The Admiralty Library and the Archive of the UK Hydrographic Office
The Editor has received the following from Philip Clayton-Gore, UKHO Archivist at the U.K. Hydrographic Office, Admiralty Way, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 2DN
I am writing to clarify some of the points made in Mr David Clement’s article on the
Naval Historical Branch, with regard to the Admiralty Library and the Archive of the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) at Taunton.
The Admiralty Library holds a collection of printed and manuscript books, charts, photographs and reports relating to almost every aspect of the history of the Royal Navy. The material in this collection has been donated or inherited from other libraries, departments or individuals, or purchased. The items in this incomparable collection are owned by the Navy Board, but they are not classified as public records within the meaning of the Public Records Act 1958. In contrast, the items in the archive at UKHO are public records, and have been inherited from the Admiralty or created from the activities of the Hydrographic Department (later the Hydrographic Office).
In July of this year, a large number of volumes belonging to the Admiralty Library, which had been stowed at UKHO Taunton for some years, were returned to the Admiralty Library for storage in its excellent refurbished facility at Portsmouth. This ensures that the Admiralty Library has a suitable home for its books, charts and manuscripts, and is able to operate from a single consolidated site. Our understanding is that this superb assemblage of atlases and related records will remain in its current home, across the dock from HMS Victory.
At the same time, but unrelated to the activities of the Admiralty Library, UKHO is depositing a part of its own historic archive at the National Archives at Kew. By this action, the UKHO is deliberately improving the access to these items of historical interest, in particular by placing them in a facility that is open to the public on six days each week and which does not require extensive advance notice of a visit. The inaugural transfers will include original surveys, charts and remark books that pre-date 1800, along with View Folios. The transfers will be performed gradually over the coming months, and potential researchers should contact the UKHO Research Manager to check on the location of documents in which they may have a particular interest.
Because of the nature of the UKHO Archive, all the survey and cartographic material that post-dates 1800 will continue to be available for inspection at UKHO for the foreseeable future. These records are held at Taunton because of the need to ensure that UKHO is able to continue its work in evaluating new data in comparison to the data on its current charts and to the data in its global Archive. It is also vital to ensure that UKHO has ready provenance for the data that it uses in its products (especially in cases of potential litigation).
There will remain at UKHO Taunton upwards of two and a half million graphic items, along with two centuries of filed paper records, and an increasing resource of digital information. UKHO’s successful future in a digital environment is firmly based on the considerable paper record that it holds, and which it will continue to maintain.
David Clement welcomed this additional information and clarification as follows:
I am delighted to note the response from Philip Clayton-Gore, the archivist at The Hydrographic Office and to know that there will still be a source of information within the area covered by South West Maritime History Society, and we look forward to continued close association with the Hydrographic Office at Taunton.
From Philip Clayton-Gore, Archivist UKHO
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