The Suffolk Archives statement on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its services is available to read here.

Collections for property history


Maps are a useful starting point for your research.  You can start with the large scale Ordnance Survey maps at 25 inches and 6 inches to the mile.  The earliest date from the 1880s.  Suffolk Record Office has a good selection for the county ending in the 1920s for the 25 inch series and the 1950s for the 6 inch series.  Larger plans on a scale of 50 inches to the mile were also published for some urban areas in the 1880s.  There are also earlier smaller scale manuscript maps of the county in existence but although these indicate the existence of individual large properties, smaller houses may not be shown, and their accuracy cannot always be guaranteed.

Tithe maps and apportionments are available for most individual parishes in Suffolk.  They were produced between 1835 and 1848 and provide information on the size of site, owners and occupiers, field names etc. at the time of the survey.  Earlier than the tithe maps are the Enclosure maps and awards.  These date from the 18th and 19th century and are available for those parishes, which were enclosed by Act of Parliament.  They are more difficult to use than the Tithe maps, but can contain useful information on land ownership.


County Directories cover the period 1844 to 1937, and Street Directories are also available for Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Lowestoft.  Census returns are currently available for 1841 to 1911.  These are held on film and/or fiche or can be accessed for free through the Ancestry Library Edition website.  Wills may give details of property and its disposal.  Electoral Registers will list occupants.  Before 1928 not everyone was qualified to vote so earlier lists (starting in 1832) should be used with care, remembering also that house names and numbers are not always noted.  Rating Records can also help establish who owned or lived in a property.  The so-called ‘domesday books’ were records compiled by the Inland Revenue during the course of valuations made under the 1910 Finance Act.  They are useful for discovering names of owners and occupiers as well as the situation and extent of individual properties.  It is also worth checking to see if we have any plans for the building of the property or showing subsequent alterations to it.


Information for this period can be harder to find.  The following sources can be tried but they might not always prove fruitful.  Wills can be useful in this earlier period (see above) while Inventories can also shed light on the number of rooms in the building and their contents.  Deeds or other estate papers may refer to your house if it was once part of a large estate.  Parish rate books rarely list properties by name, but where they do it might be possible to trace ownership back over a considerable period.  If the property was once part of a manor, there may be manorial records to help you.  These consist mainly of books or rolls some dating back to the 16th century, occasionally earlier, which record the transfer and conveyance of mainly copyhold property through the manorial court.  Rentals and surveys may also have survived.  Early taxation records such as the Hearth Tax Return may also prove fruitful, especially if the property is substantial.


All the sources above are standard for any type of property, however, there are buildings which have been used for a specific purpose for which there will be additional special sources you may need to consult.  These include:

Inns and Public Houses

  • Register of licences in the Petty Session records
  • Licensing records in the Quarter Session records (Ipswich only)
  • Newspaper advertisements

Churches and Chapels

  • Parish records
  • Nonconformist records
  • Church guides
  • Diocesan collection – faculties for building and alterations (held at Ipswich)


  • School records, plans, logbooks
  • Photographs


  • Business records
  • Newspaper advertisements

Country Houses

  • Printed books
  • Architects plans
  • Sale particulars and auction catalogues