Suffolk Archives Coronavirus update

17 December 2021

The John Blatchly Local Studies Library and the Searchroom at The Hold, as well as the Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft Branches are open by appointment only for viewing original archives and local studies materials.

The government announcement that England will move to Plan B in response to the risks of the Omicron variant and latest rules require face coverings must be worn in all public areas.  This means that to help keep our customers, volunteers, and staff safe, we require our customers to wear face coverings (unless you are exempt) throughout our buildings and at all times (except in the Café at The Hold), including whilst seated doing research.  This is a step change from previous guidance which enabled customers to take off their face coverings when they were seated doing their research. 

We are continuing to limit the number of people in the Searchroom spaces and using the microfilm/fiche machines.  We are also maintaining increased cleaning in our branches and encouraging social/physical distancing.  Please do not visit if you feel unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms.  We would also encourage customers to take a Lateral Flow Test before visiting to help protect everyone.

Our aim is to return to as full a service as we can and as soon as possible, whilst maintaining the safety of all our users and staff. This is provided that no further restrictions are brought in.

Following on from the successful introduction of longer booking slots at Bury St Edmunds and The Hold and the reintroduction of normal opening hours at Lowestoft on 16th November the next stage in the gradual reopening will start from Tuesday 14th December.  Occupancy levels will be increased to 50% in:-

  • the John Blatchly Local Studies Library at The Hold
  • and the Lowestoft Searchroom

and customers will be able to browse the local studies reference book stock once again for themselves.

Customers no longer need to order the books they wish to use in advance. Those who wish to guarantee a place to sit socially distanced are advised to pre-book a desk space. Desk spaces will be allocated on a first come first served basis and we may not be able to accommodate your visit.  To guarantee a desk space, customers are advised to book in advance.

We will also start to offer this local studies service [John Blatchly library] on Fridays from 17th December at The Hold in addition to Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

(Please note that we cannot unfortunately introduce improved local studies browsing at Bury St Edmunds until towards the end of January 2022 due to redecoration works and the movement of book stock around the building.)

Revised opening hours from 17th December 2021:

Ipswich John Blatchly Local Studies Library
Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday

  • 10.30-16.30 up to 15 people/spaces available in total.


  • 11.00-15.30 up to 15 people/spaces available in total.

Ipswich Searchroom

Tuesday and Thursday

  • 10.30-16.30 up to 8 people/spaces available in total.


  • 11.00-15.30 up to 8 people/spaces available in total.

Bury St Edmunds
Tuesday and Thursday

  • 10.00-13.00 up to 5 people/spaces available in total
  • 14.00-16.00 up to 5 people/spaces available in total.

Alternate Saturday [18th December 2021 and 15th and 29th January 2022.]

  • 11.00-15.00 up to 5 people/spaces available in total.


  • Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10.00-15.00 up to 6 people/spaces available in total.

If these changes can be implemented safely and successfully the plan is to offer additional opening hours.  Further details will be posted here nearer the time.

Guidance on how to get to The Hold is available here.

The appointments page on our website, has been updated to reflect these changes please. Click here to view the appointments page.

Researchers, depositors, and owners wishing to book to view any original archives are advised to contact Suffolk Archives [email protected] to ensure the material they wish to view is available and they can make a booking at the appropriate branch.

Those wishing to offer material for inclusion in Suffolk Archives collections are also advised to contact [email protected]

Remote enquiry, research and digitisation services are available at the Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, and Lowestoft branches.

There is no change to the services users can access online; they can still browse the website and search the catalogue, as well as purchase and download already digitised images.

In line with government guidance, we are continuing to operate our programme of exhibitions and events.  The Café, permanent exhibition area in The Street, Exhibition Gallery showing The House and Home Exhibition until 9 January 2022, and Shop at The Hold will therefore continue to be open. 

We will be managing numbers in the Exhibition Gallery at The Hold and at events across the county so advance ticket booking is recommend to avoid disappointment. (Limited tickets may be available on the door on a first come, first served basis.)  All those viewing any exhibitions or attending any events will be required to wear face coverings (unless you are exempt) and observe social distancing throughout their visit.  If visiting The Gallery and it is at capacity, you will be kindly asked to wait until there is space for you to safely visit the exhibition.  Hand washing and hand sanitiser is available throughout our buildings.  Floor markers and signage are present to guide your social distancing, and staff and volunteers are available to assist at any time.

If you have already booked for the exhibition or for an event and no longer wish to attend, please contact us for a refund.  But please note we cannot refund TicketSource booking fees.

All our plans are formed in line with current government and Suffolk County Council guidance and as such may have to be revised should further changes occur.

We will continue to update this page as and when anything changes, or new information becomes available.