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Local Studies Centre

An introduction to the local studies collections at Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre

Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre (MALSC) houses the main local studies reference collection for Medway Information & Museum Services. The bulk of the collections are printed materials illustrating the history, industry and culture of the Medway area. When the Centre opened in 1993 our remit was to collect materials about the Rochester upon Medway City Council area. Since the creation of Medway Council our collecting policy requires us to cover the whole of the Medway Council area in detail and Kent in general. We work closely with colleagues in Gillingham Library to supplement our holdings on the former Gillingham Borough area. All materials held at this Centre are for reference only.

What is local studies?

Our main local studies resources are printed books, newspapers, maps, periodicals, directories, photographs and ephemera with some materials provided as microfiche, microfilms and CD Rom formats. This so-called secondary material, much of it rare, ideally complements the archives held at MALSC and forms a valuable resource for those studying all aspects of our area's history. Public access computers are available for Microsoft Office, CD-Roms and the Internet (by appointment).

Most of the collections summarised below are available without prior booking during the opening hours stated under the link "about the archives centre". It is however necessary to make a booking to use materials on microfilm. These include newspapers, census and directories. We would appreciate advance notice of visits by researchers making involved use of our holdings especially school pupils and students.

Further up-to-date information about the local studies collections is available by contacting us on 01634 332238 or e-mailing us at

Charles Dickens Collection

This is a large collection of Dickens' works and biographical and critical sources. The famous author lived locally at Chatham and Higham hence our interest in his life and writings.

Naval collection

This collection celebrates the connection of Chatham with the Royal Navy and HM Dockyard, and relates to ships, naval campaigns, naval architecture, Royal Marines and ships' badges. Including Navy List 1813-date (hard copy) and 1813-1858, 1915-1916 (microfiche); together with important publications like the Navy Records Society. A small section is also held on the Royal Engineers.

Topographical collection

This collection is mainly of printed books and concentrates on Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Strood and the Hoo Peninsula but includes many items of general Kent interest e.g. Edward Hasted's History of Kent.

Kent county, Medway Towns street and trade directories on microfilm and microfiche, details available on application.

Medway area town and village compilations of booklets, cuttings, prints and ephemera arranged according to Dewey reference number by subject or alphabetically by placename in vertical files.

Maps and plans

Ordnance Survey maps of the Medway Towns 1st edition -. are the core of the map collection :
Ordnance Survey (OS)
1: 10,000 (6": 1 mile) (1999)
1: 2,500 (25" : 1 mile)
1: 1250 (50" : 1 mile)
1:500 (10.5 ft: 1 mile; 1866 only
In addition there are the following:
Plans of HM Dockyard, Chatham
Old maps of Kent
Goad insurance plans
Land use maps
Aircraft plans for Short Brothers


We have a periodicals section mainly of Kent, family history and local history interest.

Illustrations collection

Arranged by town, parish, street and HM Dockyard, Chatham. Photographs and engravings of views of street scenes and buildings. Some aerial photographs are also available.

Genealogical sources

IGI Kent and London (microfiche)
Vital Records Index British Isles 1538-1888 (CD Rom); Australia 1788-1905 (CR Dom); North America 1631-1888 (CD Rom);
Soldiers who died in the Great War 1914-1919 (CD Rom)
Soldiers who died in the Second World War 1939-1945 (CD ROM)
Census, card index for Rochester, Chatham, rural area and Higham, Burham and Wouldham 1841-1891; microfilms of enumerators' returns, all of Medway area 1841-1891;
Gillingham and Rainham census index 1841-1891 (CD ROM);
1881 Kent Census index (microfiche);
1881 Great Britain, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Royal Navy census index (CD Rom);
1851 Census Devon, Norfolk and Warwick (CD Rom);
General Register Office index to births, marriages and deaths, England and Wales 1837-1950 (microfiche).
Monumental inscriptions and parish register transcripts (microfiche and hard copy): details on application.

Newspapers (microfilm unless otherwise stated)

Rochester Gazette 1830-1859, Chatham News 1859-1994, Medway News 1994-date, Chatham Observer 1870-1965, Chatham Standard 1945-1994 (hard copy 1945-1990), Medway Standard 1994-date, Evening Post 1968-1992 (hard copy for 1968-1979), Kent Today 1992-date and Kent Messenger 1998-date.

[NB bookings required for newspaper microfilms]

Finding aids

The searchroom contains a personal computer linked to the main Medway Council library service computer catalogue on which most of our stock is catalogued. Staff can consult this on demand. Similarly, the catalogue can be consulted through staff at other Medway Council libraries.
We also hold a manual card index to authors, places, subjects, maps and the Dickens Collection. Access to this is also on demand and by staff only.

Sales stock

We carry a varied range of general interest comprising greetings cards, postcards and printed books and booklets on family and local history. We have many free leaflets of local interest. Prices and further details are available on application.

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