About the archives
Our search room contains an extensive range of books on all aspects of Southwark’s history. Visitors are welcome to browse all of our resources, including:
- pamphlets and periodicals produced by local organisations
- London Post Office directories
- local newspapers on microfilm from 1856 to the present (contact us to reserve a microfilm reader)
- press cuttings and ephemera arranged by subject
- family history resources, including name indexes from parish registers and poor law records
- illustrations, maps and films
All of our books and pamphlets are listed on the Southwark Libraries online catalogue - just select Southwark Local History Library from the location list. Please note that items labelled as ‘reserve stock’ on the library catalogue are held at our offsite store, as are a large number of archives. If you need further information about our offsite store, contact us.
The core of this collection is the local government records of the area, the civil parishes and the Metropolitan Boroughs. Some of the records of the former civil parishes go back to the 16th century and include vestry minutes, taxation records and poor law records. Some local organisations have also deposited their records, including businesses, non conformist churches and early schools.
There are around 20,000 photographs, prints and topographical watercolours in the archives. These provide a vivid visual record of Southwark over the last 200 years. A selection of our images can be searched for online.
A range of films reflecting life in the borough from 1920s to the present can be viewed by arrangement. You can download a guide to Southwark's film and audio collection (pdf, 1.2mb). Some of our films can also be viewed online via the London’s Screen Archives website.
The archives are stored in our on-site strongroom and can be brought out to the searchroom on request. Much of the collection can be searched on the National Archives’ Discovery catalogue. Please select the option to ‘search other archives’ at the bottom of the page, and then type 'Southwark Local History Library and Archive' into the box provided.
The following guides have been written to help you navigate the collections and research some of the diverse communities of Southwark:
- Sources for Southwark family history (pdf, 1.2mb)
- Guide to the film and audio collection (pdf, 1.2mb)
- LGBTQ Communities Collections Guide (pdf, 309kb)
- Guide to non-parochial church records (pdf, 243kb)
- Black Asian and minority ethnic communites Collections Guide (pdf, 636kb)
- Researching your Caribbean family history (pdf, 594kb)
- Sources for researching mental health and wellbeing (pdf, 320kb)
If you have material that you'd like to donate to the archives, contact us. One of our archivists will determine whether it would be a suitable addition to our holdings or better suited to another institution.
Page last updated: 05 June 2020