The Story of the RBA

Our History

In 1939 Berkshire County Council established a Berkshire Records Committee to consider how to look after the official and private records stored in the basement of the old Shire Hall in the Forbury, Reading. The Clerk of the Council, Harold Neobard, was keen to employ an archivist and by April 1940, it was agreed to appoint an one but unfortunately the Second World War intervened. It was not until August 1948 that Felix Hull was appointed and started work as the first County Archivist of Berkshire.

The Forbury 1948 to 1980

Exterior of the Assize Courts building, the Forbury, Reading home of the Royal Berkshire Archive in 1979.

The Royal Berkshire Archive's first home under the name Berkshire Record Office, was next door to the old Shire Hall in the Forbury, Reading, seen in the image above. It was spread across the basement of the Assize Courts and the adjacent Police Station, eventually housing a searchroom (as seen in the image below), ten strongrooms, three offices and a repair room. The first conservator to repair documents was appointed in 1971.

The searchroom of the Forbury, Reading 1979. Several people sit at desks looking at archives.

Shire Hall 1981 to 2000

Exterior of Shire Hall, Shinfield Park, Reading home of the Royal Berkshire Archive c.1981.
In the Winter of 1980 to 1981, the whole of Berkshire County Council (BCC), including the Berkshire Record Office, moved to the new Shire Hall at Shinfield Park, next to junction 11 of the M4 Reading. The move also saw the creation of a Modern Records Centre to manage the administrative records of the BCC. The searchroom, offices and workrooms moved to a bigger space within Shire Hall in 1994.

Shire Hall searchroom of the Royal Berkshire Archive 1980s with people sat at desks.

Coley Avenue 2000 to the present

Exterior of 9 Coley Avenue, the current home of the Royal Berkshire Archive the Royal Berkshire Archives

In 1998, the BCC was abolished and the BRO began a new life as a joint service of the six unitary authorities in Berkshire - Bracknell Forest Council, Reading Borough Council, Slough Borough Council, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, West Berkshire Council and Wokingham Borough Council.

9 Coley Avenue, current home of the Royal Berkshire Archives, under construction

The six authorities funded a new building in Coley Avenue, Reading and we moved into our present home in October 2000.

Moving in to Coley Avenue, home of the Royal Berkshire Archive 2000 to the present.

Royal Berkshire Archives searchroom 2001 onwards with tables and chairs

If you would like to read a more detailed story of the RBA, you can read the two part article written by Mark Stevens in 2008. Split over two web pages, read How it all began 1948 to 1980 for the early history and How it all continued 1981 to 2008 for the history up to our 60th anniversary.

Birthdays and Accreditation

Over the years, we have celebrated birthday milestones such as the 60th anniversary in 2008 and the 70th in 2018. In 2023, we turned 75 and changed our name to the Royal Berkshire Archives. Here are some images of the lovely cakes we celebrated with!

Celebratory cake for the Royal Berkshire Archive's 60th Anniversary in 2008.Peter Durrant MBE County Archivist of the Royal Berkshire Archive 1988 to 2014 cutting the celebratory cake for the 60th Anniversary in 2008.

Peter Durrant MBE was County Archivist at our 60th anniversary and can be seen cutting that cake.

70th Birthday cake for the Royal Berkshire Archive from 2018.Mark Stevens current County Archivist of the Royal Berkshire Archive cutting a 70th birthday cake in 2018.

Mark Stevens, the current County Archivist, can be seen cutting our 70th anniversary cake. If you would like to know who the County Archivists of the RBA were over the years, read our County Archivists of the RBA page.

Celebration cake with the words Royal Berkshire Archives 75 years and the Berkshire County Arms design

In 2017, the RBA became an Accredited Archive Service. Accreditation defines good practice and agreed standards for archive services across the UK and is led by the National Archives (TNA). Following a review in 2020, the panel 'commended the service's sustained effective work'.

In 2023 we were re-awarded status by The National Archives as an accredited archive service. This maintains our licence to hold public and certain other types of record. You can find out more about the Accreditation process on the National Archives website.

Accredited Archive Service logo