OPENING HOURS FOR THE ARCHIVES IN 2021
The Diocesan Archives will be reopening to the public on Friday 7th May 2021. In order to comply with ongoing COVID restrictions, the number of people allowed to visit the Archives will be extremely limited. For further details, and to make an appointment, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE COLLECTIONS
Welcome to the Westminster Diocesan Archives. Based at Our Lady of Victories in Kensington, we welcome hundreds of researchers every year, including family historians, clergy, academics and students.
The Westminster Diocesan Archives hold a great deal of material relating to finance, property and education in the diocese as well as records created by parishes, including some baptism and marriage registers.
However, our collections contain much that goes well beyond diocesan boundaries. The papers of the Archbishops of Westminster, from Wiseman to Hume, contain material concerning many national and international issues of the day, reflecting their roles as Cardinals and leaders of the English and Welsh bishops (most recently as Presidents of the Bishops' Conference).
We hold a significant collection of documents dating from the period before the Reformation, including reports of 15th century heresy trials from the Diocese of Norwich and a very early copy of the Charter of the Chapter of Wells Cathedral. However the bulk of the earlier papers date from the period between the accession of Elizabeth I (1558) and the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850.
The most important of these, covering the period from 1501 to 1798, are bound in a series of 50 volumes known as the A Series. These contain letters of Cardinal William Allen as well as the papers of the Vicars Apostolic of the London District, including Bonaventure Giffard (1703-34) and Richard Challoner (1758-81). In total, there are some 9,000 items relating to this period, making Westminster Diocesan Archives one of the richest sources for the Catholic history of the country in the early modern period. There are also papers relating to the Jacobites including letters written by 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'.
Our collections are also supplemented by various deposits of papers from Catholic institutions, organisations and societies. These include the 'Old Brotherhood' (originally the Chapter of Secular Clergy that governed the English Catholic Church between 1631 and 1685), St Edmund's College, Ware (a descendant of the English College in Douai), and more modern material such as the Catholic Evidence Guild, Catholic Association and Catholic Union. There is also a collection of rules, constitutions and papers from religious orders within the diocese.
ACCESS TO THE ARCHIVES
Family historians are advised to go to Find My Past, which has digital copies of the sacramental registers held by the Diocesan Archives, as well as the 1893 Catholic Census for the Diocese of Westminster.
For information about the collections in general, go to Catholic Heritage, a portal website that hosts the electronic catalogue to our collections, as well as those of other Catholic libraries and archives.
The Archive is open to researchers by prior appointment on Mondays and Fridays only, 10am-12.30pm and 1.30-5pm.
Conditions of access
If you have not used the Diocesan Archives before, you will need to register upon arrival. Please bring along two forms of ID, one with proof of identity (eg a passport) and one with proof of residence (eg a recent utility bill). A driver's licence with photograph and address will suffice for both forms of ID.
As a further condition of access, researchers are required to wear a mask in the reading room, and to wash their hands on entry and exit to the Diocesan Archives.
To find the Archive, go through the archway next to 16 Abingdon Rd and ring the bell to the left of the white garage door in front of you.
The majority of our archives are catalogued, although the format and level of detail of the finding aids varies. An online catalogue is available through Catholic Heritage, although this is not yet fully comprehensive as we are continuing to convert previously unpublished hard copy lists to the online catalogue.
For a full list of our catalogues, please click HERE.
Family historians can access digital copies of the sacramental registers held by Westminster Diocesan Archives through the genealogical website Find My Past.
For information on family history within the Diocese, please click HERE.
We are happy to provide advice on archives and records management for parishes within the Diocese of Westminster, and welcome the deposit of any historical information relating to individual parishes. For information on parish history, please click HERE.
The archives address is:
Westminster Diocesan Archives
16a Abingdon Road
Telephone: +44 (0)207 938 3580
Please note that phone calls can only be taken during office hours on Mondays and Fridays. There is no-one to take your call outside these hours, and no answering service to take a message.
Our normal opening hours are Mondays and Fridays only, 10am-12:30pm and 1.30pm-5pm, by appointment only. You may book a morning, afternoon or both sessions, but be aware that you will need to leave the archive at lunchtime. Please contact us well in advance of your visit as our search room is very small and we are often fully booked. We are closed during Holy Week, Christmas and other holy days.
We are located just off Kensington High Street in Abingdon Road, behind the Presbytery of Our Lady of Victories, Kensington. Go through the archway next to 16 Abingdon Road and ring the bell to the left of the white garage door.
No parking facilities are available for researchers but there is a large public car park a short walk away underneath Kensington Town Hall.
The nearest Underground and train stations are High Street Kensington and Kensington Olympia. Earls Court is a ten minute walk from the Archives. Bus routes along Kensington High Street include Nos. 9, 10, 27, 28, 49 and 328. For further information on travelling to and from the Archives, go to the Transport for London website.