Royal Gunpowder Mills Archive

History of the Archive

After the closure of ERDE, the archive material inherited passed through a number of hands and storage locations, particularly in the latter period before opening to the public, when outside staff from the firm designing the exhibition had to have free access. Consequently by 2004 the Archive had become rather disorganised.

The opportunity has therefore been taken to start a ground-up exercise involving a complete check of the holding and the design of computer databases of the material in order to produce a digital catalogue in due course.

Six elements are involved:

  1. Verifying the original Waltham Abbey Special Collection of documents and small objects 
  2. Images
  3. Building Drawings
  4. Non Building Drawings 
  5. Maps and Plans
  6. Library


Data checking and transfer has been a time consuming process. So far Building drawings and Maps and Plans have been completed and a start has been made on the balance.

In the meantime we have made available for download the spreadsheets of many of the catalogues.

The ultimate object is to have a fully updated and catalogued archive, which will provide the researcher with a complete and accessible historical picture of the Mills and the industry and will provide a resource to draw on for special displays, written articles, family researchers, historical enquirer’s etc.

In connection with the latter, a special project was undertaken to record in a database the historical detail which is available on Mills personnel from the time of Government purchase in 1787. This effort has resulted in the publication of 2 books, now available for purchase in our Gift Shop and online from Amazon.

It is hoped that this will eventually be published in the form of a personnel register for study by social historians and so on. Our Volunteers are working hard to catalogue and compile the items in the various Archive collections.

If you would like to volunteer to work on the Archive as a Volunteer Archivist, please refer to our Volunteer Page for more details and an Application Form. 


Unless otherwise specified all our documents and images are © Crown Copyright and covered under the Open Government Licence version 2.0:

Many of  our documents and images are not available anywhere else, but high quality digital copies can be made available in return for a small donation to the Archive for each item, to cover our costs.

Archive Questions

If you have a question about the history of the Mills or its former employees, please email your question to the Archive and we will attempt to answer your queries.

Archive Collections

Some of these collection catalogues are available as spreadsheets to download via the links provided.

Publications based on the Archive are also listed.

WASI - Waltham Abbey Staff Index

  • While we have detailed records of the people who worked at the Gunpowder Mills between 1787 and 1841 (WAPP), we have only sparse information on employees since that time due to the fact that the personnel records disappeared into which ever government department which was responsible for the Mills/Research Establishment after that time. We have not been able to track down any of those personnel records.
  • The Staff Index provided below contains the names from WAPP as well as names gleaned from other documents within the WARGM Archive.
  • WARGM Staff Index

WAPP - Waltham Abbey Personnel Project

WAOH - Waltham Abbey Oral History Project

  • A collection of interviews with past employees.
  • 31 items
  • Recorded on audio tapes
  • Digitized computer audio files
  • Catalogued in Computer Database

WASC - Waltham Abbey Special Collection

  • Document and Artefact Collection
  • 2398 files / 58,311 pages
  • Digitized in PDF files
  • Work in progress
  • Catalogued in Computer Database

WAI - Waltham Abbey Images

  • 9000+ Images
  • Digitized image files
  • Work in progress
  • Catalogued in Computer Database

WABD - Waltham Abbey Building Drawings

WANBD - Waltham Abbey Non Building Drawings

  • Non Building Drawings and Engravings
  • 225 Items
  • Digitized image files
  • Catalogued in Computer Database

WAMP - Waltham Abbey Maps and Plans

WASU - Waltham Abbey Superintendents

WAAC - Waltham Abbey Accident Chronology

WAC - Waltham Abbey Chronology

  • Timeline of important events at or related to the Royal Gunpowder Mills
  • Catalogued in Computer Database