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New resources for architectural history

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We’re just about to begin work on a new digitisation project: of the inventory volumes of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. The definition of a monument is widely drawn, to include historic buildings and structures of all kinds, and the volumes give accounts of their history and structure, based on a detailed measured survey. Before 1946 only monuments created before 1718 were recorded, but after 1946 coverage was extended to record all 18th and 19th century sites. The project is generously funded by English Heritage, of which the Royal Commission became part.

The 43 RCHME volumes form the counterpart to the publications of the slightly older Survey of London, which was taken over by the RCHME in 1986, the volumes of which are already on BHO. Together they offer a record of England’s monuments unrivalled in range, coverage, detail and accuracy. They also form a counterpart to the architectural content of the Victoria County History, with which the Commission’s history is intertwined. Architects, such as (Sir) Charles Peers, contributed surveys to the volumes of the VCH published before 1908 and went on to contribute surveys to both series for a short time. But the founding of the RCHME soon led to the VCH abandoning detailed survey and record, and to the two series being seen as complementary, with the VCH concentrating on using built evidence for tracing the history of settlement. Cross-searching all three series (a task often undertaken using the books) will be immeasurably enhanced by having all the volumes of the VCH, Survey of London and RCHME available online.

We expect the first volumes to appear this summer, with the set being complete by August 2013.