Listed here are various free resources that may be useful for research or perhaps just browsing. Click on the links or the logo to go to the web sites.
Beaford – The Archive
The Beaford Online Archive features the results of the extensive project to digitise the photographs of James Ravilious and Roger Deakins which the Devon Heritage Centre hosted from 2016-2019.
Explore the London Blitz.
Plymouth and West Devon Archive under its new name. The Box (archives) has about 20,000 photos of Plymouth and Devon scanned and uploaded – mainly Western Morning News. Also all the Local Studies collection of engravings. To search for images add ‘AND digital image’ to your search.
British Film Institute National Archive
Lots of free films to watch, covering all sorts of genres, but try this one for starters. The Open Road (1926) is Claude Friese-Greene’s trip (in colour) around 1920s Britain starting with Cornwall and Devon.
British History Online
British History Online has made all content free including Magna Britannia for Devon.
The British Museum
Get closer to the British Museum’s collection and immerse yourself in two million years of history, across six continents.
Collection online has been completely redeveloped, making it much easier to find what you want. It allows access to almost four and a half million objects in more than two million records. The search is more intuitive and now offers suggestions as you type.
Fancy something Devon-related to read while you’re not going out? The Devonshire Association has over 150 articles in the Devon section of their website, short & long, new & old, academic & easy-reading, all sorts of topics are covered. More content being added regularly.
English Handwriting Online
An online palaeography course for people who would like to improve their skills in reading handwriting found in ancient documents.
The superbly detailed and informative Exeter Memories site, researched and built by David Cornforth.
FreeBMD, FreeReg and FreeCen
FreeBMD to access Birth, Marriage and Death records, FreeREG to access parish registers and FreeCen to access Census Records. Not as comprehensive as the subscription genealogical sites but good for those without subscriptions. Useful for local history research as well as family history.
Gresham College Lectures (History)
Gresham College’s free lectures (provided for the public for centuries) are now available to listen and view for those outside London via their website. This link takes you to the History Lectures, but you may enjoy other topics too.
Find out about the history of protected historic sites. If you could add to the information or provide photographs of them, then go on to the ‘Enrich the List’ feature. You’ll have to register to upload your information, but it is all fairly straightforward.
Historic England Archive
Did you know that England’s Places is an online version of The Historic England Archive Architectural Red Box collection – started in 1941 by the National Buildings Record to document our built heritage, especially those buildings threatened by WWII.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
A complete digitised set of the journal of the Women’s Engineering Society, The Woman Engineer, from 1919-2014. Fully searchable by place, name and key word. Useful for researching gender history and for topics such as rural electrification.
A non-profit library of millions of free books, moves, software, websites and more. You never know what you may find!
JSTOR (Digital Library)
Open-Access JSTOR Database accessible to the public
Layers of London
Layers of London. For any DHS members who, like me, are interested in London, this is an excellent cartographic site.
Local Heritage Collections
Browse through the collections listed by local groups on the Devon History Society website.
The National Archives
A treasure trove of 32 million records. There are research guides to prompt you where to look, collections of records on topics such as the Merchant Navy, of Wills and Death Duties, and their catalogue of archival records, Discovery, for specific searches in their own holdings and those of other archives. Of course you may often have to pay to access a specific record.
Update: 30 Apr 2020
While the Kew site is closed, signed-in users can download digital records for free – see the web site for more details.
National Trust Heritage Records
Search for heritage features or historic buildings you are interested in.
The Old Bailey Online
The proceedings of The Old Bailey 1674-1913. A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.
A resource created by historians at The Open University to further knowledge of the practice and experience of imprisonment in the British Isles between 1500 and 1999. Records of nearly 850 penal institutions in the 19th century and over 400 lock-ups from the early modern to the modern period.
Turnpikes Road in England & Wales
A very informative, if somewhat dated looking, website relating to the history of turnpike roads.
University of Leicester Special Collections – Historical Directories
An extensive collection of digital and print trade directories for England and Wales, covering the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Resources for Devon include White’s, Pigott’s and Kelly’s Directories (up to 1919) and some town directories for Exeter, Plymouth, Tavistock and Tiverton.
Thousands of digitised items from the Library’s collections covering a range of topics related to medical history. Data sets include medicinal and culinary recipe books from the 16th-19th centuries and records of the Royal Army Medical Corps with correspondence, reports, personal field diaries, memoirs and photographs from both world wars and other conflicts.
Peter Higginbotham’s site on the history of the workhouse. One of the finest of all local history websites.