Planning Your Visit to the Parliamentary Archives

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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.

Christmas closure: The Parliamentary Archives will be closed from 1 PM on Friday 21 December 2018 and re-open at 10 AM on Wednesday 2 January 2019.

Please note that all visitors to the Parliamentary Archives searchroom are required to produce photographic identification on request.


Document Ordering: Advanced Ordering Advised

Please search our online catalogue and email listing the reference numbers that you would like to see and the date you have an appointment booked/would like to book.

We strongly recommend that you make an advance order for the items that you would like to view on your visit as we don't want you to be disappointed if the documents cannot be produced:

Scheduled retrieval times: we operate the following retrieval times for documents:

  • 10am (documents ordered in advance) 
  • 11.30am and 2.00pm

Visitors can order up to 12 documents in advance and these will be available from 10am. Six more files can be ordered at 11.30am and another six files can be ordered at 2pm. Visitors can submit a bulk order for up to 24 items in advance, but these will be produced as described above, i.e. 12 files at 10am, and then 6 files at 11.30am and 6 files at 2pm. To pre-order the documents, please email listing the reference numbers that you would like to see and the date you have an appointment booked/would like to book.

NOTE: The Parliamentary Archives reserves the right to vary the quantity of items produced.

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: We're running a preservation programme which means some records are subject to 3 days notice before they are available to view in the searchroom, or for our staff to use to answer enquiries. 

Essential repository work: some records may be temporarily unavailable due to essential building maintenance work taking place in the Archives strongrooms. This will include our popular personal paper collections - Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Beaverbrook and others - during August/October 2018.

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). 

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.

Entrance Points

Visitors to the Parliamentary Archives should use Black Rod's Garden Entrance (marked 11 on this map (PDF PDF 537 KB)). This is the public entrance nearest to the Victoria Tower on the west front of the Houses of Parliament. Explain to the Security Staff that you have an appointment at the Archives and show your Photographic ID. You will then go through airport-style security screening on entry to the building and should allow at least 15 minutes for this. After security screening go into the waiting area and speak to the Visitor Assistant who 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.

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 used to close for annual stocktaking in the last two weeks of November, but changes to ways of working mean this no longer happens as of 2018.

Facilities at the Archives

Catalogues: 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.

Document Handling: 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.

Computer Use: 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 Camera Use: 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.

Copying Services: We offer a copying services for records up to AO size. Payment is taken in advance and copies are usually provided within 10 working days,

Toilets: Toilets (including one suitable for wheelchair users) and a first aid point are in the vicinity of the search room. 

Food and Drink: 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.

Payments: 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.

Lockers: There is storage for bags and coats but not for large suitcases.

Mobile phones: phones should be turned off or switched to silent mode in the searchroom. 

Parliamentary Archives Statement of Public Services

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