Learning & Research

learning imageThe Heritage Centre holds a  comprehensive archive of photographs and documents relating to the development and history of the dockyard. These are available for study by arrangement.

We are also interested in developing the use of our archive and are happy to respond to enquiries.

Education and Outreach

Our volunteer guides are available to offer a selection of illustrated presentations to organisations at either your local venue or at the Heritage Centre. Talks are presented by Heritage Centre Volunteers and normally last for about 45 minutes. For bookings and enquiries please call 01752 552326 or email: NavyNbcd-Book1@mod.gov.uk.

A variety of educational visit options are available for schools and education providers.

Illustrated talks available:

  • Widows of the Ropery – An exploration of discovery from an old photograph; how a little research enabled us to discover the family circumstances and achieve an insight to looking at the lives and final resting of the family breadwinners who operated the spinning machines in Devonport Dockyard Ropery during the late Victorian period.
  • Crime & Punishment in Plymouth of the 18th & 19th centuries – Prisons, punishments and executions, both civilian and military; Not for the squeamish!
  • The Development of Devonport Dockyard 1691-2014 – A fascinating account of how a single dock evolved to reflect military and technical changes to become the largest Naval Base in Western Europe.
  • Richard Pering – Saviour of the English Navy? – How a Devonshire-born man was instrumental in persuading the Naval authorities of the late Georgian period to make drastic improvements to the construction practices and design of ships, and hence their durability and superior performance in conflict.
  • Sail to Steam – how Devonport adapted – How did a skilled artisan-based workforce have to change to meet the innovations of steam and the Industrial Revolution?
  • A ‘Worthy’ view of Plymouth’s waterfront – A pictorial tour of the waterfront from Mount Batten, via the Plym estuary, Sutton Harbour, Millbay, Tamar to Cremyll from a mainly private collection of glass plate negatives dating from 1857 to 1944.
  • Sustaining the sailors, the local contribution – An introduction to the facilities for sourcing the provisions and other items essential to maintaining an effective working and fighting force, with particular emphasis on the contribution of the Royal William Victualling Yard 1835–1992.

Research FAQs

The Devonport Naval Heritage Centre (DNHC) holds an archive collection, which researchers are invited to use by appointment. There are a number of enquiries that we receive regularly, some of which we can help you with, and others we cannot. The list of FAQs below may help to determine if we can help you with a certain enquiry.

I am researching a person who served in the Royal Navy. Will the DNHC have their service records in the Collection?

No. If you are searching for the service records of someone who left the Royal Navy prior to 1927 you will need to contact the National Archives. A great deal of their records are available online at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk.

If you are searching for the records of someone who left the Royal Navy after 1927 you will need to contact: RN Disclosure Cell, Room 48, West Battery, Whale Island, Portsmouth, PO2 8DX. Records are usually only provided for the next of kin.

Does the DNHC have any other personnel records for RN staff?

No. We do not receive these documents as a matter of course, and are unlikely to have anything relating to an individual unless it has been specifically donated either by the person in question or their relative.

I believe my relative may be entitled to an Arctic Star. How do I go about finding out?

Look at the Veterans UK website, which will provide you with the information you need. This website also contains other useful information regarding researching armed service personnel. www.veterans-uk.info.

My relative worked in Devonport dockyard. Do you have any records relating to dockyard workers?

Yes. We do have a collection of books detailing dockyard workers. These books run from 1842 until the early 1960s. Each entry includes brief information of the person’s occupation and rate of pay. Entries were updated as the individual progressed in their career. Please note this collection does not cover all workers during these years, and there are large gaps in the collection.

I am researching someone who I know was involved in an accident in Devonport dockyard. Do you have any records relating to accidents?

Yes. We have a collection of accident books, which begin in the 1880s and go up until the 1960s. Each entry in these books is brief, but it does give information regarding the accident, who was involved, what treatment was given and the outcome of the treatment.

How do I make a research enquiry or appointment?

Contact the Research Coordinator at researchteamdnhc@gmail.com.

Is there a charge for research appointments?

No. There are no charges attached to research appointments, including the copying of archive material.

Can I bring a camera or USB stick with me during my visit?

No. Although the Heritage Site is now outside of the Naval Base boundary the site it occupies is still owned by the MoD, and is still subject to security procedures. Please do not bring cameras or USB sticks along during a research visit. Copies of archive material can be supplied in hard copy if needed. Please note the exclusion includes the use of camera phones.

Can I have a copy of any useful documents and/or photographs?

The DNHC has an A4 scanner available for copying documents and photographs. These items are available for personal use, but please note it is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain copyright permission if they intend to use photographs and document in the public domain and/or for commercial reasons.

Some archive documents or books may be too fragile to scan. DNHC staff reserve the right to refuse to copy items that may be damaged during this process.

Are your catalogues available online?

Unfortunately the DNHC’s catalogues are not available online.

Is the research room wheelchair accessible?

An office is available for research purposes on the ground floor. The store room is located on the first floor of the building with the only access via a set of stairs. However, any research visit will be supervised by a member of staff who will be able to retrieve items from the store for researchers.

Useful Resources

The London Gazette website www.gazettes-online.co.uk

Newspaper extracts detailing Officers’ awards

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website www.cwgc.org

Details of WW1 & WW2 war graves

Veterans UK website www.veterans-uk.info for general information

www.veterans-uk.info/recordsmedalsbadges.htm for information about obtaining copied service records, medals, and applying for new medals (e.g. Arctic Star)

The Royal Navy website www.royalnavy.mod.uk

Other Museums & Collections

The National Museum of the Royal Navy www.nmrn.org.uk/research

(Incorporating the Royal Naval Museum, Royal Marines Museum, Fleet Air Arm Museum, Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion!)

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery www.plymouth.gov.uk/museums

Plymouth and West Devon Record Office www.plymouth.gov.uk/museums

South West Film and Television Archive www.plymouth.gov.uk/museums

National Maritime Museum www.rmg.co.uk/researchers

Imperial War Museum www.iwm.org.uk/collections-research

The National Archives www.nationalarchives.gov.uk