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About the England's Places Collection

Origins

In 1941, the National Buildings Record started the Architectural Red Box Collection to document our built heritage, especially those buildings threatened or damaged by bombing during the Second World War.

The core of the collection came from photographic records collected by the Courtauld Institute of Art in the 1930s. Over the following years new images were added, including photography taken for the National Buildings Record, and collections acquired from both commercial and amateur photographers. The collection was closed to new material in 1991.

Contents

The collection dates from the earliest photography in the 1850s up to the early 1990s. Subjects include churches and country houses, historic buildings and modern architecture. There are street scenes and village-scapes which bring to life Victorian and Edwardian England, alongside photographic records of buildings threatened with destruction during the mid 20th century.

Within the collection are images by eminent photographers such as Bill Brandt, architectural specialists like Bedford Lemere and Company, and numerous professional and amateur photographers.

Red boxes

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • England's Places: A person looking at a box amongst the shelves
  • England's Places: Labels on Red Boxes for Lambeth Churches
  • England's Places: Cards and a red box on a search room table

Arrangement

Photographs were mounted on cards and placed into red boxes. The boxes were arranged by place following the county and civil parish structure that was introduced in 1974. Some boxes contain cards for more than one place. We have separated these out and created a “virtual” box for each place.

On many of the cards are handwritten notes identifying the place and specific building names. Additional information has been added on the back of many of the photographs, for instance the particular view, date or photographer.

Online access

The collection had been physically accessible at the Historic England Archive. Given the huge potential interest in the collection from every part of the country, Historic England ran a project to capture the contents digitally to make online access possible. 

During the project prints were conserved and each card was digitally photographed so they could be reproduced here. The collection itself is now held in archival storage to ensure its long term preservation.

The project

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

  • England's Places: Red boxes waiting on shelves
  • England's Places: A conservator cleaning a card
  • England's Places: A photographer scanning a card
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