Abbey Archives

Bath Abbey Heritage Blog

Find out what’s happening in the busy world of archives, heritage, and interpretation on our blog: https://bathabbeyheritage.wordpress.com/

Abbey Archives

Bath Abbey’s archive is kept at the South West Heritage Trust (https://www.swheritage.org.uk/). The archive will be returned to the Abbey at the end of the Footprint project. It will be housed in a new, purpose-built store.

What is in the Abbey Archives?

  1. Bath Abbey's original parish registers (1569-present). You can also view microfiches of the registers at Bath Record Office. The Abbey archives hold printed transcripts of the registers up to 1840. Digitised copies of our parish registers are available on www.ancestry.co.uk
  2. Parish registers for St James Church (1569-1942)
  3. Parish records for Bath Abbey from before the mid-19th century
  4. Records created by the Parish of Bath Abbey with St James from the beginning of the 19th century to the present day:
  • Fabric records A large part of the collection is formed by records relating to work done to the fabric of the Abbey Church; covering the major restorations of the 19th and 20th centuries, and works to the organ, stained glass and lighting.
  • Examples of other records in the collection are minutes, registers, burial records, title deeds, service sheets, choir records, newsletters and photographs.  Records relating to properties held by the Abbey, such as the Abbey cemetery in Widcombe and Abbey Church House in central Bath.
  • A small number of records from St James’ Church, Bath which was destroyed by bombing in 1942.

The oldest records in the archives are our parish registers, which begin in 1569. Very few documents survive before this date.

Archive Catalogues

Catalogues of many of the archive collections belonging to the Abbey have been uploaded to the South West Heritage Trust online database (http://somerset-cat.swheritage.org.uk/)

Detailed catalogues of our archives are available for download:

Please note that not everything is catalogued yet, although we are working on it and we are very grateful for your interest and patience.

How can I see Bath Abbey archives?

If you would like to see documents from the Bath Abbey archives, you will need to visit the South West Heritage Trust in Taunton. The Trust is open from Tuesday to Friday 9.00 am–5.00 pm and on the 2nd Saturday of each month, 9.00 am-1.30 pm.   You will need to have a reader’s ticket and make an appointment. (https://www.swheritage.org.uk/visiting)

For advice about using the collection, please contact our Abbey Archivist.

Contact Details

Anna Riggs, Archivist, Bath Abbey
Tel: 01225 422462 (voicemail out of hours)
Email: archives@bathabbey.org

South West Heritage Trust

Information about planning a visit to the South West Heritage Trust, which is in Taunton, is available on their web site: https://www.swheritage.org.uk/visiting

Family History

For help with family history enquiries please contact familyhistory@bathabbey.org or phone the Abbey office on 01225 422462 and ask to speak to Anna Riggs, the Abbey Archivist.  We do not charge for enquiries, although we welcome donations.

Resources for Family History

  • Lists of the memorials on the walls and floor of the Abbey are available from the Abbey stewards, or from the Abbey Archives.
  • Transcripts of the Abbey's baptism, marriage, and burial registers (1569 onwards) can be consulted for researchers by the Abbey Archivist.  Transcripts are also available at Bath Local Studies in the Guildhall.
  • Searchable online indexes of our registers, with digital images, are available on the Ancestry web site. You can search Ancestry for free at most record offices, including the Bath Record Office.
  • The Bath Burial Index is a database of information from records relating to over 50 cemeteries in Bath, including the Abbey Cemetery at Widcombe.
  • Names of members of the Gentlemens’ and Boys’ choirs are listed in the Abbey Yearbooks which run from 1896 to 1939, and an index of members of the Gentlemens’ and Boys’ choirs 1921-1996 is also available through the Abbey archives. As a result, it may be possible to check whether someone was a member of one of the Abbey choirs. However this would depend on the date, as the archives, unfortunately, do not hold continuous records of membership for the Abbey choirs, nor do they hold biographical information about former choir members.
  • Lists of the Abbey clergy, churchwardens, and other officers can be consulted by the Abbey archivist or by our heritage volunteers.
Steward talking to visitor in Bath Abbey
Director of Music, Huw WIlliams and Choir members

Choir Records

Names of members of the Gentlemens’ and Boys’ choirs are listed in the Abbey Yearbooks which run from 1896 to 1939, and an index of members of the Gentlemens’ and Boys’ choirs 1921-1996 is also available through the Abbey archives. As a result, it may be possible to check whether someone was a member of one of the Abbey choirs. However this would depend on the date, as the archives, unfortunately, do not hold continuous records of membership for the Abbey choirs, nor do they hold biographical information of former choir members.

To see the Abbey Yearbooks, you will need to visit the Somerset Archives and Local Studies in Taunton.

Memorial Inscriptions

The inscriptions on memorial stones are a great source for family historians, as they will sometimes contain information not found in the burial registers. They are particularly useful for tracing relationships between different family members.

  • Wall Memorials At present there is a paper index arranged alphabetically by name which can be used to find an individual memorial stone. To look up a name, please ask one of the stewards in the Abbey or contact the Archives.
  • Ledgerstones  Many of the floor memorials are covered by the pews, or are too worn to be legible. The Archives hold a book recording the inscriptions of all the nave floor stones which was made in 1874 when the pews were installed. We are also have an electronic list of all the ledgerstone inscriptions which the stewards in the Abbey have a copy of. Do contact the Archives if you want us to look up the inscription of a ledgerstone in the original 19th century record.
Wall memorials in Bath Abbey
Book of Remembrance

The Book of Remembrance

The Book of Remembrance records the names, ages and addresses of all civilians and military personnel from Bath who were killed during World War II (1939-1945).

It is currently on display in the Gethsemane Chapel in the Abbey, and can be examined on request to a Verger.

An index of the names inscribed in the book is available by request through the Abbey archives.