Gathering in what was the old wash-house, adjacent to what were the Great Smith Street public baths, we were introduced to the building. Opened in 1995 and housing Westminster's parish, council, church, school and business records, some dating back to the 1450's, they are still accepting items of importance.  With the resurgence in interest, via the Find My Past website, visitors most popular searches are the records of Births, Marriages and Deaths, the Adoption Indexes, Electoral Registers and Censuses. Particular building searches are also popular although most of the original planning records did not survive the LCC clear-out, but Victorian surveyors added drainage details to plans and these can be viewed for thousands of properties.  They have some 7,000 digitised images which can be accessed via their online catalogue WestCat and cabinets full of microfiche and an extensive library.

We first visited the busy Conservation Studio, where work was underway cleaning old maps delicately with special rubbers, carefully removing crumbling mounts and remounting on handmade Japaneese acid-free paper.  The Studio and volunteers had just finished restoring what is the largest public collection of Victorian West End theatre programmes.

Then we were treated to a special selection of Thorney Island material in the Search Room.  Maps, watercolours, etchings, books, photographs and plans.  What a treat and we spent a good amount of time studying closely these fascinating items.  We finished our tour in the Strong Rooms and were shown the oldest item in the Archives, a Henry III Charter of 1256, granting "...the Abbey of Westminster a weekly market every Monday in Tothill, and an annual fair for 3 days...". 

Many thanks to the staff of the Archives for their time, enthusiasm, knowledge and this very special tour.

Letters Patent under the Great Seal of Henry III 1256

Millbank Street before Victoria Tower Gardens c1863

Faithhorne Map 1658

Bomb damage to Old Pye Street and St Matthew's Street 1940

Grant of Arms to the City of Westminster 1601

View of Millbank and Vauxhall Bridge from the Horseferry on the Lambeth shore

Tour of Westminster Archives - June 2018