The parliamentary archives are housed in the Victoria Tower. Named after Queen Victoria it is the tallest tower at the Palace of Westminster. It stands at a height of 325 feet and was the tallest stone tower in the world when it was completed. It was specifically built to house the parliamentary records in fire proof rooms, after the previous building was destroyed by fire in 1834. The parliamentary records have been housed there since 1860 apart from when they were temporarily moved during wartime. On the rooftop is a flagpole which flies the Union flag or when the sovereign is present the Royal Standard.
On the 1st floor we were able to look down through an opening to the Sovereign’s Entrance, which is the route the monarch uses whenever they have visited the Palace.
The highlight of the tour was visiting the impressive original Act Room which holds the acts of parliament dating from 1497.
Most of the acts are on rolled up sheets of velum, parchment made from sheep or goat skin.
The acts are of different sizes with the larger scrolls usually being financial acts as they contain the list of the tax collectors’ names. The smaller ones tend to be private acts, for example at one time obtaining a divorce required a private act of parliament.
The Parliamentary Archives search room is open to the public for research purposes by appointment all year round, Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm. Pre-booked guided tours usually including a visit to the Act Room are available free of charge to educational, historical or other interest groups.
For more details see the Parliamentary Archives website here.
Take a virtual tour of the original Act Room here.
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.