How to look for Coastguard records
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
1. Why use this guide?
Use this guide to find records on:
- administration of the coastguard service
- functions carried out by the coastguard service
- coastguard stations
Read our guide on Coastguard officers if you are looking for records of a person who served in the Coastguard service.
2. Essential information
We hold administrative records before and after the formation of the Coastguard service in 1822.
Because the Coastguard has been administered by so many departments at different times, documents relating to the service are widely scattered among the public records.
The Coastguard was formed in 1822 by the amalgamation of three services set up to prevent smuggling:
- Revenue Cruisers
- Riding Officers
- Preventive Water Guard
In 1831 the Coastal Blockade also became part of the Coastguard.
These four preventive forces employed nearly 6,700 men at the time of amalgamation.
3. How to find records
You can locate the majority of records by searching Discovery, our catalogue using the keywords ‘coastguard’ or ‘coast guard’ with the following keywords, depending on the nature of your research:
- ‘minute books’
- ‘report’ or a name of a report
- ‘entry book’
- place name
Or search by:
- name of committee such as ‘Coastguard Representation Committee’
- station name such as ‘Petts coastguard station’
Most are among the papers of the following government departments:
- Boards of Customs, Excise, and Customs and Excise (CUST)
- Board of Trade (BT)
- Admiralty (ADM)
- Treasury (T)
- Ministry of Transport (MT)
- Ministry of works (WORK), for plans
You can refine your search to these collections, and refine by date.
4. Key records
Search our catalogue with the terms ‘coastguard station’ and place name in WORK 30 (1844-1914) for plans of:
- coastguard stations
- officers’ houses
- gun batteries
- other structures or cottages owned by the coastguard
- a schedule of deeds and leases in respect of coastguard premises in Great Britain in 1857 in CUST 42/66
- T1 and ADM 1 (index ADM 12) for references to coastguard properties
- ADM 7/7 to ADM 7/39 for a series of registers, which gives information about repairs to buildings and the supply and replacement of equipment (1828-1857)
Coastguard annual abstracts (1828-1854)
Browse annual abstracts in CUST 38 which supply statistical information about:
- travelling expenses
- cost of buildings
- boats and stores
- accounts of coastguard expenses (1855-1857)
- expenses of Revenue cruisers
Other administrative records
Consult ADM 114/11 for instructions, memoranda and correspondence produced in 1856 following the transfer of the Coastguard from the Board of Customs to the Admiralty.
Browse and search by relevant keywords for records in:
- MT 9 (dated before 1906)
- BT 166 for correspondence and papers of the Coastguard and Lifeboat Services dated after 1906
- ADM 120 for policy papers from 1875 to 1940
Read our guide on how to find naval correspondence using the ADM 12 indexes and registers for more information on how to find records in ADM 1. Records are not easy to find and research may be speculative.
5. Useful websites
Use Parliamentary Papers (institutional subscription required) to find information about cottages erected or leased by the Admiralty between 1856 and 1863:
- House of Commons, 1860 XLII 275
- House of Commons, 1861 XXXVIII 133 and 1863 XXXV 157
6. Further reading
Read The Ancient and Rightful Customs by E Carson (Faber and Faber, 1972).
Read Coastguard: An Official History of HM Coastguard by W Webb (HMSO, 1976).