Visit the Archive and Library
Our Archive is one of the largest publicly accessible archives in the UK dedicated to the historic environment. The Historic England Library is also open to the public for reference use and holds over 60,000 books, journals and reports relating to the historic environment of England.
On this page:
The Public Search Room and Library are open Tuesday to Friday 9.30am - 5.00pm.
We are closed on Bank Holidays and over the Christmas and New Year period.
Before your Visit
Please contact us before making travel arrangements to check that what you're hoping to see will be available.
You may need to make an appointment to allow us time to identify relevant archive items and acclimatise items kept in our environmentally controlled store.
- Historic England websites – we have kiosks in the Public Search Room for you to browse our websites and you can print off pages (20p per A4 sheet). No need to book.
- Building files – these usually contain photographs and you can request these on the day of your visit via our archive store collections (10, 12, 2.00, 3.30), or book a visit in advance. Building files have reference numbers beginning with BF on our catalogue
- Aerial Photographs – you will usually need to request a search first to identify relevant photographs. Once you have the results of the search, you can book an appointment to see the photographs. The process, using our free search service, from placing an enquiry to visiting will usually take around a month - three weeks for the search results to be sent to you and a further week to allow us to retrieve the photos and arrange an appointment. This may take longer if demand is high. Using a priority search service will reduce the initial wait for the search results.
- Measured drawings and other archive items. You will need to make an appointment. If you have identified items of interest using Historic England Archive, email the list to [email protected] and we will contact you.
- Digital archive. Some items are only available digitally. These can be viewed free of charge in the Public Search Room or copies can be supplied – see below.
We may restrict access to vulnerable or damaged items to prevent further deterioration, or due to the sensitive content of a collection. We will tell you if this is the case and offer alternatives if possible.
There is a coin-operated copier for public use – copies are 20p each.
Personal photography permits are available for the use of handheld cameras. You will be asked to sign a licence and there is a fee to photograph archive items.
All copying is subject to copyright law and the condition of the item to be copied.
You can also order copies, see our price list for details.
Children are welcome, but those under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult and supervised by them at all times.
How to find us
The Engine House
Fire Fly Avenue
Follow the brown signs for Historic England.
There is limited free car parking on site at the rear of our building and spaces must be booked in advance of your visit. Please call our Reception team on 01793 414700.
There is a large public car park (charged) for the Outlet Centre on Kemble Drive which is a 5 minute walk away.
We are a 15 minute walk from Swindon station – turn right from the concourse and take the tunnel under the mainline from Emlyn Square.
When you arrive
You will be asked to sign in at the main Reception desk for our building. You’ll be given a visitor pass and directed to the Public Search Room and Library.
Some items may not be taken in the Public Search Room and Library:
- food or drink
- large bags (A4 size or larger) outdoor coats, umbrellas etc
- camera tripods/stands
- anything that may mark material (pens, felt tips, newspapers)
You can safely store anything you can't take into the Public Search Room in a locker at Reception. You'll be given a clear wallet to carry essentials.
In the Public Search Room and Library
Our café is open until 15.00 and serves hot and cold drinks, snacks and sandwiches.
There are toilets on the ground floor.
Comments, suggestions and complaints
We welcome your feedback. You can contact us directly, complete the short survey we send with our correspondence or fill in a paper feedback form when you visit.
If you are unhappy in any way with the service we’ve provided, please contact us by phone, email or letter and we will seek to resolve any issues promptly.
We aim to make our facilities as accessible as possible for all our users.
There is some free car parking for blue badge holders on site. Please call Reception on 01793 414700 to book as spaces are limited.
The spaces are at the rear of our building. There is a path to the main entrance which is around 50m from the parking bays.
There is a wheelchair for visitors to use, please call Reception for further information.
Our main entrance has permanent ramped access and the doors are touchpad operated.
The Public Search Room and Library are on the ground floor and have touchpad operated doors.
There is an accessible toilet on the ground floor.
We have adjustable height tables and chairs with arms. These can be booked in advance.
The aisles between our Library shelves are narrow, but we can bring material to your desk.
We have a hearing loop in Reception and at our Enquiry Desk and a portable hearing loop for use elsewhere in the building.
Assistance dogs are welcome.
Large print versions of information sheets are available on request.
If you have any specific access requirements, please contact Archive Services before your visit.
Tours of the Archive
Our tour will give your group a chance to see the range of material held in the Archive and advice on how to use it for research. They are an ideal introduction for local and family history societies, university or college students or any group interested in the historic buildings, archaeology, landscapes and social history of England.
The tour lasts approximately 1.5 - 2 hours and is available Monday - Friday starting at 10am or 2pm. It includes:
- a talk about our collections
- a visit to the Library and Public Search Room
- a look inside the environmentally-controlled archive store itself
Tours cost £10 per person (minimum charge £100) and are limited to a maximum of 20 people. We can only take bookings a minimum of eight weeks in advance.
If you would like to find out more about our tours, please contact us on 01793 414600 or email [email protected]