Researching your house history can be fascinating and time consuming. At Medway Archives Centre, you can research using our resources to find out:

  • when your house was built
  • who used to live in your house
  • what was on the site before your house was built
  • what alterations have been made. 

Whether your house is old or new, in town or in the outer villages, we have resources to help your research. Our knowledgeable staff are here to help too. 

Every house a unique story.

Before you begin to research your house history

It helps to have an idea of when your house was built. To find this out:

  • look at the style of the property
  • speak to local members of the community
  • look at the title deeds. 

Your visit to Medway Archives

It is best to plan your visit and what you want to look at. Most materials are available without an appointment.

You should book a microfilm reader for newspapers and items on microfilm before your visit. 

You must book an appointment to view all archive records.

Email to book an appointment or pre-order documents. 

Image of Weston Road, Strood

Image of Weston Road, Strood. Dated 1910 to 1915. 

Image of Easling Cottage Dark Lane Rochester

Image of Eastling cottage, Dark Lane, Rochester from 1900. 

Researching your house history: the building and land

Our large reference library has books that cover the history of some areas of Kent and Medway's:

  • people
  • places
  • outer villages.

It also holds books on architecture and how to research house history.

Look in the library catalogue or ask a member of staff for more information.

Our large map collection covers the Medway area and beyond. Maps can help you:

  • date your property
  • to see how the footprint of your house has changed over time
  • see how the local environment has developed
  • to see what was there before your house was built.

We also have a variety of older maps including:

  • Ordnance Survey maps
  • Chatham Board of Health Maps from 1848
  • title maps with apportionments for most local parishes in the 1840s.

You may be able to find your house in old photographs. We have a large collection of images, including historic photographs of residential streets.

Your house may also appear:

  • in the background of a photo
  • next to a building being photographed, for example next to a shop or pub.

You can also view our digitised Medway Images

Building plans can give you useful information about your house. Indexes are on microfilm and include building plans submitted to local councils for the approval of new buildings or alterations to existing buildings.

The indexes are in date order, so it helps if you have an idea when your house was built.

You can use these indexes to find building plan reference numbers.

Our staff can check to see if the original plans still exist.

To view original plans, you must book an appointment.

We have a collection of local street and trade directories. They can show you:

  • when your street or house first appeared
  • listings of businesses and prominent local residents.

Kelly's Directories are also included. They date from 1890 to 1974 and record the main householder for each property and give an alphabetical list of householders.

Our collections include:

  • council reports on local housing developments
  • council housing booklets
  • design proposals
  • estate agents' brochures
  • sales plans.

We have previously held exhibitions at our centre about Medway's residential streets. Many of the exhibition panels have been scanned and put into folders.

Our exhibitions include:

  • explore your streets: Chatham Town Centre
  • explore your streets: Strood
  • Gillingham High Street and beyond
  • Hempstead Village
  • High Halstow
  • Parkwood history
  • post-war housing: prefabs
  • The Isle of Grain
  • the street where you live.

We hold many original documents in our archives. You can search the catalogue for resources relating to your house or street.

Our archives collections include:

  • building plans - view the index in the Local Studies search room
  • charity records
  • fire insurance policies
  • maps and plans
  • manorial and estate records
  • photographs and prints including watermarked versions of the Couchman Collection which can be viewed online
  • sales particulars.

Many local properties were owned by landed families or by local individuals. For example, the records of the Best and Darnley families give details of landowners, tenants, rents and wages.

Image of Junction of Railway Street, Old Road and Maidstone Road, Chatham

A picture from the Couchman Collection of the junction of Railway Street, Old Road and Maidstone Road in Chatham.

Researching your house history: the people who lived there

You may like to learn about the people who lived in your house in the past. We have helpful members of staff at Medway Archives Centre who can help with family history enquiries. 

We have a large collection of poll books and electoral registers for the Medway Area.

This collection dates from the 18th century onwards and will list all people who were eligible to vote.

You must make an appointment to view electoral registers from the last 10 years.

We have a large collection of local newspapers all on microfilm. Our collection includes:

  • Chatham News Index 1899 to 1965
  • Medway Index of Local Newspapers.

Newspapers may include details of new estates.

Please be aware, you may read about some sad or upsetting events that took place.

We hold a collection of family histories deposited by researchers.

Medway Archives have many files on notable local residents and families.

To check our index of names that appear in our resources, ask a member of staff.

On microfilm, we have

  • crew lists
  • Freeman records
  • licensees.

The de Caville index includes the Medway servicemen who lost their lives during the First World War, listed street by street.

Included in the index are:

  • photographs
  • newspaper clippings
  • biographical details.

You can also view the de Caville index which was created by the Friends of Medway Archives.

A list of Medway civilians and their addresses who were killed during the First and Second World Wars.

Image of Weedswood Estate

Image of the Weedswood Estate 1962. 

Researching your house history: online resources at Medway Archives Centre

You can access many resources online, from our own records and those of other institutions and organisations. 

A census is taken every 10 years and you can see who lived in your house.

You are able to view the census from 1841 to 1911 online.

Ask a member of staff for advice if you want help searching by address.

The 2021 census will be available on Find My Past in January 2022, but will not be available at Medway Archives Centre until a later date.

The 1939 register lists adults in England and Wales in 1939 and is searchable by name or by address.

The register does not include people in the Armed Forces. You will not see the entries for people who may still be alive today.

You can view newspapers online including:

  • South Eastern Gazette
  • Kent newspapers on Find My Past.

You can use Find my past for free at Medway Archives Centre.

You can search Historic England for architectural and historical details for listed properties in Medway.

Images and transcriptions of wills can be found on Ancestry and Find My Past.

Wills can give valuable information about the ownership of properties.

The National Library of Scotland provides digitised images of historic maps including the Medway Area.

Image of The Brich House Farm, Frindsbury

Image of The Brick House Farm, Stonehouse Lane, Frindsbury from 1928. 

Other useful records resources

You can search their online catalogue for documents relating to property and wills in Medway.

The Royal Engineers Archives holds some records for properties in the Brompton Area.

You can search the Guildhall online catalogue for images of local streets and houses.

You can contact the Land Registry to see if anything on your property has survived. They hold:

  • plans
  • names of owners
  • mortgage details.

The Land Registry is really useful for more recent properties.

Image of The Beach Upnor near Rochester from The Couchman Collection

Image of The Beach near Upnor from The Couchman Collection. 

Research services if you cannot visit us in person

We offer a paid research service for customers who cannot visit us in person. We offer a maximum of up to one hour of research. Contact Medway Archives for further details.

For lengthier enquiries, you may need to employ a researcher to visit us on your behalf. Contact us if you would like to see a list of independent researchers.

A map of Gillingham from 1907.

Image of a map of Gillingham from 1907.