Near the centre of Woking, Surrey County Council’s Surrey History Centre is a purpose built, attractive and highly functional building containing a library, a place for quiet research, and a state of the art storage area. It contains 1000s of records, maps, documents and artefacts relating to Surrey’s Heritage. The archives go back over nine centuries and there are six miles of shelving that store the items.
The Centre was opened by Prince Charles in 1998 and if anyone wants to know about their Surrey ancestry or their county’s history, then this is the first place to visit or contact. There are paper and parchment documents, photographs, engravings, watercolours, historic films, and, increasingly, digital files. Also, many treasures relating to distinguished people from the county (such as Lewis Carroll and Gertrude Jekyll) can be examined. It is a centre for archaeological research into Surrey’s historic sites. There are regular displays, events – including music concerts – and meetings can be held in convivial surroundings. It offers a digitisation service, so copies can be made of documents. It is a gem for any person interested in local history or in discovering their ancestry, and a Centre that any county would be delighted to possess and proud to support.
The High Sheriff of Surrey, the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Surrey Sir Stephen Lamport, Dame Penelope Keith, the Hon. Lavinia Sealey, The Hon. Remembrancer of Guildford Matthew Alexander and Mrs Wendy Critchlow were most grateful to Julian Pooley, the Public Service and Engagement Manager, Michael Page, the County Archivist, Nowal Shaikhley, County Archaeological Unit Manager, and Jeff Dowse, the Centre’s Conservator, for their stimulating descriptions of the work they’re doing and also for their thoughtful production of items of direct relevance to their visitors.
This centre of heritage is very much for the benefit of the people of Surrey, as it tells their story down the centuries. But the dedicated staff also answer many queries from people from all over the world who wish to explore their Surrey heritage. And all the time, more historic items are being found, delivered to the Centre (some in need of careful and painstaking restoration), and catalogued. It is a place of history, but it’s very much alive and well worth a visit.