The General Register Office is part of Her Majesty's Passport Office and oversees civil registration in England and Wales. Use this site to order certificates online and search a free new version of the GRO historic birth and death indexes. The birth index 1837-1918 is the only index to include the mother's maiden from 1837 (previously only available from 1911). It also includes all full names and not initials. The death index covers 1837-1957 and includes the age at death from 1837 (previously only available from 1866). Search options are limited to plus or minus 2 years. You also have to search each year by gender. You need register (free) and set up a password so that you can use this site.
TIP: No maiden name shown indicates a likely illegitimate birth.
TIP: Use the FreeBMD site to locate possible year entries you are interested in, across a range of years, and then use these GRO indexes to obtain the extra information.
New: PDF copies of birth records 1837-1918 and death records 1837-1957 are available for £7. A PDF copy cannot be used for official purposes. A certified certificate costs £11.