Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Wednesday, 28 April 2010 13:23 UK
Parliament born in Acton Burnell
The remains of Parliament Barn in Acton Burnell
The area is named after Robert Burnell, Lord Chancellor 12741292

With a general election still fresh in the mind, Shropshire can make claim to a rather key political first.

Centuries before Britain was created through the Acts of Union, England's first official parliament met at Acton Burnell south of Shrewsbury.

Today the remains of the building used in 1283/1285 is still called Parliament Barn, and lies within the grounds of Concord College.

In it, King Edward I met with barons and importantly commoners.

You've got that coming together of royal and people's power, which we still have today with our constitutional monarchy
Neil Hawkins

While the date is unclear (probably 1283, but possibly 1285), it marks the first time commoners were invited to take part in an official meeting between the king and his power base. The word parliament comes from the French parler, meaning to speak.

The power of parliament, and the House of Commons in particular has grown substantially since, but the meeting at Acton Burnell is seen as a key moment in the development of British democracy and what is often referred to as the "mother of parliaments".

Principal of Concord College Neil Hawkins was proud of the role played by this part of rural Shropshire: "This first meeting of the Commons here in 1283 is symbolic... It shows you that from really quite modest beginnings, something extraordinary, that had implications for the world, can begin."

The rebel Simon De Montfort had invited commoners to discuss policy with his supporters at a meeting in 1265, but the gathering had no official approval and was not acknowledged by King Henry III.

Mr Hawkins believed this distinction was important: "This was the first parliament that was held with the blessing of the king and with the king here... you've got that coming together of royal and people's power, which we still have today with our constitutional monarchy."

Today, the monarch still performs an important role in the calling of a general election and in appointing a prime minister.

So what inspired Edward I to call the parliament, and why here? The king was keen to conquer Wales, and that required money. The border region, including much of west Shropshire was a dangerous place, a buffer zone heavily contested by Wales and England.

To control the border and ultimately Wales itself meant building castles, and lots of them, as Neil Hawkins explained: "There was a need for power here and a need for money, and so often money and politics go together."

At the Acton Burnell parliament, Edward I hoped to secure funding for his war, while commoners sought to secure concessions from their king.




SEE ALSO
Historic Acton Burnell Castle
28 Apr 10 |  History
Grant for repair work at church
04 Apr 10 |  Shropshire
Shropshire constituencies guide
07 Apr 10 |  People & Places


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