Introduction

Somerset Heritage Centre provides state-of-the-art storage for the historic records of Somerset and access to them. The popular Somerset Studies Library is also located here.

The Heritage Centre is also home to the museum reserve collections.

In this section you’ll find information about visiting the searchroom at the Somerset Heritage Centre and how to access the archives.

How to Find Us

Please see our How to Find Us instructions as well as information about local and public transport.

Opening Hours

Tuesday to Friday 9.00 am – 5.00 pm

The 2nd Saturday of each month 9.00 am – 1.30 pm

​​The public searchroom is closed on Mondays, and on public and bank holidays

Saturday Opening Hours

We are open on the second Saturday of each month 9.00 am – 1.30 pm (last document orders at 1.00 pm).  Please find below a list of the Saturdays we are open in 2018.

Saturday 13 January 2018
Saturday 10 February 2018
Saturday 10 March 2018
Saturday 14 April 2018
Saturday 12 May 2018
Saturday 9 June 2018
Saturday 14 July 2018
Saturday 11 August 2018
Saturday 8 September 2018
Saturday 13 October 2018
Saturday 10 November 2018
Saturday 8 December 2018

Please note, that from September 2018 we have changed some of the ways you access original documents on Saturdays at the Somerset Heritage Centre.

  • Please order documents in advance, by 12.00 pm on the preceding Friday
  • Up to 8 documents per visitor may be pre-ordered for a Saturday visit
  • We may need to limit further document production during busy periods to enable staff to help with searchroom enquiries
  • Document productions will take place from 9.00 am to 12.30 pm

These changes will help us to offer a high level of customer service on Saturdays.

Readers’ Tickets

We issue South West Heritage Trust readers’ tickets which are valid for four years. If you have not visited us before, please bring some form of identification containing your name, current address and signature (for example a driving licence, utility bill and other ID with signature) so we can issue you with one of our readers’ tickets.

South West Heritage Trust readers’ tickets are valid at Devon Heritage Centre, Somerset Heritage Centre, North Devon Record Office and the North Somerset archive service.

Please be aware that we do not accept tickets from The National Archives or library cards. We are not part of the CARN ticket scheme and do not accept CARN tickets.

If your card has expired please bring some identification with you when you visit, so we can issue you with a new readers’ ticket.

Appointments

There are 23 document and 12 microfiche spaces at the Somerset Heritage Centre, plus space for visitors to consult library books.  If you would like to look at microfiche, newspaper microfilms or original documents, please make an appointment before you visit to make sure we have space for you. We can get very busy, and sometimes we cannot accommodate visitors who have not booked beforehand. To make an appointment please phone 01823 337600.

Online Catalogue

The majority of our catalogues can be viewed online from our Online Catalogues.

In the searchbox that appears, type any keywords and click search. The results can be ordered by Relevance, Reference Number or Date depending on your preference. To view a catalogue description in detail click on the reference number of the item. Further guidance on searching the online catalogue can be found in the ‘Help’ section of the Online Catalogue, or by clicking the question mark logos scattered around the page.

Looking at Original Documents

Documents are produced throughout the day until 4.00 pm on weekdays and 1.00 pm on Saturdays. You can pre-order up to four documents before you arrive. After that, you can order four documents at a time. It may take 10-15 minutes for documents to arrive. If you have a long list of documents to get through in a short space of time, please email us your list a few days beforehand.

Please note we cannot pre-order maps and large documents for a time when another visitor has booked the map table. On Saturdays, as we have fewer staff, it is very helpful if you can email or phone us in advance with the references of the documents you would like to see.

Please see our Online Catalogue for more information.

Looking at Photographs

We need 24 hours’ notice to produce some of our photographs. This is because they are kept in a cold store and they need to come up to temperature gradually to avoid damage. Photographs where this is the case are marked on the online catalogue with the words [STORED IN COLD STORE – PLEASE REQUEST ITEMS 24 HOURS AHEAD OF INTENDED VISIT]. There is no restriction on the number of items from the cold store that you can pre-order.

Taking Photographs

You can bring in a camera to take photographs of documents as long as you purchase a photographic licence from the main reception. Charges apply for Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Annual licences. Please see our charges page for more information.

If you intend to publish images or post them on the internet you will need to apply for permission from the Archives and Local Studies Service using our Permission to Use Collections form.

Facilities

There is a free public car park at the front of the building with space for around 30 cars. There is a small refreshment area with tables and chairs. Hot drinks and a range of snacks are available to purchase, and water is also available.  Two sandwich vans visit the premises every weekday, the first at around 10.00 am and the second at around 1.00 pm.

There are two buildings on the site. The public archive searchroom is situated in Building One, and there is a separate research room in Building Two for looking at Museum objects. If you would like to see Museum objects please contact museums@swheritage.org.uk to make arrangements before you visit.

There are three disabled parking spaces for Building One and three for Building Two. Both buildings have disabled toilets. There is a height-adjustable desk in the searchroom, and a hearing loop in Building One reception, the searchroom and the Learning Room. There is a portable hearing loop for the rest of the site. A lift is available both in Building One and Building Two.

Layout and Searchroom

The main searchroom has an area for microfiche and microfilm viewing, tables for looking at original archive documents, open-access library bookshelves and 13 public access computers. There is wireless internet access and plug sockets are available for laptops.

Group Visits

If you want to arrange a group visit please complete the booking form and get in touch well in advance so we can make sure we meet your requirements.

Charges

It is free to visit the Somerset Heritage Centre in person to look at documents and other objects we hold. It is also free to use the North Somerset Archive Service and to receive general advice about your research.

There is a range of charges for copying, the use of private cameras, detailed research, conservation work, outreach and education services. Please see our charges page for more information.

More Information

Contact us

Tel: 01823 278805

Email: somersetarchives@swheritage.org.uk.