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record offices

record offices. Article 24 of the Act of Union of 1707 guaranteed that Scottish records would remain in Scotland. The Register House in Princes Street, Edinburgh, designed by Robert Adam, was begun in 1771 and completed in 1827. It is said to be the first building erected to house national archives. New Register House (1859–63) holds records of Scottish births, deaths, and marriages.

After a select committee report and a Public Records Act of 1838, the Public Records Office was opened in Chancery Lane, London. The Victorian building was begun in 1851 with Sir James Pennethorne as architect and has been several times extended. A further Record Office was opened in Kew in 1977. The archives were the responsibility of the master of the rolls until 1959 when the lord Chancellor took over. The enormous miscellany of records includes Domesday Book and Magna Carta, Guy Fawkes's signature, Dick Turpin's indictment, Nelson's will, and Edward VIII's abdication document. Wills were formerly held in Somerset House, London, parliamentary archives by the House of Lords Record Office at Westminster, and births, deaths, and marriages since 1837 by the General Registry Office. The Public Record Office for Northern Ireland was set up in Belfast in 1923.

The great majority of county record offices have been established since the Second World War, often beginning with one archivist in a picturesque but unsuitable building before moving to purpose-built but duller premises in the 1960s. The Bedfordshire County Record Office dates from 1913 and claims to be the oldest archives department. It was followed before the Second World War by Surrey (1928), Warwickshire (1931), Kent (1933), Oxfordshire and Somerset (1935), Gloucestershire (1936), Buckinghamshire and Essex (1938), and Hertfordshire (1939). Fifteen more record offices were opened in the 1940s. In addition, archives are held by many colleges, societies, libraries, museums, diocesan offices, and by city and town record offices. The most complete list is in British Archives. Non-public records are catalogued in the National Register of Archives, kept by the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (est. 1869); the Scottish register is kept by Register House.

J. A. Cannon

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