England's Places: An open red box with a series of cards displayed on a table
The Architectural Red Box collection © Historic England
The Architectural Red Box collection © Historic England

England's Places photo collection now online

Discover photos of English cities, towns and villages using our online version of the Architectural Red Boxes.

Our Architectural Red Box photo collection is now available online on the England's Places website. Until recently, you had to visit the Historic England Archive in Swindon to browse this massive collection of over 600,000 photographs. Now we have digitised the contents of the Red Boxes so that researchers can browse them from anywhere in England and beyond.

The collection covers the whole of England, and is made up of photographic prints mounted on cards. The cards are stored in 6,750 boxes, all arranged by county and parish.

During the digitisation project, damaged and vulnerable prints were conserved and each card was photographed using a digital camera. Now you can browse the boxes virtually and see the 600,000 images on the England's Places website.

As well as the photographs themselves, we've captured the handwritten notes identifying the place and specific building names which appear on many of the cards. We've also made sure that you can view the backs of the cards, which often contain more information about the particular view, date or photographer.

Origins 

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

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

Contents

The collection includes images dating from the 1850s and the early development of photography in the 1850s up to the 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.

Photographers

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

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