Research Resources in Bristol

Research Materials in Bristol

Bristol has a wide range of archives and published collections that can be used by historians from the undergraduate level, onwards. Major collections cover subjects as diverse as the history of slavery, methodism, liberalism and the theatre, as well as major collections relating to the history of the city and its region. The following provides a guide to some of the resources available at Bristol.


Online Resources (subscribed)

ARTstor A huge digital image library.

(Back to top)

Bristol University Special Collections

  • Brunel papers: Letterbooks, sketchbooks, accounts and diaries of the 19th century engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
  • Gladstone Library: Papers and books of the National Liberal Club and the Women's Liberal Federation, 1888-1988. This includes an exceptional collection of political pamphlets from the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Penguin Books Ltd: Historical and editorial files.
  • Pinney Family papers: Accounts, letter books, family and estate papers of a major merchant family involved in the West Indies trade, including the eighteenth century slave economy, 1650-1986.
  • Bristol Moravian Church: diaries, minute books, memoires and congregational library, 1760-1893
  • Major printed collections cover: Early science and medicine, Business History, Courtesy Books, Early Novels and Garden History.


(Back to top)

Bristol Central Library Reference Colletions

  • Bristol Local Studies Collection: Begun in 1855 this contains c.25,000 printed works, in addition to manuscript collections on matters relating to Bristol history.
  • Emanuel Green Collection: Over 10,000 items relating to the history of Somerset and the City of Bath. Strong on early topographical and biographical material.
  • Manuscripts and printed material relating to Samuel Coleridge (1772-1834) and Thomas Chatterton (1752-70).
  • Richard Smith Collection: Manuscript and printed material related to the history of the theatre in Bristol, 1672-1843.
  • Collection of documents relating to slavery in and the Slave trade in the West Inides, 1723-36.

Enquiries: Tel. (0117) 903 7202

Bristol Record Office

(Back to top)

  • Records of Fry and Sons Ltd. Chocolate manufacturers, 1693-1966.
  • Imperial Tobacco Ltd . (formerly W.D. and H.O. Wills): Records, late 18th century - 20th century.
  • Sir George White: Papers of the transport pioneer, c. 1874-1935
  • P. and A. Campbell Ltd. Paddle steamer company, 1893-1971.

Enquiries: The City Archivist, Tel. (0117) 922 4224

(Back to top)

Empire and Commonwealth Museum

Opened in 2002, this museum is rapidly acquiring major archives of national and international importance.


(Back to top)

University of Bristol Theatre Collection

The Theatre Collection is an internationally renowned research centre for the study of drama and British theatre history.

Reference library: over 8,500 reference books on performance, theatre and theatre history; a wide range of periodicals from the nineteenth century to the present day; and a collection of rare books.

Archive: second largest of its type in the UK, contains a vast array of original and unique material, including:

  • Company Archives: London Old Vic; Bristol Old Vic; Welfare State International.
  • Personal Archives of designers, writers, producers, and actors, managers: Stephanie Cole, Joyce Grenfell, Julia Trevelyan Oman, John Moody, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Alan Tagg.
  • Design Collection: more than 5,000 set and costume designs.
  • Theatre Historians papers: Eric Jones-Evans, Kathleen Barker.
  • Programme and Playbill Collection: London and regional professional productions.
  • Set Models: over 70 theatre and set models, inc. designs by John Elvery, Norman Hunter, Michael Knight, John McMurray, Tanya Moiseiwitsch, Patrick Robertson, Richard Southern, Alan Tagg.
  • The Women's Theatre Collection: more than 1,000 published and unpublished playscripts, and smaller, personal archives of women playwrights, and directors.
  • Art Collection: material from the eighteenth century onwards.

Our web site provides more details about the Collections and has a searchable database of the catalogued parts of the archive:

Wesley College

Major archival collections concerned with the history of the Methodist Church.

Enquiries: The Hon. Archivist, Tel. (0117) 926 4740

(Back to top)

Feminist Archive

Collections of material from the 1950s, includes the Greenham Peace Camp Collection.


(Back to top)

Edit this page