The Local Studies Reference Collection has moved from Bath Central Library to the Guildhall

The majority of the Local Studies and Special Collections reference stock previously available in Bath Central Library is now available at the new Archives and Local Studies Service in the Guildhall. Some less-used discrete parts of the collections have had to go into store, so must be requested with a minimum of 2 working days’ warning.

Please contact the Local Studies Librarian for more details:


Telephone: 01225 39 40 41

Local Studies lending books have not moved to the Guildhall and are still available to browse and borrow from Bath Central Library and local branch libraries.

This section covers the major printed collections that may be of assistance in researching the history of the area.


We have approximately 10,000 books in the Local History collection dating from the sixteenth century to the present day. These cover all subjects of local interest, such as theatre, medicine, mining and geology, biography and architecture.  Most of the stock can be searched through the online LibrariesWest catalogue, although there is also a significant minority of stock currently only catalogued on the record cards in the local catalogue in the Guildhall.


The Archives and Local Studies Service has a significant collection of pamphlet material. These cover a wide variety of subjects from the Civil War onwards, and include journal offprints and reprints, property sales brochures and advertising material. There are two main sections to this collection which are all available through the online LibrariesWest catalogue:

  • Bound pamphlets – these are pamphlets, mainly from the 19th century, which have been collected together and bound into book form. Some of the collections have a specific subject, and others are a more miscellaneous collection.
  • Loose pamphlets  - there are three significant collections of loose pamphlets. The historic collections date mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries, but there are also about 10,000 pamphlets and ephemeral material from the last two centuries.


Bath has a long history of newspaper publication, dating back to the early 18th century – the earliest paper in our collection is the Bath Journal of 1744. We hold microfilm copies of the entire run of the Bath [Weekly] Chronicle from 1760 to its closure in 1980. We also hold a run of the Bath [Daily] Chronicle from 1927 (when it was called the Bath and Wilts Chronicle and Herald) to the present day. There are also films of some of the other papers in Bath's history, such as the Bath Herald and Bath Journal.

The kind donation of their archive by the Bath Chronicle newspaper means we now have access to almost complete runs of most papers associated with newspaper publishing in Bath since the 18th century. This includes copies of the Somerset Standard, Somerset Guardian, Somerset Journal, Bath Express, Bath Herald and Bath Journal. Please contact the Local Studies Librarian ( information about accessing this archive and details of exact holdings.

The Georgian editions of the Bath Chronicle – covering from 1770 to 1799 – have been indexed by volunteers and can be searched online at the Bath Chronicle Georgian Newspaper Project database. Copies of specific articles can be ordered through the Local Studies Librarian.

Please note: It is the policy of the Archives and Local Studies Service that readers should use the microfilm versions of newspapers wherever possible. This is to help preserve what can be very delicate and crumbling papers. Original newspaper will only be produced if no microfilm is available or upon special request to the Local Studies Librarian (


We hold a collection of Bath directories dating from around 1800 to 1973. Initially published privately, the first directories were not comprehensive in their coverage and were mainly of commercial interest. After 1837 street listings were added to the purely alphabetical-by-surname listing, and they become much more useful. The Post Office started producing them in 1858 – including a map – and Keene’s continued from 1931 until they were discontinued in 1973. 

Locating some of the streets and buildings, as well as the correct house number, listed in the directories can be quite difficult due to the way some of the older streets in Bath are named and numbered. 

We also have a selection of directories covering the counties of Somerset, Gloucester and Bristol and Wiltshire.

Electoral Rolls and Poll Books

Bath Central Library holds a selection of Poll Books and Electoral Registers for the City of Bath, and parts of Bathavon after the 1960s. After 1974 we hold copies of the registers for Wansdyke. Since 2002 we can only hold copies of the restricted registers, so these are necessarily incomplete.

Local Studies Packs

These books were originally compiled by the Somerset Library Service, and cover every parish within the old county of Somerset. They contain excerpts from various historical sources, including a map and extracts from local directories. Bath Central Library holds a set for the Bath and Wansdyke areas, and the branches hold copies of the relevant local pack.


We hold a collection of more than 3000 maps and plans. This collection can be roughly divided into 4 areas:

  • Ordnance Survey maps from 1:500 to 1:50 000 in scale, including geological maps.
  • Bath & District maps of the City itself and of the wider Bath area, and surrounding counties not including OS maps.
  • Bath plans of miscellaneous buildings and streets around Bath.
  • Miscellaneous maps and plans including boundary maps and land surveys of the Bath area that are not OS maps.

The main library collection also holds a full set of the OS Landranger (1:50 000) and Explorer (1:25 000) series’ for loan, as well as a set of maps for Northern Ireland.

Journals and magazines

We also have a collection of journals and other serial publications from various societies and other organisations. 

These include:

  • Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (including Bath Branch)
  • Wiltshire Natural History Society
  • Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society
  • Bristol Industrial Archaeology Society
  • Record Societies for Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset
  • Survey of Old Bath
  • Mayor’s Honorary Guides etc.

Additionally, there is a collection of publications of more social interest, including:

  • Bath and County Graphic
  • Bath Pictorial
  • Notes & Queries (for Somerset & Dorset, and the sequence published in the Bath Chronicle)
  • Somerset Countryman

If you wish to know if we have a specific publication in our collections, please contact the Local Studies Librarian (

Victoria County Histories

The Victoria County Histories (VCH) were started in 1899, and were dedicated to Queen Victoria, as an ambitious project to record the history of all the counties of England, parish by parish. The first volumes of the county are general histories, with more detailed histories are in the following volumes. Several counties are still active, and some are currently dormant. Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire are all still active, and we maintain copies for these three counties.

More details about the project and about the specific counties’ projects can be found at the VCH website.

Miscellaneous publications

We also hold several other publications that may be of interest to a local historian within our collections, but are not necessarily just confined to local information. These include:

  • Who’s Who, from 1902 – including Who Was Who
  • Debrett’s, Burke’s and Kelly’s Directoriesof titled and landed families, and the Complete Peerage (to 1900)
  • Army Lists (1756-), Navy Lists (1834 -), Air Force Lists (1924 -), including historical naval biographical dictionaries and the Naval Chronicle.
  • Clergy Lists and Crockford’s Clerical Directory, 1841 onwards
  • Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731 onwards, useful for obituaries
  • Alumni Cantabrigienses and Alumni Oxonienses
  • Dictionaries of National Biography – the electronic edition is also available through our online resources page.

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