RCHME stands for 'Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England'. Although its functions, staff and
facilities have been merged with English Heritage since 1999, the RCHME, together with its Scottish and Welsh
counterparts, is still widely regarded as a symbol of excellence in field and historic buildings recording. The
Royal Commissions on Ancient and Historical Monuments for Scotland and Wales (RCAHMS and RCAHMW) are still
independent of other organisations.
The three Royal Commissions were set up by the government in 1908, in response to a need to investigate and record
ancient monuments and historic buildings. Some monuments and buildings began to receive fairly weak protection in
law towards the end of the 19th century, but the work of the VCH and some high-profile controversies over threats
to major monuments in the early 20th century revealed a need for a systematic professional approach leading to more
During the 20th century the Royal Commissions on Historical Monuments developed into the UK's leading field survey
and historic buildings recording organisations, with high academic standing. The archaeological functions of the
Ordnance Survey were amalgamated with the RCHM's in 1983.
Until the 1980s, the RCHM's concentrated on producing large inventory volumes for each county in their national
area. Although beautifully-illustrated and thoroughly researched, these volumes came to be seen as a less flexible
resource than an integrated and computer-assisted system of national records and archives. Out of this came an
increased emphasis on National Monuments Records. In the 1990s, the English and Scottish Royal Commissions moved
into specially-designed new operational centres with public search facilities in Swindon (Wilts.) and Edinburgh.
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