Our service is open to everyone. No special letters of introduction are required and no readers' tickets are issued, but we do require photographic proof of identity. We don't charge fees to consult the records.
Visits are by appointment only and you will not be admitted without one. Please contact us in advance of your visit to make an appointment, and give at least two working days' notice. We have a limited number of seats in our searchroom, and are sometimes booked out. Also a few off-site records require ordering with two working days' notice. If we have not confirmed your booking, please do not turn up or you will be turned away.
Please note that all visitors to the Parliamentary Archives searchroom are required to produce photographic identification on request.
Advanced Ordering essential for searchroom visits June to September 2017
Owing to planned maintenance works taking place in the archive repository between June and September 2017 access to the records is restricted and advance booking and ordering is essential to ensure the records can be retrieved for your visit. If you do not book and order your documents at least 7 working days before your visit, we cannot guarantee that they will be available for you.
Please search our online catalogue and email us a list of the items you wish to see on a visit.
In addition to the above works there are other benefits to ordering in advance:
Closed Records: Some of our records are "Closed" which means you will not be able to view them or obtain copies from them immediately. If you put your request in writing we can treat your request as a Freedom of Information request and the records will be reviewed. You will be advised if the records can be made available to you and you can then book an appointment.
Off-site storage: Some of our records (plans and microfilms) are held off-site and we require at least 2 working days notice to retrieve them.
Preservation Programme: In addition to the maintenance works over the summer of 2017, we're running a preservation programme which means some records that you could view on demand previously, are now subject to 3 days notice before they are available to view in the searchroom, or for our staff to use to answer enquiries. Please see this document for a full list, but the most popular records that this affects are:
- Original Acts
- House of Commons Opposed Private Bill Committee Evidence
- House of Lords Opposed Private Bill Committee Evidence
- House of Lords Library Deposited Papers
- Parliament Office papers
- Record Office papers
There are no exceptions to this rule so please take this into account when planning your searchroom visit or requesting a copy order quote. We don’t want you to be disappointed that you can’t see a document when you visit so, pre-ordering more than 3 days in advance is strongly advised.
Location and Access
Our search room is inside the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament). You will need to go through airport-style security screening on entry to the building and should allow at least 15 minutes for this.
The nearest Underground station is Westminster, on the District, Circle and Jubilee Lines. Buses stop near Parliament Square in Victoria Street and in Whitehall. Bus and Underground services provide good connections to the nearest main line railway stations at Victoria, Waterloo and Charing Cross.
There is no parking available at the Houses of Parliament, but there is a public underground car park at Abingdon Green, less than a minute's walk away. The Houses of Parliament are inside the London congestion charging zone.
Please note, the searchroom can be accessed by wheelchair users, but please contact us in advance if you have any specific requirements.
Following changes to the opening times of Black Rod's Garden Entrance, visitors to the archive may need to use a different entrance to access the Parliamentary Archives. Please see the table below to help you determine which entrance to use on your visit.
- Arrivals BEFORE 11am should use the Cromwell Green Visitor Entrance (marked 8 on this map ( PDF 537 KB)). You must tell a Visitor Assistant at the entrance that you have an appointment at the Archives; they will then ensure you are directed appropriately so you don’t get caught up with general tour visitors. Once inside Westminster Hall, you must make yourself known to a Visitor Assistant at the reception desk; they will escort you through the building to the Archives. Please do not attempt to walk through the building yourself - you must be escorted from Westminster Hall.
- Arrivals AFTER 11am should use Black Rod's Garden Entrance (marked 11 on this map ( PDF 537 KB)), the public entrance nearest to the Victoria Tower on the west front of the Houses of Parliament. Explain to security staff and Visitor Assistants that you have an appointment in the Archives; a Visitor Assistant will escort you to the Archives searchroom.
Opening Hours and Closure Dates
The search room is generally open to members of the public Monday to Friday (Public Holidays excepted) from 10.00am to 4.00pm. We occasionally close for reasons including staff training and media use, so please contact us in advance of your visit to reserve a seat, giving at least two working days' notice.
Please search our online catalogue Portcullis in advance of your visit if possible, and email us a list of the records you wish to see. We can then fetch them out in advance of your arrival and save you waiting time once you are here. A maximum of twelve items will be produced in advance at one time, at the discretion of the searchroom supervisor. Once you are here, documents can normally be retrieved on request, except between 11.45am and 1.15pm and after 3.00pm. Please note, it may not be possible to retrieve large items on demand.
Documents marked as 'Closed' on our online catalogue Portcullis should be requested in advance by email; for further advice on this, please see I want... a file marked on your catalogue as 'Closed'. It is not possible to retrieve closed material on request on the day of a visit.
The Archives search room closes for annual stocktaking in the last two weeks of November (exact dates are advertised near the time). This is to allow for essential repository work. No search room visits are possible during this period. We apologise for the inconvenience.
Facilities at the Archives
The search room supervisor will advise about use of the records and explain the range of catalogues and other finding aids which are available together with works of biographical and parliamentary reference.
Searchers are requested to help safeguard our documentary heritage for the use of future generations by observing the search room regulations for the handling of records. These are set out on the search room table placemats.
Searchers are welcome to use laptop computers (for which there are plug sockets). The use of dictaphones is at the discretion of the supervisor.
There are four PCs for public use in the search room with Internet access available for research purposes (checking of personal email is not allowed). Ethernet connections are not available. However, free wireless internet is available for searchers to use on their own laptops or mobile computers. Ask the search room supervisor for a login and password on your arrival.
Digital cameras are permitted but no flash may be used. There is a fee for use of digital cameras in the searchroom of £7.50 per day. See our statement on Use of personal technology devices for copying records in the Parliamentary Archives.
Onsite Reprographic services are available for copying and scanning records up to AO size.
Toilets (including one suitable for wheelchair users) and a first aid point are in the vicinity of the search room.
There is a small kitchen area where tea, coffee and drinking water are available, plus a fridge and microwave. There is also a small lounge area where researchers can sit and consume drinks and their own food. Refreshment facilities in the Palace of Westminster are not open to the public but there are various sandwich bars, pubs and restaurants nearby. No food or drink is permitted in the searchroom.
The nearest cash machines are at Westminster tube station, or on Victoria Street. Please be aware that only cash or cheques can be accepted in the search room for copying payments, not credit cards.
Mobile phones should be turned off or switched to silent mode in the searchroom. There is storage for bags and coats but not for large suitcases.
Parliamentary Archives Statement of Public ServicesBack to Archives Home Page