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The Lords Archive in the 16th and 17th centuries

By 1509, the Clerk of the Parliaments and his assistants (today known collectively as the Parliament Office) had separated from the Chancery.

This newly-independent office gradually expanded and formalised its record keeping over the course of the 16th century. It seems, however, that the office was occasionally haphazard in its methods: Cardinal Wolsey, when Lord Chancellor, removed all the Acts and Journals relating to one session.

In 1597, the Lords passed a motion which stipulated that Journal volumes of their proceedings should be kept officially and supervised by the House (these records had previously been managed in private by the Clerk of the Parliaments).

Improved administration of the Lords Archive

So during the 17th century, a more business-like administration of the Lords Archive began under the advent of two Clerks, Robert Bowyer (1609-21) and Henry Elsynge (1621-35). Under these diligent and scholarly men, the Lords Archive gradually took on its modern form. Petitions and many forms of Papers coming to the Lords were carefully filed, and extensive series of rough Minutes and of Committee Proceedings were now preserved.

Records of the House

Early in 1621 a committee was appointed to examine the records of the House. Later in the year, no doubt as a result of the committee's findings, the peers ordered that the records of the House should be entered into the Journals, and that all the affairs of the House (such as Acts, judgments and standing orders) be recorded on parchment.

Before 1621, the records of the Lords were relatively few in number, but from that year, the peers' daily proceedings came to be documented with great thoroughness and the number of records grew rapidly.

The Jewel Tower

While these records were first kept in various rooms in the old Palace of Westminster, they were transferred to the Jewel Tower in that year. Here, the principal records of the Lords remained from 1621 to 1864, and were available throughout this period for inspection by the public on payment of a fee.

The contents of some were given still wider currency in the 18th century as certain Bills and Papers began to be printed. Also in 1767, the Lords ordered the printing of their Journals and the folio edition of 'The Statutes of the Realm' began to appear in 1810.

External link

Early Journals of the House of Lords and House of Commons can be found at British History online

Also within Living Heritage