To find out how to access documents held by The National Archives, first you will need to check the record’s catalogue description in Discovery to see which options are available.
The catalogue also includes the records of other archives: please note that this page explains how you can access documents only held by The National Archives.
View a document in The National Archives’ reading rooms
Book a visit and order your documents in advance
If you are planning to visit our reading rooms to view original documents, we strongly recommend that you book in advance to guarantee a seat. Booking also enables you to order up to 12 original documents so that they are ready for you when you arrive – you will be able to order more during your visit.
To place an order, you will need a reader’s ticket or a temporary reader’s ticket number. You can apply for a reader’s ticket online and the process takes no longer than 15 minutes to complete. You can collect the physical ticket when you arrive.
Check our opening times to select an appropriate date for your visit. Some of our collection is stored off site and requires three working days for delivery – you will find this information in the relevant documents’ catalogue descriptions in Discovery.
Restrictions on ordering documents
- the surrogate is illegible or obscured
- viewing the original record provides information not available from the surrogate
To request to view the original record where a surrogate exists, please complete our records and research enquiry form. You need to include:
- your reader’s ticket number
- the date of your visit
- details of why the surrogate is not suitable for your purposes
Microfilm or microfiche documents can be viewed on our self-service machines and do not need to be ordered.
Cancel a scheduled visit
If you have requested documents for a future date, but you are unable to attend, please contact us using the link in your booking confirmation email or by using our Live Chat service.
Order documents while you’re here
Once you have a reader’s ticket, you can also order original documents on site from any computer terminal in the reading rooms. Most on site orders take up to an hour to arrive. If you need to return on another day, use an on site computer terminal to reserve documents for up to a week.
You can bring your own laptop, tablet, smartphone or camera (with the flash deactivated) to take images from original documents.
Download a digital copy
Some documents are only available as digital records. Check the document’s description in Discovery to find out how you can access the record. If you’re in our reading rooms, you can view and download digital documents on our computers for free, or email copies to your own device.
Digital records available to download in Discovery are currently free of charge. Add a record to your basket in Discovery and complete the order process to receive a download link, which will remain active for 30 days. Download or save the document within this time frame to ensure that you can still access the document after the link expiry date.
Some digitised records are also available to view through websites such as Findmypast or Ancestry: this will be specified in the catalogue description in Discovery.
Request a copy to be sent to you
You can request digital or paper copies of many documents held by The National Archives.
All requests start with a non-refundable page check costing £8.40. The page check involves a member of staff finding the original document and reviewing it to assess if the information can be located and is suitable for copying. If copies can be made, the price you pay for them will depend on the type and number of copies you want. View our record copying prices.
The process takes approximately 24 working days from start to finish: find the service here.