For up-to-date information and latest changes to this service – please visit our dedicated coronavirus library information page.
The Portsmouth History Centre is on the second floor of Portsmouth Central Library and comprises:
- City Records Office Archive
- Library resources on family, local and naval history
- Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens collections
In line with government guidelines we have reorganised the services we offer. This is in order to keep our users and staff safe.
To allow social distancing – we have reduced the number of tables, and only one computer and one microfilm reader is now available. We strongly advise you to contact us by phone or email before you visit, so you can book one of the following:
- a table
- the computer
- the microfilm reader
Booking times for a table or microfilm reader are:
- 9.30am – 12.30pm
- 1.30pm – 4.30pm
Booking times for the computer are:
- 9.30am – 10.45am
- 11.15am – 12.30pm
- 1.30pm – 2.45pm
- 3.15pm – 4.30pm
Appointment slots are for individual users only. We cannot accommodate groups of 2 or more people. We will only be able to accommodate users who have not booked in advance if space is available.
Before You Visit
Before you visit, please let us know what you are hoping to find out and what records you would like to see, so that we can have these ready for you when you arrive and make sure that they are not quarantined when you visit. You can order up to 10 documents or 6 Kelly’s directories in advance.
Please give us as much notice as you can – no less than 3 working days – before you intend to visit.
Some documents are stored off-site, and it will take longer to produce these than documents stored at the Central Library.
We will be able to advise you where items are stored, and how long it is likely to take to have them ready for you.
Please note – we may not be able to produce additional records for you during your visit.
You will need to show us a Portsmouth History Centre user card or proof of your name and address (such as a driving licence or utility bill) when you enter the History Centre.
When you arrive at Portsmouth History Centre
Please arrive shortly before the time you have booked.
You will be required to wear a face covering for the duration of your visit unless exempt. Social distancing and hygiene measures are in place.
These include a queuing system outside the Central Library, and if necessary outside Portsmouth History Centre.
You will be assigned a table, a microfilm reader or a computer when you book. Please bring your own pencil and notebook. We do not allow users to bring bags or coats into the History Centre – these should be left in a locker outside the History Centre.
Please follow all the requests by staff members as they are designed to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Visitors are asked to comply with the following to protect our collections
Signing in – You will need to prove your name and address when you come to the centre. Show us a document, such as a driving licence or utility bill (dated within the last three months), and we will give you a Portsmouth History Centre card allowing access to the centre’s resources. Day tickets can be issued for occasional visitors.
Lockers – Visitors are asked to leave their bags in the lockers provided before going into the History Centre
Pencils – Only pencils may be used in the History Centre. Ink blots and biro marks will never come off!
Photographs – Ask the staff on duty if you would like to photograph a document. Photography permits are available at a charge of £10 a day.
Photocopies – Photocopying is at the staff’s discretion, if the condition of the item and copyright regulations permit. Staff will also explain the scale of charges.
Food and drink – Eating and drinking is not permitted in the History Centre
Microfilm readers or genealogy computers – To book either microfilm readers or genealogy computers, phone 023 9268 8046
Many items are stored at the History Centre but part of the collection is kept off-site:
- items stored off-site should be requested in advance. Please allow up to five working days for them to be made available at the History Centre. Original photographs are usually stored off-site
- documents at the History Centre do not normally require advance booking. However, some records are not available for public consultation
The documents in the table below are kept at the History Centre and do not normally require advance booking. However, some records will not be available for public consultation either due to their fragile condition or for data protection reasons.
Records from Anglican Churches in the Portsmouth Diocese
Parish records are held at Portsmouth History Centre – some are available only on microfilm or microfiche
Records from Portsmouth City Council
Portsmouth History Centre holds:
- Quarter sessions records 1670 – 1882 including: examinations, indictments and calendars. These records are incomplete
- School records
- Rate books
- Civil defence records from the second world war
Records from workhouse
Portsmouth History Centre holds:
- Board of Guardians minute books
- Creed registers 1879-1953 (which served as admission registers). Creed registers under 100 years old are not available for public consultation
Records from the City Librarian’s collection (known as 11A)
Portsmouth History Centre holds documents collected by the City Librarian including settlement certificates, apprenticeship indentures, correspondence and antiquarian papers.
Records from the police
Portsmouth History Centre holds staff and administration records – not records of crimes or criminals
Records from Royal Naval & Royal Marines Orphanage
Portsmouth History Centre holds annual reports.