The Development of Guidebooks for Heritage Sites in England


These covers show the development from the first official guidebook (St Botolph’s) issued by the Office of Works through to English Heritage. These guides range from small booklets to concertina card guides.

For the development of guides in Scotland see here.

1949 (repr. 1952)
1951 (repr. 1954)
Audley End
Audley End (1955)
1952 (repr. 1956)


1963 (3rd impress. with amendments)
1958 (5th impress. 1967)
1958 (3rd impress. with amendments 1967)
Revised 1969
1966 [3rd impress. 1971]
1958 (8th impress. 1976)
1974 (1985)
1964 (1982; English Heritage 1988; repr. 1975)
1990 (2000)
1999 (repr. 2002)
1998 (rev. 2015)
2012 (2nd ed. 2018)

Yarmouth Castle: guidebooks

2003 [1978]
Yarmouth Castle on the Isle of Wight was one of a series of defences for the Solent. It was constructed after a  French raid of 1545 during the reign of Henry VIII, and was nearly complete by the autumn of 1547. The castle continued to be used for coastal defence until 1885. The castle was placed in the care of the Office of Works in 1913.

1958 (repr. 1962)

S.E. Rigold wrote the first paper guide for the castle in 1958. It consisted of a detailed history (nearly five and a half pages) followed by a description. The centre page consists of a site plan along with plans of the ground, first and second floors. The price (in 1962) was 4d.

1985 (repr. 1987, 1990)

Rigold’s guide was reprinted in 1978, and formed the basis of the English Heritage ‘white’ guidebook (1985). This started wit ha description followed by the history.  It is illustrated with black and white photographs, and the centre pages use the 1958 plans though with updated typography. The text is also identical to the 1958 guide with the addition, ‘Since 1984 Yarmouth Castle has been in the care of English Heritage’.

The back cover of this guide bears the Gateway marketing.

1985 (repr. 1987, 1990)

The present English Heritage guidebook is essentially the same as the 1985 publication except with a colour cover (most recently reprinted in 2012).

Titchfield Abbey: guidebook

1954 (repr. 1962)

The Premonstratensian abbey at Titchfield was founded from the foundation at Halesowen in Worcestershire after 1214. It was dissolved in 1537 and Thomas Wriothesley had the buildings adapted into a residence.

The ruins were acquired by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries c. 1914–18, and their responsibility fell to the H.M. Office of Works in 1923. The site is now in the care of English Heritage.

The guidebook was written by Rose Graham (History) and S.E. Rigold (description). It consists of 12 pages, and the centre pages include a plan of the abbey.  The original price was 4 d. (1962).

Celebrating 100 Years of Guides to the National Heritage Collection


2017 marks the centenary of the first guidebooks to what can now be termed the National Heritage Collection. One of the first was written by Sir Charles Peers on St Botolph’s Priory in Colchester and now in the care of English Heritage. The guidebook was reissued as a ‘blue’ guide in 1964.

The 1917 guide include a fold-out plan of the priory inside the back cover. This was prepared by E. Dace Brown in July 1916. The guide was divided into three sections: The Augustinian Rule; History of St Botolph’s Priory; and The Priory Buildings.

Pevensey Castle: signage

Pevensey Castle © David Gill

Pevensey Castle was given to the Office of Works by the Duke of Devonshire in 1925. It became one of the front line defences of Britain in 1940.

Pevensey Castle was one of the Saxon Shore forts and was later reused as a medieval castle.

For guidebooks to the fort and castle see here.

Rievaulx Abbey: Guidebooks

1967 (4th impression 1974)

Rievaulx Abbey was placed in state guardianship in 1917 and the site cleared by Sir Charles Peers. Peers wrote the first official guidebook in 1928, and this became the blue guide that continued into the 1970s. This starts with a history (pp. 3-4), and then a guide (pp.5-15). There is a short paragraph on Rievaulx Terrace and Temples (cared for by the National Trust). There is a fold-out plan inside the back cover.

1967 (8th printing 1983)

The 8th printing was made in 1983. Note the slightly darker blue cover and the change of font.


This became the English Heritage Handbook to Rievaulx Abbey (1986), published by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. This is essentially the same as the 1983 guide.


In 1967 the MPBW produced a picture book of Rievaulx Abbey. This contains a series of black and white images, including an Alan Sorrell reconstruction, with short texts. At the back of the book is a ‘A tour of Rievaulx Abbey’ that starts at the ‘custodian’s hut’.


The current English Heritage guide  is by Peter Fergusson, Glyn Coppack and Stuart Harrison (2006). This follows the present arrangement of a tour followed by a history. Plans appear in the foldout back cover.


Rievaulx features in A Look Round the Monasteries of North-East Yorkshire by Alan Phillips (1962). Phillips was the author of the souvenir guides for the Edwardian castles of north Wales (e.g. Caernarfon, Harlech, Beaumaris).

Guidebook Design and Caernarfon Castle

I have commented on the series of guidebooks for Caernarfon Castle elsewhere. This short video presents the sequence of guidebooks from Sir Charles Peers (for the Office of Works) to Arnold Taylor’s long-running contribution (from the Ministry of Works to Cadw). I have include the souvenir guidebooks with the two variations by Kyffin Williams.

Guidebooks by Sir Charles Peers


Sir Charles Peers was the Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments and initiated the guidebooks to historic monuments (in England and Wales). It should be noted that several are sites in Yorkshire: Byland, Helmsley, Kirkham, Middleham, Richmond, and Rievaulx.

It is notable that some of these guides continued as English Heritage guides (e.g. Finchale Priory).

Guides to Caernarfon Castle


The first official H.M. Office of Works guide to Caernarfon Castle was prepared by Sir Charles Peers, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments, in 1929. This was based on his article on the castle in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1915/16).

My 1933 edition cost 6d, and there are three main sections: Introduction (pp. 5-7), History of the Castle (pp. 8-15), and Description (pp. 16-39). There is a foldout plan inside the back cover (with north to the bottom).


This was replaced in 1953 by a Ministry of Works new guide by A.J. Taylor, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales. The cost was 1s 6d. Although the front cover clearly states Caernarvon Castle, the title page expands to Caernarvon Castle and Town Wall.

The structure is much changed from Peers’ edition. It starts with ‘History and periods of building’ (pp. 3-18), followed by a description (pp. 19-35) in the parts, ‘Siting and Plan’, ‘The Castle’, and ‘The Town Wall’. There is a short glossary (pp. 36-37). There is a foldout map of the town inside the back cover, and a plan of the castle inside the guide (with north to the top).

There is advice on getting to Caernarfon: ‘Caernarvon station is on a branch line from Bangor; during the summer season there are through carriages from London (Euston), via Rugby, Crewe and Chester. There are also direct rail services from Liverpool and Manchester.’

Entry to the castle was 6d for adults, and 3d for children (under 14).


Taylor’s 1953 guide was reprinted as a ‘blue’ Ministry of Works guide in 1960. The price is 2s. Note that the cover has been changed to include the ‘Town Walls’ (and the plural is now used). The text is essentially the same as the 1953 edition, and there is a foldout map of the town inside the cover.

Entry to the castle is now 1s for adults, and 6d for children (under 14).

Caernarvon Castle

A souvenir guide by Alan Phillips was produced in 1961. The initial edition has a brown cover, but two years later it was changed to red.


Taylor’s 1953 guide continued to appear as a Cadw guide (1986, rev. 1989). The cover uses the Welsh form of Caernarfon, but has dropped the ‘town walls’ (though these appear on the title page). The essential structure remained the same with ‘A history of Caernarfon Castle’ (pp. 2-23), and ‘Tour of the Castle and Town Walls’ (pp. 26-45). A foldout plan of the castle appears inside the back cover.


A large format Cadw guide by Taylor appeared in 2004. The ‘Town Walls’ are mentioned on the title page. Taylor’s structure continues, though there are two distinct tours, one for the castle, and the second for the town walls.

Taylor’s scholarship has passed through 6 editions:

1st: 1953; Cadw: 1986, rev. 1993; 4th: 1997; 5th: 2001; 6th: 2004, rev. 2008.

Taylor’s opening words of 1953 continue in the 1953 edition:

Caernarfon [Caernarvon] is one of the historic centres of Wales, [.] its [Its] remoter past [was] already enshrined in legend when, nearly [just over] seven hundred years ago, an English king chose it to be the seat of a new administration and gave it new fame as the cradle of a line of English princes.

This in itself raises the issue of the cultural identity of this military structure. But it is remarkable that a guidebook has a life of over half a century.

Guides to the Tower of London

Tower of London © David Gill
Tower of London © David Gill

The Tower of London is now part of the Historic Royal Palaces. However it was formerly in the care of the Office of Works.

1948 [reprinted 1958]
1948 [reprinted 1958]
I have two post war guides. The first is the 1948 edition (reprinted 1948) at a cost of 4 d and was issued by the Ministry of Works, Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings (24 pp.). This informs the visitor that the cost of admission is 1 s (6 d for children) and ‘allows a general view of the Tower of London, and includes admission to the WHITE TOWER (Armouries), the NEW ARMOURIES, the BEAUCHAMP and BLOODY TOWERS, and (on application in writing to the Resident Governor), the MARTIN, BROAD ARROW, SALT and BELL TOWERS’.

There is a short history starting, ‘The Tower of London was first built by William the Conqueror, for the purpose of protecting and controlling the city’. There is then a description to each feature of the Tower with a black and white plan printed at the centre of the guide.

My copy has a single page insert dated June 28, 1961 that includes the statement that ‘the top floor of the White Tower has been closed for repairs’.


The second is in the ‘blue guide’ format of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (1967). In the history it notes the ‘confinement’ of ‘state prisoners’ including Rudolf Hess, ‘Hitler’s deputy’, in May 1941. Like the earlier guide it is 24 pages long and includes a black and white plan in the centre.

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