Oxfordshire History Centre
Oxfordshire History Centre is located in St Luke’s Church, Cowley, Oxford, England. It aims to collect, preserve and make available the records of the historic county of Oxfordshire. It holds original records and printed material from the 12th to 21st century, which are available for all to see free of charge. It is owned and run by Oxfordshire County Council. It is recognised as a place of deposit by The National Archives.
An Office was established by Oxfordshire County Council in 1935 and was located in County Hall in Oxford. It had the remit to collect historic documents relating to the history of Oxfordshire as well as the records of Oxfordshire County Council itself. These collections were significantly enlarged when the Bodleian Library transferred responsibility for the diocesan, archdeaconry and parish collections of Oxfordshire to the History Centre in 1984.
As the collections grew, the storage space in County Hall was augmented by a series of remote stores. However, by the 1990s increasing visitor numbers as well as a desperate need for more storage space meant that a new building was essential. The Diocese of Oxford offered the County Council the redundant church of St Luke in Cowley and this building, first built by Lord Nuffield as a place of worship for the workers in his Cowley plant was converted with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Paul Getty and other donors.
The new Office opened to the public in November 2000.
In 2011, the former Oxfordshire Record Office and Oxfordshire Studies services were merged into one comprehensive history service and renamed Oxfordshire History Centre.
Oxfordshire History Centre holds a wide range of records which may be of use in family history, local history or other types of research:
- Local administrative records of the county, including the Quarter Sessions, County Council, District Councils, Parish Councils, Poor Law Union and Borough records.
- Oxford City Archives.
- Records of the Church of England including diocesan and archdeaconry records, registers of baptism, marriages and burials. Probate, Church Court and school records and poor law papers.
- Business and organisation records.
- Nonconformist records.
- Solicitors’ records.
- Estate and family records.
- Local newspapers.
- Historic and Ordnance Survey mapping.
- Open access reference library.
- Oxfordshire Photographic Archive.
- Oral history resources.
Information about other records
- Modern Oxfordshire County Council records. These are held by the Records Management Unit based in County Hall, Oxford.
- Local history reference library. "The county's most extensive online and print reference collection, including local and family history, newspapers and magazines". This is also run by Oxfordshire County Council and based at the Westgate Library in Oxford.
- Vale of White Horse Records. This area was originally part of the historic county of Berkshire before the 1974 local government reorganisation. As a result the historic records are kept at Berkshire Record Office.
In May 2007, Oxfordshire History Centre launched the Dark Archivist website. This website was designed to allow people to access some of Oxfordshire’s interesting history without necessarily visiting the Oxfordshire History Centre. It features the Dark Archivist, who takes the visitor around Oxfordshire through the ages, searching for sinister crimes which took place hundreds of years ago, looking for old remedies and reading up on crimes as they might have been written up by journalists today.