Collections at the Dorset History Centre
The Dorset History Centre cares for, and provides access to, thousands of archive collections relating to Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole.
We also offer a research service if you are unable to visit in person.
Parish registers and records
We hold the registers and various records for many of the parishes in Dorset.
Archiving the arts
The Dorset History Centre is taking part in Archiving the Arts, a strategy to collect and preserve the records of artists.
Dorset Authors Collection
A unique collection consisting of thousands of publications relating to Dorset's authors and poets, including Thomas Hardy, William Barnes, John Fowles, Sir Frederick Treves, Sylvia Townsend Warner and the Powys brothers.
Local studies library
The Dorset Local Studies Collection contains published books and pamphlets on a wide range of subjects including archaeology, topography, geology, natural history and Dorset trade and industry.
As of list of who lives at what address, compiled annually, electoral registers are a useful source for tracking individuals or families.
The History Centre holds records for various kinds of businesses, including brewers, solicitors, architects and more. Our business archives include the internationally recognised ceramics firm Poole Pottery and Britain's first garden centre, Stewarts of Ferndown.
Court, prison and police records
Records of crime and punishment include those of the local courts, prisons and police force.
Family and estate archives
A short guide to the family and estate archives held at the Dorset History Centre
Herrison Hospital (Dorset County Lunatic Asylum)
Herrison Hospital was a mental hospital, formerly the county asylum for Dorset. The original asylum was founded in 1832 and the institution continued until 1992, when the hospital closed. The records of the asylum and hospital are held here.
Local clubs and societies
The History Centre holds the records of local and even some national clubs and societies based in Dorset.
Local government and administration
Many different organisations have been responsible for local administration in Dorset during the county's history. The History Centre holds records for many of these.
An overview of the types of maps we hold, including ordnance survey maps, tithe maps and enclosure maps.
The Data Protection Act and research at the Dorset History Centre
The Data Protection Act 1998 protects the personal data of living individuals. By law, the History Centre has to monitor or restrict access to certain types of records which may contain personal information.
Newspapers on microfilm
The Dorset History Centre holds many newspapers, most of which are stored in microfilm format.
There are thousands of photographs at the Dorset History Centre, including studio portraits, postcards and aerial photographs.
Most Dorset schools kept records fairly systematically from the mid to late nineteenth century onwards. School records can be particularly illuminating for family and local history.
Probate records: wills, letters of administration and inventories