Guidance

The UKHO Archive

An overview of the archive, accessing the Archive, and how to order copies of Archive material

Our Archive holds over 600,000 surveys, books, charts and files, containing millions of individual letters, reports, photographs and documents. The Archive is currently undertaking a 3 year project to transfer some of its historical material to The National Archives based at Kew, which will improve public access to items of historical interest. The transfer is concentrating on surveys dated before 1830 and supporting documentation before 1950.

Accessing the UKHO Archive

To arrange a visit to the Archive for bona fide research purposes, please contact the Archive Research Section at least one week in advance. Foreign nationals requesting a visit to the Archive for research purposes need to give at least two weeks notice, failure to do so will mean a visit may be refused.

Personal access to the archive is free. We do, however, charge for reproductions of documents, any research work and handling undertaken by our staff. For further details please see below.

Download the visit request form;

Archive visit request form

Research

Researchers are entitled to the first hour free. Once the free hour has passed you will be asked if you wish to use the archive research service, at a charge £20 for each 15 minutes spent working on your request. If you need this service we will provide you with an estimated number of hours, which will require payment in advance. No work will be undertaken until the payment has been received.

Alternatively researchers can employ their own record agent to come in and undertake the work they require. A list of specialist record agents is available on request. The UKHO does not endorse the work of any persons whose details are on this list.

Due to the current transition of documents to The National Archives, we are unable to accept group visits for a tour of the archive at this time.

Obtaining copies of archive material

Our Archive houses a high quality studio camera and lighting system, which allows us to make reproduction copies of our historic documents without damaging them. Reproduction copies can then be provided as printed copies or as digital images on CD/DVD. Please see the table below for all of our product/service costs. Please remember to add to your estimate:

  • handling charge (minimum of £15 per order)
  • postage and packing (minimum of £3 per order)
  • VAT at the current rate (if applicable)

High quality colourfast prints are supplied on a satin (glossy) paper and unfortunately cannot be printed on standard matt chart paper. To give an idea of cost, a printed copy of an A0 size document will cost £40.00 plus minimum £15.00 handling fee, plus postage and packing and VAT. For an order to a destination within the United Kingdom this will cost a minimum of £72.00. A digital copy of an A0 size document on CD/DVD will cost £25.00 plus minimum £15.00 handling fee, plus postage and packing and VAT. For an order to a destination within the United Kingdom this will cost a minimum of £51.60. Outside the United Kingdom prices will vary and VAT may not be applicable.

When documents are digitally scanned, the colours do not always appear as per the original. Therefore, digital copies are supplied with a colour and scale bar alongside to enable customers to calibrate colours and correctly scale each image to the original size for printing. Customers requiring colour correction and/or re-sizing to be applied for them will incur a charge of £15 per image.

The sizes in the table below are based on the size of document to be copied (copies are not reduced unless asked for). We are able to provide A4 and A3 colour and black and white photocopies of original documents no larger than A3 size. Any requirement for an original document larger than A3 to be reduced, will need to be scanned, costing a minimum of £25 plus VAT. For documents larger than A0, an estimate will be provided by Research staff. These documents may also require digital stitching together; this service costs an additional £80 per hour. The reproduction will be supplied in parts unless stitching is requested.

We offer a priority service for documents that are to be supplied in digital softcopy format via FTP, without colour correction applied. The £40 price is per order, in addition to the product and FTP prices and is without VAT.

Product Size Up to A4 Up to A3 Up to A2 Up to A1 Up to A0 Up to 2x A0 Up to 4x A0
B&W photocopy   £0.40 £0.50          
Colour photocopy   £0.80 £1.00          
Digital print on satin paper (colour corr/resizing inc.)   £15 £20 £25 £30 £40 £80 £160
Digital Scan on disc (no colour corr/resizing)   £25 £25 £25 £25 £25 £50 £100
Digital Scan on disc (colour corr/resizing inc.)   £40 £40 £40 £40 £40 £65 £115
Research fee per hour £80              
Handling/admin fee per hour £60              
Digital stitching per hour £80              
Uploading to our FTP site £10              
Priority service (per order) £40              

Order process

To place an order, please consult the price list above, complete the order form and email it to research@ukho.gov.uk. We will then email you a quote and once paid for, your order can be processed. We now offer PayPal as our preferred method of payment. Transactions can also be made by Credit/debit card via PayPal without requiring a PayPal account. Please complete as many fields in the form as possible.

Order form

Please consult the price list above before filling in an order form. Please note that the minimum cost for an A2 print is £54.00 and for a digital image is £51.60 (delivered to a U.K. address). Please complete as many fields in the form as possible.

Download the order form:

Order form

Please allow a minimum of ten working days for an order to be despatched after making payment, depending on the complexity of the order.

Archive material may be subject to copyright. Please refer to our copyright section for details.

Purchasing copies of surveys

Copies of Royal Navy surveys can be supplied. Permission has to be obtained by Research staff for surveys that are less than 125 years old. All copies have to be paid for in advance before they are released.

The UKHO holds a large quantity of third party survey data, i.e. surveys not owned by the Royal Navy. They cannot be released without the permission of the data owner. If permission in writing is obtained from the data owner, and all the copy costs paid for in advance, then the UKHO can supply a copy.

Requests for copies of digital survey data should be addressed to bdc@ukho.gov.uk.

Archive contents

Historical holdings and the UKHO archive

We receive a wide range of data from all corners of the world and are an appointed place of deposit under the Public Records Act of 1958. This allows us to hold and maintain our own historical archive on site.

Surveys

Today we receive about 400 hydrographic surveys a year, in various forms, including those by the Royal Navy Surveying Squadron, contract survey companies and other contractors and developers. Though the quality of these surveys varies, all are registered and copied before being evaluated by the relevant chart branch, then placed in the archive with their accompanying field data.

The Hydrographic Office has been collecting surveys since 1795 and we hold an estimated 60,000 examples, mainly executed by the Royal Navy. Many have been published in their entirety, or included in part, in printed Admiralty charts. We predominantly hold survey information from 1830 to the present. Surveys dated before 1830 are being transferred to The National Archives,

Record copies of Admiralty charts

Record copies of published Admiralty charts, produced since 1800, are an important part of the archive. However, we do not have a copy of every chart ever published by the Hydrographic Office, but we do have the most complete collection in the United Kingdom. We do not have a copy of every correction to every chart, but it is possible to follow the history of most charts from the 1830s to the present day.

Our record copies are arranged by chart number. This collection is known as the ‘old copy bundle’ system. There is no single catalogue of its contents, but access to the charts can be made through the published catalogues of charts. The earliest catalogue we hold dates from 1825 and electronic versions of catalogues can be downloaded from our archived legacy website by selecting the “Archive Contents” tab.

During World War One a great number of special charts were produced to support the war effort. At the end of the war a report was produced outlining all of the special charts produced from 1914 to 1918. This useful report is available in pdf format on request. Please ask for a copy of the World War One Technical History.

Coastal views

A view of the coast from the sea was an essential aid to navigation. Subsequently the Hydrographic Office accumulated many hundreds of views, some of them appeared in engraved form on the face of Admiralty Charts and in Admiralty Sailing Directions. A large collection of 18th, 19th and early 20th century coastal views, covering most areas of the world, are now deposited at The National Archives at Kew (TNA series ADM 344). An additional 20,000 uncatalogued views from the 19th and 20th centuries are still held in Taunton.

Correspondence, ships’ reports, minutes and data

To support the use of surveys and charts the Hydrographic Office has retained a number of letters (from 1815), minutes (from 1825) and supporting data. These were catalogued by Lt-Cdr A.C.F. David and issued as ‘A provisional catalogue of logs, journals, documents, letters, record copies of books and pamphlets published by the Hydrographic Department and held in its archives at the Hydrographic Department, Ministry of Defence, Taunton, Somerset’ in 1974. An unrevised electronic version of this catalogue can be obtained on request.

Please note that much of the material included in the catalogue will be transferred to The National Archives.

Notices to mariners, lights lists and tide tables

We hold a complete run of printed Notices to Mariners from 1834, Lights Lists from 1827 and Tide Tables from 1833. We also hold some correspondence and records concerning these publications but they are not in one discrete series and it can involve a lengthy search to identify them.

Admiralty charts of Scottish waters

Admiralty charts of Scottish waters, 1795-1963 are now online at the National Library of Scotland.

The UKHO Archive Information Asset Register

The UKHO Archive Information Asset Register (IAR) contributes to the government-wide IAR, available through the Office of Public Sector Information.

View the contents of the IAR

Contact details

To find out more about the archive and researching its contents please contact the archive research section

Tel: +44 (0)1823 337900 ext 3409 / 3670

Fax: +44 (0)1823 284077

Email: research@ukho.gov.uk

Published 29 August 2014
Last updated 30 June 2015 + show all updates
  1. Change of pricing schedule.
  2. Admiralty charts of Scottish waters, 1795-1963 are now all online
  3. First published.