Keep in touch with local history

The Keep opened to the public in November, bringing together the East Sussex County Records, the local history sections of the Royal Pavilion and the Brighton and Hove Libraries and the special collections of Sussex University. We should all celebrate, says the Society's David Robson.
The Keep is a shining white building that is a stronghold of knowledge and memories in our city, a beacon that illuminates the past but which also shines towards the future – the result of an enlightened collaboration between East Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, Brighton and Hove Museums and the University of Sussex (the University of Brighton declined to be involved), each of which has added their archives and historical records.
The East Sussex Record Office was established in 1949 and was housed in the Lewes Maltings. During the 1990s, the building was recognised as  unfit for purpose and plans were set in motion to replace it. These finally came to fruition in 2010, when a two-hectare site was identified in Moulsecoomb in what is sometimes referred to as Brighton’s Academic Corridor.
The building is on three floors and has an area of 5,400 square metres. It was designed by WS Atkins and built by Kier Southern. Funding shortfalls forced budget cuts and the project was finally brought home for £19 million. Although this seems a huge amount, the new building represents good value for money and shows no signs of scrimping or saving.
The Keep now houses the collections on a total of six miles of shelving. Material is located using a system of bar codes similar to those used in large warehouses.
Generous spaces

The building contains generous, well-lit front-of-house public spaces on the ground floor – a large reception hall, meeting rooms, a library and a study area – as well as pleasant and spacious staff areas on an upper level. It can accommodate 35 staff and 270 users. The main archives are housed in three large sealed depots, one on top of the other. These are contained within a massive structure that maintains desired environmental conditions with minimum energy consumption. Indeed, the building is claimed to be the most energy efficient of its kind in the country.
Such large windowless volumes are hard to handle architecturally but the new building succeeds through judicious landscaping, tree preservation and careful siting. Unashamedly modern, its elegant white forms suggest a place of light and efficiency.
The Keep is located on the northern edge of Moulsecoomb close to the junction between Lewes Road and the Brighton By-pass. It is served by the 23 and 25 bus routes and is within walking distance of Falmer Railway Station. Metered parking is available for up to 69 cars.
Members of the public can apply online or in person to register as users. Registration is valid for three years. Catalogues can be accessed online and users can book a study space and pre-order material. The reading room provides equipment for scanning books, documents and microfiches and, for a reasonable fee, users can make electronic copies on memory sticks or with digital cameras or can print paper copies.

Keep informed
Telephone: 01273 482349
Address: The Keep, Woollards Way, Brighton BN1 9BP
Opening hours
Tuesday to Friday: 9.30 am – 5.00 pm
Saturday: 9.30 am – 4.00 pm

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From top: The Keep; the open library area; the study area; the stacks; six miles of
shelving; one of the book scanners

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