Somerset House

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Somerset House (sometimes misspelled as Somerset House, Sommerset House, Sumerset House and Summerset House) is located on the Strand in central London. The current building dates from the late 18th century (1776-1796), but the first building was a home built for the Duke of Somerset in 1547.

The 18th century incarnation, designed by William Chambers, was intended for use as a public offices and institutions. Some of the famous institutions which were at one time located at Somerset House were The Royal Academy of Arts (and was where Sir Joshua Reynolds was laid in state), The Royal Society, The Society of Antiquaries and The Navy Board.

However, many people most associate Somerset House with obtaining a certified copy of a BMD record, specifically the issuing of birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates of events which took place in England and Wales. Indeed, when civil registration began in 1837, the Registrar General of the General Register Office was based in Somerset House.

These records and registers remained at Somerset House for nearly 150 years until 1970, when the General Register Office were moved from Somerset House to St Catherine's House (also often misspelled as St Catherine House, St Katherine House and St Katherine's House). Because of it's location, this civil registration index was known as the St Catherine's House index.

The records were held at St Catherine's House until 1997, when they were transferred to the Family Records Centre at Myddleton Street in North London. The centre also has search rooms for the GRO births, marriages and deaths indexes, and Public Record Office wills and census rooms.

Somerset House is now a visual arts centre, and is currently home to the Courtauld Gallery, The Gilbert Collection and the Hermitage Rooms.

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