The National Archives x Tilbury Port: Windrush 75 2023

Thursday 22 June

The National Archives team are pleased to join an exciting programme of events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the docking of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks on Windrush Day 2023!


The National Archives is the official archive and publisher for the UK Government, and for England and Wales and, the guardians of over 1,000 years of history, captured in official state records of every possible form, from the furious scribbles of ministers across draft speeches, to medieval maps and love letters seized from the raids of underground clubs. Within these records of government exist rich stories of migration, captured in part due to attempts by the state to legislate around citizenship and to document arrivals.

One of the most well-known moments in Britain’s migration story is the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in June 1948. Hundreds of passengers, many of whom would settle in Britain, made the long journey to the ‘Mother Country,’ from British colonies in the Caribbean in the post-war period. Although not the first or last vessel carrying arrivals from the Commonwealth it is regarded by some as the foundation story of mass migration to Britain. A Black presence already existed in the British Isles, but a new generation of pioneers were about to leave their own indelible marks on British society.

Join us for a series of talks exploring the archive and hear stories from the collection. Find out how to begin your own family research and hear about individuals aboard, as well as the broader story of Black British history told through records at The National Archives.

Session 1, 11 am – Introduction to The National Archives: focus on tracing Caribbean family histories (45 mins)

This session will include an introduction to the National Archives, an overview of the collection, and how you might begin your own research journey. This workshop will cover the basics of family history with a toolkit of ways to get started and a focus on Caribbean family histories. Hear about how the National Archives can support you both online and on site at Kew and follow a practical case study through records at the archive.

There will be Q&A session afterwards. Chloe Lee with support from Drew Ellery and Guy Grannum.

Session 2&4, 1pm and 3:30 pm: Kevin Searle: From the Medieval period to the new Millenium: An introduction to Black British history records at The National Archives (30 mins)

Record’s Specialist Kevin Searle will provide an introductory session exploring some of the key records held at The National Archives which relate to the long-standing presence of Black people in Britain. This talk will touch on a range of different sources from various government departments, dating from the medieval period to the new Millenium.

Dr Kevin Searle is a records specialist at The National Archives. He also sits on the editorial board of the online journal, History Matters: Exploring the history of African and Caribbean people in Britain.

Session 3&5, 2pm and 4:30 pm : Lisa Berry-Waite: Researching the stories of migrant nurses in a government archive (30 mins)

Join National Archives’ researcher Lisa Berry-Waite as she traces the stories of individuals aboard the Empire Windrush, focusing on the government drive to recruit nurses from overseas colonies to support the newly established National Health Service (NHS). This talk focuses on the story of Jamaican nurse Ena Clare Sullivan and draws on a range of historical sources including passenger lists, registrations of British nationality, pamphlets, and official correspondence produced by government departments. It also engages with the challenges and complexities of researching stories of migration in a government archive and tracing the voices of women, whose presence is often marginalised within the archive.

Dr Lisa Berry-Waite is a historian of modern Britain and specialises in gender and women’s history. She is also an Associate Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Women’s History Network.

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