Frequently asked questions about reopening and visiting Surrey History Centre

To assist you in accessing our unique collections and e-Resources, we have answered some frequently asked questions

Booking a session at Surrey History Centre

How can I book a place?

It is free to visit us but all places must be booked prior to your visit. We are not yet open for 'walk-in' visitors. Please email us on

Sessions are allocated on a first come, first served basis, with the limit of one per person per day. Demand will be high and we need to ensure that everyone has an opportunity of visiting to see the items they need. Bookings are not transferable. Visitors who cannot attend a booking will need to re-book a subsequent session.

Please request all material you wish to use two working days prior to the session you are attending. We will be open Tuesday to Thursday, so if you wish to visit us on Tuesday you will need to order your items by 5pm on the previous Thursday. Standard access conditions and restrictions apply and we will contact you if any material you wish to see is covered by any restrictions.

Can I come in at any time between 9.45 am and 4.45 pm?

No. The revised times are to allow extra cleaning of public areas at lunchtime. You may visit for your booked session at any time between 9.45 and 12.45 or 1.45 and 4.45.

Pre booking will allow us to manage our restricted capacity and to collect details of visitors attending each session for contact tracing if required. We may need to share your contact details with the NHS test and trace service if, for example, a visitor on the same day as you tests positive. We are doing this to help reduce the risk of a local outbreak of coronavirus and in line with government guidance, as we want to do everything we can to protect our staff, visitors and the wider community.

A booked session allows up to three hours access to pre-requested collection material. Access is limited to 6 visitors per session, and there are two sessions per day, Tuesday to Thursday.

The session times are:

  • Morning session: 9.45 am to 12.45 pm
  • Afternoon session: 1.45 pm to 4.45 pm

By holding two sessions each day, we can ensure that more people have the opportunity to use our collections and conduct a full clean of the Heather D Hawker search room between each session.

Can I speak to someone about booking online?

You can contact us on 01483 518737 between 9:30am and 5.00 Monday to Friday to enquire about the availability of timed sessions.

Can I book two people into the same session?

Yes, however you will require two separate bookings. There is a limit of one person per booking. Physical distancing rules will still apply.

Can I book more than one session a week?

Yes if places are available, but demand is likely to be high.

Can I book two sessions and stay all day?

No, visitors can only book one session per day. Extra cleaning is in place at lunchtime to sanitise the public areas before new visitors arrive for the afternoon session.

Can I book to use a computer, fiche or film reader without having booked to see any original documents?

Yes, that is fine.

Your pre-booked visit to Surrey History Centre

What services will be available?

When you arrive for your session, you will be able to access:

  • An allocated desk.
  • Your requested collection material.
  • Our free Wi-Fi to use to search the Collections on your own device
  • Subject to access restrictions, you will be able to purchase a camera permit to photograph your requested material

You will need to bring your own pencil, notepaper, laptop and camera/phone.

We are now able to provide pre-booked access to microfilm and fiche readers and public library computers in the searchroom. However, the library computers and family area in the foyer, and the public ordering computers in the searchroom, are unavailable at this time.

Hard copy catalogues and open access reference material will be cordoned off for staff access only. Please ask us if you need to access them and we will bring them to you.

What collections are accessible?

Subject to normal access restrictions or conservation requirements, all of our collections are available for request—the only exceptions are DVDs and audio-visual materials which are not accessible at this time. A limit of 10 requests per reader applies and all requests need to be placed two working days prior to your booked session to ensure delivery. For example, if you would like to use our collections on Tuesday, you must request your items by emailing us at or telephoning 01483 518737 by close of business on the preceding Thursday.

Why can't I use the video kit or camera stands?

Unlike libraries, our customers spend more time using this equipment, which therefore increases the risk of contamination by the virus. At present, we do not have the capacity to undertake the appropriate level of cleaning in between each use. We do, though, hope to make these accessible in the near future as more staff become available and lockdown measures continue to be relaxed.

Can I copy documents?

No photocopying facilities will available on the day, but along with any digital copying requests, they will be processed after the documents you have seen have been quarantined for a short period. Photo permits will be available for purchase as usual if you wish to take your own photographs but the camera stands in our searchroom will not be available for use.

Can I place collections on hold for another visit?

Yes, although our standard reserve period of seven days still applies. The documents will be kept in quarantine between your visits and then for a further 72 hours after your final visit.

Health and safety of visitors and staff

What safety and hygiene measures are in place?

The health and safety of our visitors and staff is always our top priority and we will be fully complying with NHS England health guidelines to protect everyone who visits.

  • In line with government advice, face coverings must be worn by visitors to Surrey History Centre from 8 August 2020 unless you are exempt.
  • Hand hygiene facilities will be available in the foyer and in other key locations.
  • Toilets will be well stocked with hand soap and paper towels, and instructions on how to wash hands properly will be provided. We will ask you to wash your hands thoroughly (rather than use hand sanitiser) before entering the searchroom as this is better for the documents.
  • All hard surfaces in the foyer and Heather D Hawker search room will be thoroughly cleaned between each session.
  • Physical distancing measures will be implemented, with queuing systems in place and signage clearly displayed.
  • All visitors will be allocated seating that is 2 metres from each other. Readers are requested to limit their movement around the Heather D Hawker search room.
  • Collection returns will be quarantined for 72 hours before being made available to request again by another reader.

What will open and when

When will you open?

Surrey History Centre will reopen from 9.45 am on Tuesday 21 July for access to our unique collections and e-Resources. Pre-booking will allow you up to three hours' access to our Heather D Hawker search room.

Access is limited to 6 readers per session, and there are two sessions per day, Tuesday to Thursday.

The session times are:

  • Morning session: 9.45 am to 12.45 pm
  • Afternoon session: 1.45 pm to 4.45 pm

Please book in advance to secure your session by emailing or telephoning 01483 5187737 at least two working days before you plan to visit.

All readers will be allocated a desk to work from when they arrive for their pre-booked session.

When will more of your public facilities re-open?

We will progressively increase reading room services and opening hours in line with government and professional advice. Please keep an eye on the Visiting Surrey History Centre page or follow our social media channels for the latest updates and news.

Will I be able to attend talks and other events at the History Centre?

At present all of our talks and activities are cancelled.

Can I purchase items in your foyer shop?

Payments for photo permits, our research service, our reprographics service and certified copies can still be made in our foyer, but books and other materials normally available in our foyer will only be available via our on online shop. Contactless payment is preferred

Will the public refreshment room be open?

Yes, the public refreshment room, drinks vending machine and water dispenser will be available but we will ask you to use hand sanitiser on entering the room. Only one person will be permitted in the refreshment room at a time.

Can I book a venue for a meeting, training course or event?

Our conference room will remain closed at this stage. We will open venue hire spaces when it is safe to do so. Stay updated by joining our mailing list or following our social media channels.