the present day)
Pastscape (Over 1 million catalogue entries describing photographs, plans and drawings of England's buildings, archaeological sites, monuments and historic sites held in the Historic England Archive from prehistoric times to the present day)
England's Places (Discover photos of English cities, towns and villages using this online version of the Architectural Red Box Collection from the Historic England Archive from the 1850s up to the early 1990s)
ViewFinder (The online archive contains images relating to England's industrial heritage, social history and architecture including towns, villages, scenes and buildings held in the Historic England Archive. The site hosts a number of specialist collections including the Nigel Temple Postcards collection. To access the collection, first click on 'Advanced Search' and then select 'Nigel Temple Postcards' from the drop-down options in the 'Collection' box. The site also features a series of photo essays many dealing with trades and occupations)
Images of England (Photographic library of England's listed buildings based on the statutory list as it was in 2001as well as other designated heritage assets. For an updated version of the statutory list, visit the National Heritage List for England)
Heritage Gateway (The Heritage Gateway allows you to cross-search over 50 resources, including Local Authority Records and national heritage information resources for contemporary and historic photos and records of listed buildings)
English Heritage Images (A selection of exclusive prints, framed prints and canvas prints to buy)

Copies of items found in the catalogues can be ordered online or can be arranged to view at the Historic England Archive. In addition the Archive offers their Enquiry Service under which staff will carry out a free search of the archives limited to a single building or site.