Surrey History Centre

Surrey History Centre’s mission is to collect and rescue archives and printed materials relating to Surrey’s past and present. It’s free to use these materials in the Centre’s supervised search room.

From my experience the Centre can be rightly proud of its courteous, friendly staff and its facilities for physically and visually impaired users. These were among criteria against it was voted the “Archive of the Year Award” for 2012, by readers of Your Family History Magazine.  (For details click HERE.)

Perhaps you’re a curious soul like me who likes to find out how things work and why things are as they are.

Perhaps like me your curiosity extends to local places. What is the ancient background to the huge common lands of woodland and heath, both within and surrounding my home town of Woking? Why is Woking’s modern town centre 1½ miles from the ancient village of Woking? What’s the history of the Basingstoke Canal? What was on the site of my own home 100 years ago – and earlier?

There’s a lot of information available on the web. But if you live in Surrey a visit to Surrey History Centre is essential for detailed research on your street, village, town, organisation or community – and it’s free!

Surrey History Centre occupies a modern, purpose-built building and is right to pride itself on its “user friendliness” for disabled people. The building was carefully designed to be accessible to all, with everything on one level.  I found the staff to be very helpful and courteous.

What you’ll need
It’s necessary to take with you a Surrey County Libraries ticket, a County Archive Research Network (CARN) card, or something official as proof of ID and address such as a driving licence, bank statement or utilities bill.

Pens, coats and bags (including handbags) aren’t allowed in the research area, so you’ll also need:

– Pencils to write with
– A 20p piece (returnable) for a locker to store your belongings including handbags
– A £1 coin (also returnable) for a secure hanger if you have a coat.

Portable computers are allowed in the research room. You may use your own camera or mobile phone camera for a fee (see table of fees).

Visiting the Centre
The Centre’s web site advises users to book before you visit, but it is not a requirement.

There’s a good wheelchair ramp at the front of the building. An automatic door is provided for disabled access, to the left of the main (revolving) door: press the red button to open it. The door opens outwards.

You’ll find yourself in the foyer. The desk staff is very helpful and will explain what you need to do. They’ll need to see your Surrey County Libraries ticket, CARN card or proof of ID.

The research room is through a glass door (automatic).  Inside is a counter where staff will help and advise you in your research. I wished to find out about my immediate locality: what was there before it became a housing estate. The member of staff who assisted me was very helpful: she fetched maps showing the locality at various times in the past and showed me how to use a computer to search the Centre’s archive.  She also fetched for me a very interesting book about Woking’s history which included relevant information and pictures.

The desks are easy to use when seated in a wheelchair. Much of the archive is on microfiche and microfilm, for which the readers and printers are accessible and at a suitable height for wheelchair users.

A visually impaired researcher using the CCTV scanner

A special CCTV scanner is provided to help visitors with visual impairment view records. It magnifies and projects an image onto a TV monitor. The machine is equipped with visual aids to assist users with different visual impairments, from colour blindness to macular degeneration. The machine has the ability to change the colour and contrast on screen of any item being scanned and can even underline the text within a document: this makes the reading of old deeds and ancient handwriting much easier. The magnification range of the scanner also makes it very useful for identifying features, which can help date old photographs or even identify regimental cap badges.

To see a video about Surrey History Centre and its research facilities click HERE.

Other facilities
The Centre has toilets, including a wheelchair accessible toilet. Food and drink isn’t permitted in the research room, but there is a refreshments area with a hot drinks machine. You can take your own food and eat it there.

Books, maps, cards and even reading glasses are on sale in the foyer. There is also a lending library in our foyer with a specialised collection of local and family history books: I haven’t inspected this but look forward to doing so on my next visit.

The Centre provides a research service for people who cannot visit in person. This is described on the centre’s web site. (Click HERE to view).

Getting there by car
The Centre is easy to reach by car, with free on-site parking including disabled bays (located closest to the entrance). Click HERE for directions. The page also provides information for visitors travelling by train.
Postcode for satnavs: GU21 6ND

Getting there by rail
The Centre is 1 km (0.6 mile) from Woking railway station. Leave from the Platform 1 exit, cross the road and follow the road to your left (High Street), parallel to the railway. At the Boots store, cross the road at the pelican crossing. Go ahead beside the market and across a dual carriageway (pelican crossings). Continue ahead along Goldsworth Road. When possible, cross to the opposite (left-hand) pavement. Continue past the Tile Warehouse, across Poole Road and the access road to Morrisons supermarket/petrol station. Cross Kingsway. You’ll see Surrey History Centre to your left, opposite Fields Car Centre.

Getting there by bus
The Centre is served by the following buses:
Routes 34 and 35 towards Lightwater and Camberley stop 175m (200 yards) away, on the same side of the road, just past Morrisons supermarket. Walk in the same direction as the bus was travelling to reach the Centre.
Routes 34 and 35 from Lightwater/Camberley stop almost directly across the road from the Centre. Walk back about 100m (100 yards) in the direction from which the bus came to the pedestrian crossing outside the Centre.

Routes 446 and 459 terminate at Morrisons supermarket. The stop is 500m (550 yards) from the Centre. Follow the footpath towards, then beside Morrisons petrol station.Turn left along the footpath, cross Kingsway and you’ll soon reach the Centre, on the same side of the road.
Visit for details.

More info
To view the official web pages about Surrey History Centre and how to use it, click HERE.

The web site “Exploring Surrey’s Past” includes many fascinating articles: click HERE to view.

To view a map of Surrey where you can discover the historical connections where you live, click HERE

To see the video about Surrey History Centre and its research facilities click HERE.

If you find these pages useful, please leave a comment below.
To report errors or make suggestions please use the contact form by clicking HERE.

Royer Slater
April 2012


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