What Are Archives?

Archives are collections of documents that have been carefully preserved to record history. These documents are primary sources of information which provide first-hand evidence of the past. 

Each document has been created by people or organisations as part of daily life. They have been transferred to, and retained by, the archive for their long-term historical value. At Kingston Borough Archive these documents are kept to document changes and capture the history of the borough.

These documents come in a range of formats; written, photographic, moving image or sound, in either analogue or digital. Examples can include; photographs, letters, diaries, prints, drawings, scrapbooks, manuscripts, audio and visual recordings, building plans, maps, as well as organisation information like minutes and official registers. 

Kingston Heritage Service Archives Collection

At Kingston History Centre, we have a mission to record both the highs and the lows of the borough’s history so that Kingston communities’ experiences can form a collective memory to be kept for future generations. 

As part of this we have a duty to archive records created by the Royal Borough of Kingston Council, but we also collect the records of local charities, organisations and businesses, schools, interest groups, important events and individuals. The collection covers the entire borough of Kingston Upon Thames.  We are looking to collect material from all communities across the borough so that the collection represents the diverse range of communities living, studying and working in Kingston.

Although part of our archive collections can be searched online in The National Archives Discovery database, many more collections are listed in the Heritage Service catalogue. This is currently only searchable by the Heritage team who can help you with your research. Contact us using the details on our ‘Visit’ page.


  • local government administrative records dating from 1680 -1965
  • court and coroner records dating from 15th - 18th century
  • deeds and building plans of residential and commercial properties from 19th century
  • the personal scrapbook of photographer Eadweard Muybridge
  • personal papers of artist Denise Wren
  • records of Hillcroft College, the first adult residential college for women.

If you think you have something to add to the collection you can find more information on what we can accept and how to donate on our donations page.

Accessing the Archives

Anyone is welcome to use the archives in Kingston History Centre’s search room for research.

Most of our collection is stored in an offsite facility, and must be ordered in advance. To order items please email us at Please be ready to tell us the reference number for the item you would like to see. We can help you with this if you are not sure. Orders can take up to two weeks to arrive, and we will let you know when your order is ready.

Some of our most popular onsite collections include:

  • Kingston charter (digital copy)
  • council minute books
  • pre-1800s local government minutes and account books (microfilm copy)
  • residential building plans (pre 1900)
  • local photography collection

If you are unable to visit  the archives on site at Kingston History Centre, we also offer a research service.

As our archives need to be preserved for the future, we ask visitors to follow rules when using the search room.

Information about our rules and research service are on our ‘Visit’ page. Please use the details on this page to contact us for further queries.

Over time we will be adding more information about the Archive collections. 

Research services

View our research services and fees.

Research services

Fees and charges

View the service fees and charges including reproductions and filming.

Fees and charges