The 20th annual report and accounts for The National Archives have now been published.
We are a non-ministerial department, and the official archive and publisher for the UK Government, and for England and Wales. We are the guardians of over 1,000 years of iconic national documents, expert advisers in information and records management, and a cultural, academic and heritage institution.
We fulfil a leadership role for the archives sector in England and work to secure the future of physical and digital records. Our collection is accessible to everyone all over the world.
This year’s report covers a period of reflection and renewed direction, as we came to the end of the first four-year phase guided by the strategic vision we laid out in Archives for Everyone and began to plan for a new four-year phase, to help us strive towards our aims.
As we recommit to becoming an archive that is inclusive, entrepreneurial and disruptive, we continue to put our vision into practice through our work to expand access to the public record. Major projects are ongoing to publish judicial records via our new technology Find Case Law, to transfer historic Ministry of Defence service personnel records, and to prepare for the relocation of the Parliamentary Archives to our site at Kew. The past year saw the Public Records Act prove central to public debates around government communication and we played a vital part in formally recording the historic events of Her Late Majesty’s sad passing in September and the Accession Proclamation for King Charles III.
Read a selection of our 2022-23 highlights in the tabs below.
We provide expert advice and scrutiny, ensuring that the record survives and thrives
■ The end of 2022 marked the end of the period of transition towards the 20 year rule for central government, under which government departments now transfer their records to us 20 years after creation. Much has been accomplished during the transition period, but there is still work to do – we look forward to working with colleagues across government as progress continues.
■ Our multi-year project to transfer historic Ministry of Defence (MoD) service personnel records continues to build momentum. Progress remains on target, with around 4.5 million records successfully transferred to date.
■ We have supported major Public Inquiries into the Hillsborough disaster, the Grenfell tragedy, and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
■ In the wake of an Appeal in the Senior Courts and a judgment ( EWCA Civ 1580) clarifying that government departments have a statutory duty under the Public Records Act 1958 to make arrangements for the selection of the historical record, rather than to retain any particular records prior to this, the Keeper issued statutory guidance to departmental colleagues stating that records should be retained until information governance procedures could be applied.
We are transforming our historic mission for the digital age, developing new skills and exploiting emerging technology
■ Our new Find Case Law service is now up and running and the programme that underpins it, Transfer Digital Records (TDR), is being used daily by the Supreme Court, High Court and Court of Appeal. These cutting-edge digital technologies enable us to accession Court Judgments and Tribunal Decisions for the first time, important judicial records that complement our other collections of public records.
■ Lawmaker, our innovative service to aid parliamentary clerks create Bills and Statutory Instruments, has been getting into its stride. Around 500 users are now using the service and we are continually improving performance and stability.
■ We archived an average of 200 websites every month through 2022-23, including key material documenting the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the appointment of Prime Ministers, the rising cost of living and the invasion of Ukraine.
■ The Gazette fulfilled its role as the official newspaper of record throughout a year of momentous events: an extraordinary edition announced the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 9 September 2022, followed by the Accession Proclamation for King Charles III.
■ The legislation.gov.uk website continued to provide a vital source of legal certainty and information for the public, recording 103,993 amendments to legislation over the past 12 months — a 1% increase on last year. This unrivalled online compendium also enabled us to provide expert advice to government in preparation for the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.
Access and engagement
We are bold, active and outward-looking – encountered by people and communities in unexpected places and at vital moments
■ Our public offer has steadily grown since the COVID-19 pandemic and we saw nearly 75,000 visitors on site over the past year, 36% more than last year. We saw 30% higher demand from readers during the past financial year, who viewed nearly 475,000 documents on site. On social media, we now have over 376,000 followers across all channels and our content has generated more than 20 million impressions.
■ Our Treason: People, Power and Plot exhibition brought together for the first time iconic documents about Guy Fawkes, Anne Boleyn, Charles I and many others, leading audiences through the centuries to explore how the definition of treason has changed. We produced our first video tour to accompany the exhibition and a major new book, A History of Treason.
■ We marked several occasions of national and historical importance over the year. In June 2022, we celebrated Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee by digitising a collection of documents and snapshots and, following her sad passing in September, we invited people to express their condolences with us.
■ From April 2022 to March 2023, we reached a record 19,000 students in workshops on site, online or offsite, or through our Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) programme. 87% of teachers rated our sessions ‘excellent’ and people said our resources were ‘fantastic’ and ‘pitched appropriately and fitted perfectly with our GCSE unit’. We published many new resources including a teachers’ book on Diverse Histories, and online education packs on the history of sugar and tobacco, nineteenth-century protest and, with Goldsmiths University of London, the independence of Bangladesh.
We lead, enable and inspire pioneering research by fostering community, collaborative engagement, and inclusive practice
■ We have been working on a number of exciting new heritage science and conservation projects in collaboration with the wider UK cultural heritage sector. With the National Maritime Museum, we have been analysing the secrets contained in Admiral Nelson’s uniform, investigating the materiality of rare Armada maps with the National Museum of the Royal Navy, and exploring dyes in King Charles I’s execution shirt at the Museum of London.
■ We are forging ahead with our work on the Prize Papers, a sprawling collection of documents and artifacts legally seized from ships by the British Royal Navy between 1652 and 1817. One illuminating find from the collection was brought to life in early 2023 with a sell-out Unheard Opera, exploring a collection of musical manuscripts containing pieces believed not to have been performed in several centuries.
■ Last year saw the launch of a project to recreate a lost archive through the wonders of virtual technology: the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland (VRTI). VRTI is a rich online platform to explore records from the Irish Record Treasury, which was destroyed by a fire at the outbreak of the Irish Civil War. Thanks to an international collaborative effort led by Trinity College Dublin, along with founding partners the National Archives of Ireland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the Irish Manuscripts Commission and us, you can now explore substantial parts of the lost collection online. Our research as part of the project on the use of iron gall ink and gallic acid ‘treatment’ provides lasting benefits not only for the documents within the VRTI, which can now be read, but also our broader understanding of using imaging techniques on faded or damaged documents.
■ Our research events brought people together from across professions to generate important conversations. In March, our brand new ‘History and Archives in Practice’ conference, co-organised with the Institute of Historical Research and the Royal Historical Society, was a sell out success. Our Annual Digital Lecture showcased innovative research on AI, with Professor Kate Crawford from USC Annenberg speaking about ‘Ground Truth: In the Archives That Train Machine Learning’.
We support archives of all kinds to sustain and develop their services
■ After ten years as the UK Government’s lead for archives in England, we have been reviewing our approach to sector leadership this year ready to launch a refreshed offer in summer 2023. It has been a difficult year for the sector, with inflationary pressures tightening resources as some areas continue to recover following the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of our aim to be an effective leader and advocate, we have focused our recent support for the sector on meeting these challenges.
■ Despite a challenging year, in the 12 months to March, places of deposit that are eligible for the New Burdens funding that we distribute successfully received 977 linear metres of public records.
■ Our new Records at Risk and Resilience Funds awarded over £103,000 to help mitigate the rising cost of living and maintain collections at risk. We also distributed £660,000 of New Burdens funding to support the sector manage the transition to the 20-year rule, our Archives Testbed Fund awarded nearly £75,000 to support archives to enhance their sustainability and engage local communities, and our cataloguing grants programme, Archives Revealed, awarded nearly £380,000, in partnership with The Wolfson Foundation and the Pilgrim Trust.
■ To replace the annual Archive Services Statistics Survey, we have developed our own Local Authority Archive Benchmarking Exercise, which this year saw contributions from 68% of services in England and Wales.
■ In June 2022, we celebrated the centenary of the Law and Property Act 1922 with a reception hosted by the Master of the Rolls at the Royal Courts of Justice. The event was an opportunity to celebrate the project to digitise the catalogues of manorial documents, important records that centuries later retain significant relevance for legal and research purposes. In partnership with Nottingham University, we also ran a conference to celebrate current and innovative research.
Core financial tables 2022-23
Download core financial tables 2021-22: Public spending and Administration budget (PDF, 0.4 KB).
Summary of public records transmitted to The National Archives
This report is produced annually. It provides a summary of the public records transmitted to The National Archives from various sources. It gives a brief description for each piece, including the dates covered.
Download the summary of public records (XLS, 63 KB) transmitted to The National Archives 2022-23.
Exercise of delegated powers conferred on the Secretary of State by the Public Records Act 1958
This report is produced annually. It gives details on how The National Archives has exercised particular powers delegated to our Chief Executive and Keeper by the Secretary of State. These documents provide information on:
- Approval given for the transfer of public records between The National Archives and places of deposit, in either direction.
- The appointment of approved places of deposit for public records with specific local relevance or particular specialist and administrative requirements, which are held outside The National Archives.
- Approval given for the presentation of public records that have not been selected for permanent preservation at The National Archives to other appropriate bodies.
Download the Exercise of delegated powers 2022-23 (PDF, 195 KB).
Staff engagement survey
Read the results of our staff engagement survey in the Transparency section of our website.
Accounting officer system statements
Alongside our annual report and accounts, HM Treasury ask that government departments prepare Accounting Officer System Statements. Visit GOV.UK to find out more about them.
Reports and accounts in the UK Government Web Archive
See reports and appendices from previous years: