Westminster City Archives has a range of great resources to help you with research. Browse through this guide to find the correct service for your project.
By the mid-19th century, London churchyards were full to overflowing. To rectify this, the 1850 Metropolitan Interment Act allowed parishes to buy land outside London to provide new cemeteries.
After the 1853 Burial Act, almost all burials took place in new cemeteries outside the city centre. London churchyards were no longer used apart from a few, rare interments in private graves.
From 1853 onwards, the parishes, and subsequently, councils, used various cemeteries and crematoria. A list of these, with contact details for the bodies that hold the records, can be browsed by downloading our information sheet on Cemetery and crematoria records.
To view listings of earlier burial registers, see our Anglican Church records section
You may also want to browse our information sheet on Monumental inscriptions.
City of Westminster Archives Centre is the Diocesan Record Office for south Westminster, and most Anglican parish registers for the area south of Oxford Street have been deposited here.
We also provide access to original registers or transcripts of some non-conformist churches.
From the late 1850s onwards, most London burials took place in cemeteries rather than church burial grounds. We hold registers for Hanwell, St Marylebone, Mill Hill and Willesden Lane cemeteries. For covering dates, see the Cemetery registers section.
Where possible, access to our registers is provided on microfilm to help preserve the original books.
One of our core functions is to preserve records of local government in Westminster from the regulation of the city by the Court of Burgesses to the activities of Westminster City Council today.
Our council records include:
Although they primarily deal with the administration of the city, Westminster's council records can also be a useful source for family historians. Sources of possible interest include rate books and poor law records such as workhouse admission registers.
We hold records for Westminster and Marylebone Petty Sessions which tried misdemeanour (petty) offences as opposed to more serious felony.
These courts met regularly and fulfilled a similar function to today's magistrate's court.
Directories and court guides show who lived where in London. They are slightly limited, but useful for tracing people and residential histories during years not covered by the census.
First published in 1677, the London Directory evolved from alphabetical name listings to complex reference works listing residents and workers by trade, commercial name, profession and street.
We hold London directories from 1736 to 1991 which can be accessed on microfilm in the searchroom, along with copies of some earlier directories from the Guildhall Library's collection.
We also hold local directories for St Marylebone, Paddington and Pimlico dating from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century.
The Historical Directories site offers online access to selected local directories for England and Wales from 1750 to 1919.
Court guides list people of social standing:
Access Boyle's Court Guides, Royal Blue Books and Royal Kalendars for selected years between 1792 to 1940 at Westminster City Archives.
Electoral registers are useful in tracing people by a known address - to search for someone by name, use London Directories).
Registers have been published every year since 1832 except in wartime. To be listed, a person must meet certain franchise qualifications.
Most parliamentary electoral registers included electors for local government since the late 19th century, making it possible to find people even if they couldn't vote. Women ratepayers appear as municipal electors from 1869; today, registers include EU citizens.
2 editions have been issued each year since 2003: the full register lists everyone entitled to vote and the edited register lists voters who allowed their details to be made freely available.
Public access to full registers is restricted; contact Electoral Services to view full electoral registers for Westminster.
Although poll books list voters, they differ from electoral registers as they record how each person voted.
Poll books were published in the late 17th century until 1872 when the passing of the Ballot Act resulted in their effective abolition.
For information on the Archive Centre's library collection, please check the appropriate guides below:
guide 1: building history (PDF, 186 KB) lists texts for building historians
guide 2: london theatre (PDF, 211 KB) lists key reference works on London theatre history including list of useful websites
guide 3: family history (PDF, 442 KB) lists family history reference books, websites and other sources
guide 4: poor law (PDF, 275 KB) lists key sources for researching the history of poverty, charity and welfare in London
Over 75,000 deeds have been deposited, many coming from solicitors through the British Records Association, relating to properties in the area deposited over the last 50 years. Some deeds are calendared and have a card index to personal and place (mainly street) names and trades.
Of particular note are 18,000 deeds relating to the Grosvenor Estate. The main sequence of these is arranged alphabetically by street name.
Collections of personal papers include general collections of miscellaneous material relating to Paddington and St Marylebone consisting mainly of 19th century letters from residents, some of them well-known. These collections are fully catalogued and indexed as D Misc and Acc 612 and 988.
Westminster City Archives holds unique collections of great significance to researchers of fashion, art and design, theatre and literature.
Our Art and Design collection has been designated as being of national importance.
We offer an extensive collection of theatre materials with books, playbills, programmes and prints documenting the history of London's vibrant theatre scene, and in particular the development of West End theatre.
The Preston Blake collection is a large collection of books, pamphlets and art works relating to the influential poet, painter and printmaker William Blake.
Donated to Westminster in 1967, the collection represents 50 years of assiduous acquisition of books by and about the great poet, painter and mystic, who was born in Soho and spent most of his life in Westminster.
The collection consists of over 700 volumes, many of which are rare and sought-after, as well as periodicals, catalogues and transparencies.
Jewels of the collection include: