Parliament Week: The objects and photos from Parliament through the centuries

By Culture24 Reporter | 14 October 2011
Parliament Week 2011: Here's Part One of some of the best photos and objects telling the story of Parliament in the UK...

An image of a declaration ensuring votes for women
Suffragette banner (October 28 1908)
© Parliamentary Archives
By the early 1900s, some women had become frustrated that years of peaceful campaigning by groups such as the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies had not yet obtained them the vote.

They formed new associations which used more forceful and direct methods, and such women became known as suffragettes.

On October 28 1908, two suffragettes from the Women's Freedom League, Helen Fox and Muriel Matters, unfurled a banner from the Ladies' Gallery in the House of Commons.

These women chained themselves to the grille over the window of the Gallery and had to be cut from it in a committee room.

Their protest was one of three simultaneous suffragette demonstrations in Parliament that day, including one by men, referred to in a police report on the incidents which is also still held by Parliament.

A photo of an ancient book open on pages of ink writing
Original manuscript Journal of the House of Commons, November 5 1605
© Parliamentary Archives
Plots against the ruling elite were not uncommon before the 17th century, but the plan by a group of Catholic conspirators in November 1605 to blow up the Chamber of the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament was an unprecedented attempt at destruction on a massive scale.

If it had succeeded, it would have killed the King and members of his family, his ministers and many members of both the Upper House and the House of Commons.

The discovery of 36 barrels of gunpowder beneath the House of Lords and the arrest of Guy Fawkes, who was using the alias John Johnson, was recorded in the margin of the Journal of the House of Commons on November 5 1605.

Shortly afterwards, an Act was passed which made the 5th of November a day of thanksgiving.

Later in the century, fears of a Catholic conspiracy resurfaced during the affair of the "Popish Plot" - allegedly a plan to assassinate King Charles II and replace him with his catholic brother - and also shortly after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

A photo of a bound act of parliament
Freedom of Information Act (2000)
© Parliamentary Archives
The Freedom of Information Act of 2000 was one of the first Acts of the new millennium.

It gave members of the public the right to request any information, with a few exemptions, held by a wide range of UK public authorities.

Unusually, it specifically included by name the administrations of the House of Commons and the House of Lords among the bodies subject to the Act.

It came into force on January 1 2005, and its application had far-reaching consequences for both Government and Parliament.

A photo of an ancient piece of handwritten parliamentary parchment
Death Warrant of King Charles I (January 29 1649)
© Parliamentary Archives
Relations between Crown and Parliament reached crisis point during the reigns of James I and his son, Charles I.

After fleeing the Royalist defeat in the Civil War in 1645, the trial of Charles began in Westminster Hall on January 20 1649, held before a High Court of Justice established by the House of Commons.

He was charged with having governed outside of the law and waging war on Parliament, but refused to plead and questioned the authority of the court.

The trial went ahead and the King was found guilty of High Treason, with a sentence of death by beheading pronounced on January 27.

While some previous monarchs had met with premature and bloody deaths, none had been tried by a court set up by Parliament.

The sentence was carried out on January 30 1649, outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall. Colonel Hacker held the Death Warrant until the House of Lords ordered him to surrender in in 1660.


A black and white photo of brick buildings damaged by wartime bombing
Photograph of the bombed House of Commons Chamber (1941)© Parliamentary Archives
After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, a force of more than 100 volunteers was quickly recruited to the Parliamentary detachment of the Local Defence Volunteers, also known as the Home Guard.

Individuals who volunteered to join the Palace of Westminster Company were mostly men with previous war experience.

By March 1943 more than 400 people were employed in the civil defence of the Palace under the supervision of the Air Raid Precautions Committee.

The Volunteers took part in Palace fire-watching and sentry duties in addition to manning a gun at the exit to Westminster underground station and taking responsibility for anti-tank measures on Westminster Bridge.

Despite their best efforts to protect the building, the Palace was bombed a number of times during the war - most notably in May 1941, when the House of Commons Chamber was destroyed.

Related listings (1223)
See all related listings »
Related resources (724)
See all related resources »