UK archives, libraries and visitor attractions reopening April 2021 onwards

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29 April 2021
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Plan your next adventures with Family Tree's regularly-updated guide to UK record offices, library and visitor attractions reopening from April 2021 onwards.

Please check with individual venues before travelling, as reopening arrangements and travel restrictions may change at short notice during the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath.

Bodmin Jail, Cornwall

The UK's most 'haunted destination' reopens on 17 March, telling the story of a jail that has hosted circa 35,000 prisoners over the centuries. 

Visitors can experience the journey of many of those unfortunate souls who were imprisoned within the walls, via an £8.5 million state-of-the-art augmented reality and immersive experience. The Dark Walk merges modern day technology with the authentic environment, taking the visitor on an hour and a half journey through the fascinating history of the Jail and its place in Cornwall’s deep mining and smuggling heritage.

Find out more at the Bodmin Jail website.

British Library, London

Reading Rooms, Reader Registration, public desks and Members’ Room are now open to pre-booked visitors, Tuesday to Saturday, 11am-3pm. The galleries are due to reopen after 17 May.

96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB; tel:  01937 546546.

British Library Reading Room, Boston Spa

Now open for pre-booked visits, Tue to Fri, 11am to 3pm. The British Library has extended the range of material available to Readers in Yorkshire, with around 85% of the items requested at St Pancras now also available in the north. 

Wetherby, LS29 7BQ

Churchill Rooms

Housing the underground nerve centre where the British government directed the Second World War and the Churchill Museum, Churchill War Rooms is now open to visit. The attraction includes the Cabinet Room, Map Room, Churchill's Bedroom and the Churchill Museum.

Book tickets here.

Elizabeth Gaskell's House, Manchester

The reopening of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester on 19 May 2021 will be an extra special occasion because it will coincide with the first public reveal of Elizabeth Gaskell’s bedroom, which has seen a blank canvas transformed into a beautifully reimagined room over the last 12 months. 

Following a successful fundraising campaign the Elizabeth Gaskell bedroom project was launched not long before the Covid-19 pandemic, which has added to the challenges faced by the small volunteer team that has carried out the work.  

Detailed research has enabled the project team at the house to recreate the bedroom as they believe it would have been in Elizabeth’s time; from the grand fireplace and ornately carved four poster bed to the bellpull to beckon the servants and clothing garments.

The four poster bed is attributed to master makers Gillows of Lancaster and is circa 1785, reflecting of the fact that it is likely that some of Elizabeth’s own furniture may well have been second hand or family heirlooms.  Many hours went into the research of this piece and many more into its construction, before a polish of beeswax and a dressing with a range of beautiful bedding fabrics.  Finishing touches include two nightstands upon which visitors will be fascinated to see a selection of bedtime reading for both Elizabeth and her husband William.  It was also known that Elizabeth’s preference throughout the house was for fitted carpets, and the team were fortunate to find one of the last pieces of Yorkshire made ‘Brussels’ looped carpet, which has been specially hand-stitched in panels just as it would have been in 1860.

Tickets are bookable in advance here. See the Elizabeth Gaskell's House website for news updates.

Imperial War Museums

 IWM London, IWM North and IWM Duxford are open to visitors from 19 May. Pre-booking is recommended and you can access the individual museum booking from here.

Museum of London

Museum of London and the Museum of London Docklands plan to open their doors on 19 May. The Museum of London has announced that its exclusive display, Dub London: Bassline of a City, celebrating dub reggae music and culture in the capital will be extended until 5 September. 

The reopening also means that Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery at the Museum of London Docklands will be extended until 22 August.

Museum of London website; Museum of London Docklands website.

Museum of the Home, London

Reopening on 12 June. Free admission - advance booking required here. The home galleries explore the concept of home through people’s everyday experiences of making, keeping and being at home over the last 400 years. 

National Coal Mining Museum for England, near Wakefield

Reopening on 19 May, with visitors able to access the museum, playground and nature trail from this date. Timeslots must be booked in advance and are spaced at ten-minute intervals. Book here.

National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh

The library's reading rooms in Edinburgh are now open to library card holders on a pre-booked basis. You must preorder items you wish to consult during your visit.

The National Library of Scotland at Kelvin Hall is also open with revised opening hours. Visitors do not need to book or be a member of the Library. Check the reopening page for full details.

National Library of Wales

The reading room is open with a limited service and pre-booking is essential. Entry limited to 9 readers and opening hours are Mon-Fri 10am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4pm.

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion SY23 3BU; tel: 01970 632800

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National Maritime Museum and Queen's House, Greenwich

The two attractions are now open for pre-booked visitors, with National Maritime Museum running its new exhibition Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, with all three 'Armada portraits' of Elizabeth I displayed together.  Both attractions open daily 10am to 5pm. Visit the RMG website for the latest information.

National Museum of the Royal Navy

The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Hartlepool reopen on 17 May.

Fleet Air Arm Museum, Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum will reopen on 19 May. Visit the museum website for guidance and to book a ticket.

National Records Scotland, Edinburgh

The Historical Search Room will reopen on 26 April. Initial access will be given to priority users only, specifically those who require access to our records to complete funded academic research or those who require urgent access to complete PhD, post-graduate or early career research. See the latest service updates here.

2 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YY

National Trust

National Trust is reopening its houses in England and Wales (and Northern Ireland from 24 May), with these attractions joining the Trust's gardens and parkland, which are already open. Advance booking is advised but not always necessary. Check the National Trust website for the latest advice and to book. 

North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) 

NYMR has announced the starting line-up of six iconic locomotives which will kick off its 2021 season from 15 May.

Led by Head of Traction and Rolling Stock, Paul Middleton, aka Piglet, the dedicated team of fitters and engineers have been busy running maintenance tests and checks on the NYMR’s fleet of steam locomotives in readiness for the season ahead. 

Some of the locomotives will be re-entering traffic for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic struck last March, including the  LMS Black 5 No. 5428 ‘Eric Treacy’, which was one of an order of 227 such locomotives built in 1937 by Armstrong Whitworth at Newcastle.

Alongside guest engines, the NYMR’s resident locomotives will also be in service including: ‘SR S15 class No.825’ built in 1920; ‘BR 9F No.92134’ built in 1957; ‘BR Standard 4 Tank No. 80136’, built in 1956; plus the oldest locomotive currently in steam at the NYMR, ‘Lambton Colliery No.29’, built in 1904 - charting over 117 years of steam locomotive development and history. 

Book tickets at the NYMR website.

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Closed until further notice. Please check the PRONI website for updates.

Society of Genealogists (SOG)

The SOG premises reopen on 13 May, Tuesdays 11am-4pm and one Saturday per month 11am-4pm (starting 22 May and 19 June). Advance booking is available from 3 May on the SOG website.

Suffolk Archives

In a statement on their website, Suffolk Archives say:  'The Bury St Edmunds  and Lowestoft branches of Suffolk Archives will reopen to the public in the week commencing 3 May.

'Both branches will be implementing the appointment system and COVID-19 safety procedures trialled last autumn. Appointments will be available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and alternate Saturdays (starting on Saturday 8 May). Appointments times will be 10am – 12pm (both branches), and 2pm – 4pm (Bury only). There will be three customer slots per appointment. Bookings will need to be made by phone or email at least one week in advance. See the Suffolk Archives website for latest details.

The Keep, Sussex

Reopened on 13 April with 'limited access' to the archives. All documents must be ordered at least 2 working days in advance, and material is quarantined for 3 days each time it is used. The Reference Room remains closed, but the Research and Reprographics services are up and running. For up-to-date opening hours visit The Keep website.

The National Archives of Ireland

Closed until further notice. Please check the NAI website for updates.

The UK National Archives reading rooms

The reading rooms at Kew reopened on 27 April, with a new ‘book a visit to view our documents’ service. The new service will offer four weeks’ availability on a rolling basis, with new dates added daily. See our full report here and book online at The National Archives website

Bessant Drive, Richmond TW9 4DU; tel: 0208 876 3444

Warwickshire County Record Office

Due to reopen on 17 May 2021. 

In order to extend the gap between visits to allow time to quarantine documents, the office will open to the public on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

There will be eight bookable slots each day, these can be for one individual or a couple, each slot lasts for a maximum of 2.5 hours. Book your slot two working days in advance, on the record office website.