Objectives of the Archive Service:
To collect, preserve and make available the documentary heritage of the historic county of Bedfordshire and its people.
What are the ‘archives’ and ‘records’ we hold and who uses them?
‘Archives’ are written documents which were once working ‘records’ and have come to be preserved, often after selection (‘appraisal’ as we call it), for research and/or historical purposes. They represent the recorded memory of the organisation or individual which created them but also have a wider significance in terms of the information they contain for researchers.
The archives held by Bedfordshire Archives Service span over 800 years and come from official and private sources. They include public records, local government archives and other official papers, church records, and archives from local families, businesses, societies and individuals. We also have extensive collections of maps, pictures and newspapers and some oral history recordings. To find out more about the variety of records held here browse our Collection Guides and information about using our collections.
The Archives are available to all. Anyone can make an appointment to visit on-site to the searchroom (‘the research room‘) where you can see, handle and use the original records and where trained staff will help you to find what you want and give advice on your research. People who are unable to visit can make contact by telephone, letter and e-mail or via our online enquiry form and use our enquiry and research service . People are able to find out what we hold by searching our archive catalogues online. Many others benefit indirectly from the products of direct research by the use of text and images in publications, marketing and advertising, media research and reporting.
Bedfordshire Archives actively encourages access to the records in its care. However, sometimes records are embargoed (closed) – or may not otherwise be available - for example they may contain confidential or sensitive information, and access is restricted under the Data Protection rules.
There is no admission charge for visitors, and you do not have to pay to see the archives and records we hold, although you will be required to book an appointment. You will have to pay for any copying, and for research work which is carried out for you by staff. See our Fees, Charges and Reproduction page for full details.
We are committed to exploiting the potential of information technology and the internet, particularly in placing all our archive catalogues on-line so they can be consulted and index searched by the widest possible range of users. We also have a popular online database of 19th Century prisoners in Bedford gaol.
We also publish information on the history of Bedfordshire's towns, villages & hamlets online in our Community Histories section.
A records management service was established in 1989 to serve the internal record keeping needs of Bedfordshire County Council, and since April 2009 has served the three unitary councils. Council records are a vital source for areas such as education, social conditions, house histories through the planning process and the fire service. Records with such historic value are transferred to the archives for permanent preservation. As of 1st August 2021 the records management service is no longer directly connected to the archives service.
Since 1st April 2009 the Archive Service has been jointly funded by the three councils: Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Borough.
Archive Service Annual Report
View our 2022-2023 Annual Report here
Our Charter, detailing our standards and targets can be read here
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to know information about our service please see our FAQ page