Bristol collections

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We look after two collections of archives: the records of the city of Bristol and the British Empire & Commonwealth Collection.

Search the Bristol collections

Search the British Empire & Commonwealth Collection

Our catalogues do not yet contain information about all collections, although we have an ongoing cataloguing programme. They mainly provide information about our collections, rather than views of archival material, although digital images are available for some image collections.

If you would like to consult documents from these collections, please note the item reference numbers. You can visit our searchroom or else contact us to see if you can order a copy.

Bristol collections

Our collections reflect many different aspects of Bristol’s history.

  • Official records: records of the city of Bristol from medieval times to the present day, as well as other bodies such as the local Board of Health, Board of Guardians and school boards.
  • Public records: including Quarter and Petty Sessions, the County Court, the coroner, prisons, police and hospitals, as well as local shipping registers and crew lists.
  • Records of the Diocese of Bristol: including wills, Bishop’s transcripts, faculty papers, records of ordination, estate records and tithe maps.
  • Parish registers and records: these include registers of baptisms, marriages and burials for the Archdeaconry of Bristol, records of the Overseers of the Poor and churchwarden’s accounts.
  • Local organisations, institutions and charities including the Society of Merchant Venturers, trades unions, Arnolfini and Bristol Rugby Football Club.
  • Bristol businesses such as the Bristol Omnibus Company, J S Fry & Sons and Elizabeth Shaw (confectioners), John Harvey & Sons (wine merchants), W D & H O Wills (tobacco manufacturers), J W Arrowsmith (printers and publishers) and Bristol Water.
  • Records of estates, families and individuals associated with Bristol and its history: these range from the archives of the Smyth family of Ashton Court to diaries and letters written by Bristol residents.
  • Maps, ranging from early city plans to modern Ordnance Survey maps. Some of these can be accessed online on the Know Your Place website.
  • Illustrations and photographs of Bristol, including the extensive Vaughan postcard collection.
Records relating to South Gloucestershire

Due to historic boundary changes, records for places now in South Gloucestershire may be held at either Gloucestershire Archives or Bristol Archives.

In general, Bristol Archives holds the main ecclesiastical records for parishes currently in South Gloucestershire but not necessarily other types of records. We also hold records for some parishes which were previously in Gloucestershire but later became part of Bristol.

British Empire & Commonwealth Collection

We hold the archives of the former British Empire & Commonwealth Museum and we are working to make them available for research – visit the collection page to find out more.

Donating records to Bristol Archives

We collect, preserve and provide access to records relating to the people and places of Bristol. We are always interested in discussing new material that could be added to the archives.

Please make an appointment with us before bringing in any material. If you have any records that you would like to transfer to Bristol Archives, please contact us by phone or email.

Our policies

Read the Bristol Archives policies here.