Delving into building history

The Fourteen Stars Inn, Bristol 1831-3 (Tate Gallery)Would you like to find out more about the history of your house?

Do you want to research any historic building? Is it in the United Kingdom or Ireland?

If so this guide by Jean Manco will start you on the detective trail. Some information could be just a few clicks away, but to get the full story you will need to visit libraries and archives. Researching Historic Buildings points the way.

It includes hints on planning a research programme, and clues to finding and understanding useful sources. There are bibliographies on everything from architects to Victorian architecture. There are quick guides to archives. There are introductions to a wide range of building types and architectural styles, plus the development of towns and villages. Eccesiastical sources are such a big topic that the Church gets a section to itself.

Please note that advertising of any type is not accepted anywhere on this website. This includes paid links, text, images, and articles. I am always pleased to receive news of genuine interest to my readers, but that does not include commercial websites and services.

News and updates.


Choose a section from the top menu. Then use the side menu to explore.

News and site updates


Jean Manco, the author and creator of, passed away on the 25th March 2018. She will be deeply missed by friends, family and all who knew her. This site will continue to be hosted as part of her legacy.

Sad Farewell to England's Earliest Hotel

The Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter is being demolished after its almost total destruction by fire a few days ago. This was the first building in England to be known as a hotel, its French proprietor using the French word hôtel in 1770. Previously the English word inn was the standard term for these essential buildings for the traveller. 2 November 2016.

London Plotted

The London Topographical Society has published London Plotted: Plans of London Buildings c.1450-1720, by Dorian Gerhold.‘Detailed plans of London buildings survive in quantity from the 1670s onwards,’ writes Gerhold, ‘as well as some earlier ones. They cover houses from large to small, warehouses, wharves, industrial premises, markets, inns, company halls and so on, and most have never been published. The book draws together almost 200 of the best examples, from 30 different archives or record offices, ranging from Thomas Cromwell's mansion in Throgmorton Street to an 80-seat public convenience at Queenhithe.' 18 July 2016

Layers of London

The Institute of Historical Research has been awarded development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a new interactive online resource tracing London's history from the Roman period to the present day. The Centre for Metropolitan History, working with the Victoria County History, is leading the development of this resource that will create a multi-layered map of London drawing upon a wide variety of maps and archival materials, currently held in different collections. The IHR hopes to engage the public through crowd-sourcing, volunteer, schools and internship programmes, inviting them to upload photographs and personal histories. Read more from the IHR. 20 January 2016.

London Bomb Damage Maps

For the first time the 110 maps marking the bomb damage to London during the Second World War have been published for a general audience, with a guide by the principal archivist (image, film and map collections) at London Metropolitan Archives. Laurence Ward, The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 (Thames and Hudson 2015). 14 December 2015.

The 1939 Register

The most comprehensive survey ever taken of the British population was carried out on 29 September 1939, on the eve of war with Germany. If there had been no war, or a short war, the census would have been taken as planned in 1941. Instead the administrative framework of the census was used to create the 1939 Register. The original resposes in the National Archives, but has now been digitised and became available recently via, the partner site of the National Archives. This new arrival provided a good opportunity to update my coverage of the online hosts of the census returns too, all to be found on the page covering sources for houses. 11 December 2015.

Scottish Heritage reshuffle

I'm a little late with the news that Historic Environment Scotland was created on 1st October 2015 from a merger of Historic Scotland and The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. 11 December 2015.

Scottish Valuation Rolls for 1865

The Valuation Rolls for 1865 have just been added to the Scotlands People website. These are the earliest so far made available online. The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act 1854 generated these records. 19 March 2015.

Unlock King George III's historical maps and views

George III amassed a huge collection of more than 60,000 maps, plans and topographical views and watercolours dating from the period 1760 to 1820, which were transferred to the British Museum in 1823 by George IV and now reside in the British Library at St Pancras. It is a wonderful resource for research on historic buildings, as can be seen in the 2,500 images from the collection that have been made available online. So it is excellent news that a project is under way to properly catalogue and digitise the complete collection. An appeal for funds has been launched by the British Library for its first stage, covering maps and views of London and the South East. 6 January 2015.

Older news and site updates