The National Archives at Kew, holds a great many original photographs. They are lodged within files, often quite hidden from view, or else they are kept in albums which came from various departments of state: the Colonial Office, the Foreign Office, or the Works Department (which was responsible for the property portfolio of the Foreign Office, amongst other agencies). Quite why some of this material is here is not always clear to us. For example, why the Colonial Office Library held an album recording the 'Social Life of the Chinese Customs Service' is a bit perplexing. The material includes a particularly rich set of albums documenting north China during the Boxer war, as well as materials about areas of Colonial Office activity in China: Hong Kong, and the leased territories in Kowloon and Weihaiwei. There are albums which record the consulates and other official buildings of the British establishment in China.
With the permission of the National Archives, we have digitised and are placing online images from these albums. If you wish to seek permission to print or exhibit this material you must contact the National Archives directly, through the National Archives Image Library. However, you are permitted to download, transmit or print this material for private, research or educational purposes. The National Archives has now placed scans of album pages on to its Flickr stream, which you can find here, World Through a Lens, China. The full set of materials, including Colonial Office albums from Hong Kong, is accessible here.