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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 19:43 GMT 20:43 UK
Inside Parliament's Archives

One of the earliest Acts: 'Act of Weights and Measures' signed by Henry VII
One of the earliest Acts: 'Act of Weights and Measures' signed by Henry VII
September is Archive Awareness Month, when local and national archives, both public and private, are opening their doors to promote the wealth of treasures they contain. To mark the event, The Westminster Hour looks at the work of the Parliamentary Archives.

Parliamentary records are held in the House of Lords Record Office in the Victoria Tower at Westminster. Copies of all Acts passed by Parliament have been kept since 1497, with the oldest Act dealing with the employment of workers in the woollen industry in Norfolk.

More recently, the Archive also includes the Bill of Rights from 1689, the Act of Union between England and Scotland and political papers, including documents which belonged to Prime Ministers David Lloyd George and Andrew Bonar Law.

But there are gaps in the archives. In 1834 most of the parliamentary records were destroyed by fire. All that remained of Parliament was the chapel crypt, the Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall.

Monica Halpin, assistant archivist
Monica Halpin, assistant archivist
Luckily records from the House of Lords were held in the Jewel Tower, but the Commons records - particularly rolls signed by Members of Parliament after taking the oath and the original warrant for the execution of Charles I - were nearly all destroyed.

In the 1840's the Palace of Westminster was rebuilt by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin and it was then that the records were placed in the Victoria Tower. At 323 feet high (98.2 metres), the tower was the tallest square tower in the world when it was built.

On the day of the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen's coach goes through the Sovereign's Entrance and under the tower. She descends in front of the Norman Porch and walks up the Royal Staircase towards the Queen's Robing Room.

David Prior, assistant Clerk of the Records
David Prior, assistant Clerk of the Records
David Prior is assistant Clerk of the Records in the House of Lords Records Office. He took Kate Conway on a tour of Victoria Tower and the treasures of the Parliamentary Archives.

Click here to listen to our tour of the Parliamentary Archive

Archive Awareness Month is co-ordinated by The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries with support from The National Archives.

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