You can find out about the Somerset Heritage Centre and the archives held there on our Somerset Archives and Local Studies website. This includes a very detailed online catalogue, research guides on popular topics and documents and Frequently Asked Questions.
The Somerset Archives and Local Studies Service collects, stores, and makes available historical documents relating to the county. We hold records relating to the whole of the historic county of Somerset. This includes North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset.
These records include:
Parish and diocesan records for the Diocese of Bath and Wells – including parish registers, church records and tithe maps
Non-conformist and Catholic records
Estate and manorial records
Somerset County Council, district council and other local government records
The Somerset Light Infantry regimental archive
The Avon and Somerset Constabulary archive and other police records
Photographs and postcards
Oral history recordings
The GRO index of births, marriages and deaths
Books and published works relating to Somerset
Historic newspapers for Somerset
The archives online catalogue contains entries for nearly all of the catalogued records. It currently has about 430,000 entries and is updated monthly. Brief details of Somerset parish registers are also available.
We have visitors from all over the world, and each year we welcome over 8,000 visitors.
We provide free access for researchers and a research service for people who cannot visit the Heritage Centre themselves. For more details on this service please see the Research Service section on our Somerset Archives and Local Studies website. We make a small charge for photocopies, microfiche printouts, and for using a digital camera. Details of all our charges can be found in our Charges for Services leaflet.
If you have not visited us before please bring some form of ID containing your name and current address (such as a driving licence or a utility bill). Please be aware that we do not accept passports, tickets from The National Archives or CARN tickets issued by other Record Offices.
Local studies resources
The Local Studies library catalogue is online on the LibrariesWest website (use the 'advanced search' option and choose 'Local Studies Taunton'). This also contains details of part of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society library collection.
The Somerset Studies Library is based at the Somerset Heritage Centre. It holds a range of reference local history material including books, journals, maps and illustrations. The library offers a local family history research service.
A brief history of Somerset can be found on the Somerset Heritage Centre website. The website also has research guides about popular topics and documents. There are also online indexes of Somerset wills from 1812 to 1857, Bridgwater port shipping registers, and prisoners in Ilchester Gaol.
The Victoria County History of Somerset publishes extremely detailed histories of Somerset parishes, some of which are available online on the British History website
The Somerset Heritage Centre also houses the private library of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society, which is available for non-members to consult.
North Somerset Archive Service
North Somerset residents or visitors can use the North Somerset Archive Service which holds monthly outreach sessions at North Somerset libraries. The Service provides care of and access to North Somerset's archives. As part of this, an archivist visits Weston super Mare Library on the first Thursday of the month, four times a year.
The service is available to everyone, not just North Somerset residents and there is no charge. If you would like to arrange for microfiche or documents to be brought up for you to consult, please make an appointment with the North Somerset Archivist by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01823 278805. If you wish to consult original documents please let us know what you would like to see by the Friday before the visit date, so we have time to get the documents out.
If you would just like general advice please feel free to just drop in. For each visit there is a late morning session and an afternoon session. The morning sessions runs from 11am to 1pm and the afternoon session from 2pm to 3.30pm.
We offer an education service as part of the Heritage Learning Service. We hold short introduction courses throughout the year and groups can request talks and visits.
Teachers and lecturers can use our Education Service, which is part of Heritage Learning. For more information on archives specific sessions and resources please see the Somerset Heritage Centre website. For wider Heritage resources see the Heritage Learning page in Related Services.
If you would like to find out about archives specific resources for education please see the learning section of the Somerset Heritage Centre website. For wider Heritage education resources see the Heritage Learning page on this website.
If you would like advice on caring for or repairing documents please contact the Conservator at the Somerset Heritage Centre. If you would like to request a talk for your society or group contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.
The Friends of Somerset Archives
The Friends of Somerset Archives was founded in 2004 to:
- Increase the public’s knowledge of Somerset archives, wherever they are, and the history of Somerset
- Improve facilities for consulting archives
- Support the work of the Somerset Heritage Centre and other archive repositories
- Engage in, and help to co-ordinate, voluntary work to improve the availability of records and to help with the discovery of particular records
- Organise visits and hold a programme of meetings with specialist speakers.
Overseas members: £8
Groups or organisations: £14
Life membership is also available, please contact the Friends for more details. Membership application forms can be downloaded from the Friends of Somerset Archives website or they are also available at the Somerset Heritage Centre.
Contact: Mrs Frances Daniel - Membership Secretary
Phone: 01761 232083
The Somerset Heritage Centre's opening hours are:
Monday 1pm to 5pm
Tuesday to Friday 9am to 5pm
Alternate Saturdays 9am to 1pm
You can find Saturday opening dates 2014 here
We are closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and bank holidays.