THE RECORD office will celebrate a landmark anniversary this week.

Berkshire Record Office, the custodian of local archives from across the Royal County, will turn 70 on Friday.

Its collections span 10 centuries of the county's history and contain many nationally significant items, including the archives of Reading Prison and Broadmoor Hospital.

Sarah Hacker, Reading Borough Council's lead member for culture and heritage, said: "I’d like to congratulate Berkshire Record Office on reaching its 70th Birthday. The office carries out such an important role for the county’s heritage and is used by thousands of people every year. It has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1948 with just 21 visitors.”

Berkshire Record Office first opened on August 10, 1948, by county archivist Felix Hull in the basement of the old Shire Hall, which is now The Forbury Hotel in Reading.

Mr Hull had a desk for himself and one for his researchers and the room next door contained a series of vaults where the county's archives were stored.

Anyone wishing to visit the Record Office needed a reference from a Justice of the Peace or a public body and had to give three days’ notice.

In 1981 the whole County Council, including the Record Office, moved to the new Shire Hall at Shinfield Park, next to Junction 11 of the M4.

However, when Berkshire County Council was abolished in 1998, the office needed to be moved again and it eventually relocated to its current home in Coley Avenue, Reading, in 2000.

Mark Stevens, county archivist, said: “For archivists, 70 years is a heartbeat – but we’re still very excited to celebrate our own 70th.  Since opening in 1948 the office has moved three times and grown considerably. Today, the archives of the Royal County collections span ten centuries of Berkshire’s history and are contained in over eight miles of shelving. Last year we had enquiries or visits from 8,000 people – from all over the world.”