Tracing the history of a building

If you’re tracing the history of a building, your local library and East Sussex Record office can help:

Search our records

  • Search the library catalogue
    Local history books may mention the property. Books about researching building history are available.
  • Search records at The Keep
    Search records from our Record Office, the Historic Environment Record (HER), Royal Pavillion and Museums and the University of Sussex online.

Street and trade directories

Street and trade directories can give more information about residents, owners and occupiers of the property. They are particularly useful for properties in towns.

  • Libraries enquiry service
    You can browse street and trade directories at Eastbourne, Hastings, Bexhill and Lewes libraries, as well as a few others. Let us know which area you are researching, and we will tell you which library can help you.

Census returns

Census returns may help you to discover who lived in your house, their occupation and relationship to the head of the household.

East Sussex Record Office holds the following details of census returns:

  • microform copies for eastern Sussex, 1841-1891
  • microform copies for both East and West Sussex, 1901
  • a surname index of the 1851 census returns for eastern Sussex.


East Sussex libraries have a large collection of maps. Find out more about maps in libraries and archives.

East Sussex Record Office has copies of Ordnance Survey 6 and 25-inch sheets, 1875-1930s, as well as many pre-1813 printed maps of the county. We also have an extensive series of pre-1840 manuscript estate maps.

Tithe maps

If your house is not in a town, you may be able to trace it on a tithe map. Tithe maps are available online and on CD.

Records of rating and taxation

Before 1948, plans of new buildings and alterations to existing buildings had to be submitted to the local borough and district councils for building control. The plans usually include a site plan, elevations and sections. Few plans pre-1890 have survived with the exception of Brighton and Hastings:

Electoral registers

Electoral registers contain information about people who lived in the property and who were eligible to vote. All men were granted the vote in 1918 while all women did not get to vote until 1928.

Online resources for building history research