West Sussex Record Office

Using the Record Office searchroom

3 Orchard Street, Chichester, PO19 1DD

How to use the Record Office searchroom.

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Get the most from your visit by familiarising yourself with the following guidance before your visit.


The searchroom is the area of the Record Office where you can gain access to, and study, the vast array of records and documents available in our archives.

For some collections you will be able to access the originals. For others you will be able to view the information on microfiche or microfilm.

There is no booking system for reserving tables, public access computers or readers, so please help yourself to an available seat.

Entry to the searchroom

Before entering the searchroom you will be asked to sign the visitors' book.

All bags, briefcases and mobile phones must be stored in a personal locker, situated in the reception area on payment of a £1.00 returnable deposit.

Transparent bags for carrying papers and pencils into the searchroom are available from the receptionist.

Cameras are allowed if booked in advance, for which there is a chargeable fee - see the DIY photography section below.

Once you have signed in the receptionist will activate the security lock on the access door to let you into the searchroom. Similarly, you will not be able to leave the searchroom before staff have checked that any documents you have been using have been returned. This helps to ensure the safety of the documents in our care and their availability for public consultation.

Once in the searchroom, please only use pencils and do not lean on any documents, to avoid damaging them.

Searchroom documents

Finding documents

Finding documents

Because the archives are kept in special strongrooms, you will need to consult our online catalogue or the indexes and catalogues in the searchroom to help you decide which records you would like to have brought out for you to see.

Many documents, particularly those used frequently for family history research, are only available on microfilm or microfiche. This saves wear and tear on the original documents, and also allows access to microfilmed documents held elsewhere.

We are unable to produce original documents (including maps) from the strongrooms between 12.15pm-1.30pm. Documents are also not produced after 4.15pm on weekdays and 4.00pm on Saturdays.

Copies of documents

Copies of documents and photos

We offer a wide range of copying facilities from basic photocopying to high definition scanning. Reproductions of, or extracts from, documents or photos must not be published without permission of the County Archivist. You must also acknowledge the owner of the document/photo and the Record Office.

DIY photography

DIY photography

Arrangements can be made by prior appointment to bring in your own digital camera. We charge £12.00 per day and a 'DIY photography request form' (with copyright declaration) must also be completed before you start taking photographs - forms will be available in the Searchroom when you arrive.

Please note that some collections are subject to restrictions on digital photography. For some, notably the Petworth House Archives and Goodwood Archives, prior permission from the owner is required.

Please contact us before your visit for advice.

You may, if you wish, purchase five one-day permits in advance for £48.00 (thereby saving £12.00). Any unused permits expire after six months.

Supporting documents

Contact details

  • Email record.office@westsussex.gov.uk
  • Tel: 01243 753602
  • Fax: 01243 533959
  • Address

    3 Orchard Street, Chichester, PO19 1DD
  • Additional information

    Our address for correspondence is: County Archivist, West Sussex Record Office, County Hall, Chichester, PO19 1RN

Find us

By car

We are based in the heart of Chichester, very near to County Hall. The A27 trunk road runs through Chichester for links to Brighton and Portsmouth, while links to London are provided by the A23 and A24. Chichester is approached from the north via the A286 from Midhurst; and the A285 from Petworth.

By train

We are about a 10 minute walk from Chichester train station, which is served by a regular train service from London Victoria. There are also services from Brighton and Portsmouth.

By bus

The closest bus stops are at Orchard Street, West Street (Cathedral) and Avenue de Chartres.