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Depositing Archives

What Bedfordshire Archives Service Does

Bedfordshire Archives Service exists to collect, preserve and make available to the public records relating to Bedfordshire and its people. It exercises statutory functions in respect of certain classes of public and ecclesiastical records and also accepts and preserves private and business archives relating to Bedfordshire. In brief, Bedfordshire Archives Service collects two main category of record:

  • documents relating to the topography, ownership, occupation and use of land in Bedfordshire;
  • documents recording or illustrating all aspects of human activity in Bedfordshire.

What we collect

  • Documents of sufficient evidential and/or informational value to merit permanent preservation.
  • Documents of any date - deposit of important material created today is positively encouraged.
  • Documents in any physical form or media, provided Bedfordshire Archives  Service has suitable facilities for storage and access.
  • Local topographical prints, drawings, photographs etc.
  • Facsimile copies of Bedfordshire material held in private ownership.

What we do not collect

  • Three dimensional artefacts and specimens falling within the collecting policies of local museums.
  • Frames, tin trunks, deed chests and other containers, which will be returned to the owner or destroyed.
  • Film and analogue sound archives, since we do not currently have suitable storage or access facilities.
  • Literary manuscripts unless associated with other archive material falling within our collecting criteria.
  • Works of art of primarily visual interest and appeal.
  • Printed or published books, pamphlets or documents falling more within the scope of the public library service, unless the material is suitable for our searchroom reference library.
  • Duplicates of documents already held unless they are in better condition or are gifts and duplicate material on loan

Digital material

The service does collect material in digital form, however there are particular issues with the preservation of material in digital form which currently limits our ability to cope with formats that are not supported by our ICT department. For further information see: Digital Deposits and Digital Preservation Policy

Collections development

Bedfordshire Archives Service has acknowledged strengths and weaknesses in its holdings - it is eager to turn weaknesses into strengths and also to further boost existing strengths.

Help us develop by donating or depositing records and archives

Bedfordshire Archives Service relies on donors and depositors to help extend its collections and make more of Bedfordshire's written heritage available for study for everyone.  The service accepts material from individuals or bodies in one of two ways, either as donations or deposits on long-term loan.


You donate the material to the office and ownership of that material transfers to the council.  Any material we do not want we will either return to you, destroy or where applicable transfer to another repository or sell as agreed with you at the time of the donation.  Material that we regard as worthy of permanent preservation within the archive collections is stored securely in suitable environmental conditions, catalogued and made available for use by the general public.


You may deposit material with us, which means that you continue to own it whilst we store it on your behalf and make it available to people to study. There is no charge for storing the material, however long-term loan is defined as for at least 20 years from date of deposit. Any material we do not want we will either return to you, transfer to another repository or dispose of as agreed with us at the time of deposit.

How to Deposit or Donate

  • Let us know by telephone (01234-228833) or e-mail what you want to give us. We will then make an appointment. We can come and collect from you or you can bring the material in to us. 
  • If you are depositing material on behalf of another body (such as a parish council or a company) we will need to be sure you have authority to do so; som identification should be provided and, if your name is not published as being an officer of the body concerned, a letter giving authority to make the deposit or donation.
  • We will need to establish whether the material is deposited or donated.
  • It is rare for us to keep everything we are offered. Archives will often include material of little or no value (think of acknowledgement slips in correspondence for example, or most purely financial material once it has been audited). We generally appraise material and select items we do not need; you need to tell us whether to destroy them or return them to you.
  • We need to know if any digital material is included (see above).
  • We need to know if any material not relating to Bedfordshire is included and, if so, whether we have permission to forward to to the appropriate county's archive service.
  • Are you the copyright holder and if so are you prepared to assign copyright to us?
  • Are there data protection issues? Do not worry if you are unsure as to what this means, we can make a detailed examination of the material and decide for ourselves. If there are issues will the data control responsibility be retained by your organisation or transferred to us? Again, we can discuss this.
  • We will then assign an accession number and a processing reference to the material. The accession number is our key to all the conditions referred to above, which constitute the legality of our holding the material and what we do with it.
  • Full terms and conditions for donations and deposits can be downloaded here: Terms of Deposit (Gift) and Terms of Deposit (Loan)

Please be aware that this is not a process which can be rushed, as it forms our legal title to holding the material and the basis on which we deal with it. The process may take up to half an hour depending on the size and complexity of the material donated or deposited.

Our full collecting policy can be found here: Collection Development Policy

Strengths in our countywide coverage

  • Quarter Sessions and Petty Sessions archives
  • Local Authority archives (County, District and Borough Councils)
  • Town and Parish Council archives
  • Ecclesiastical parish records
  • Nonconformist church records (especially Methodist archives)
  • Family and estate archives
  • Title deeds and related documents
  • Prison records
  • Military records
  • Material on trades specific to Bedfordshire
  • Hospital and mental health records
  • Illustrations
  • Genealogical material
  • Records of agriculture, husbandry and land management
  • Solicitors records

Weaknesses in our countywide coverage

  • Political papers - of parties, societies and individual politicians
  • Minority groups - ethnic minorities and non-Christian religions
  • Business archives - especially local and smaller businesses and industries
  • Records of trades unions and of pressure groups
  • Records of voluntary services e.g. CAB, RELATE etc.
  • Clubs and Societies - social, recreational and sporting
  • Private archive material of 20th century generally.

If you have archives you would like to donate to the service please contact us on 01234 228833 during opening hours or e-mail