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Open House London, Portcullis House and Westminster Hall

Saturday in Portcullis House

Portcullis House, on the Embankment, will be open as part of Open House London. The building, opened in 2001 by Her Majesty the Queen, provides office spaces for MPs and their staff as well as Committee and other meeting rooms. It was designed and built by the architects Michael Hopkins and Partners.

Throughout the day parliamentary staff will be on-hand to provide information about the workings of Parliament, its archives and collections as well as giving a series of talks on subjects such as the design of the building and the Elizabeth Tower (home to Big Ben).

At 2.30pm David Prior, from the Parliamentary Archives, will be giving a talk on the relationship between Magna Carta and Parliament since the sealing of the Great Charter in 1215, referencing documents such as the Habeas Corpus Act (1679) and the Bill of Rights (1689) which are held by the Parliamentary Archives. Booking is not required but places will be offered on a first come first served basis.

Throughout the day, the ballot box used in the first election held by secret ballot in August 1872, will be on display. The ballot box has been kindly loaned to us by Pontefract Museum and this will be its first visit to Parliament. You can still see how the box was sealed with liquorice and hear what the box means to individuals from the past and present. 

The Jubilee Café will be open and so you might just wish to have a chat over a cup of tea, perhaps with one of our special guests from history? Finally you will also find the team on hand to give you information about the Parliament in the Making and Festival of Freedoms programme.

Sunday in Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, dating from 1097, will be open along with St Stephen's Hall and the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft.

In the hall you will be able to view the banners which form the year-long exhibition, ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome', which tells the story of British democracy from 1215 to 2015. Maria Amidu, one of nine artists commissioned to create the banners, will be leading a workshop during the afternoon which will enable you to make your own contribution to the 2015 celebrations through demonstrating your commitment to liberty.

Alongside some of the banners will be historical artefacts from Quarry Bank Mill including their apprentices' indentures (work agreements) and the Parliamentary Works of Art collection relating to the Suffragettes. The ballot box used in the first secret ballot will be on display and curators from Pontefract Museum (who are loaning the box) will be on hand to answer your questions.

Some special guests from history will be with us too! Visitors will have the chance to question Charles I on whether he was a traitor in the very spot where he was put on trial in 1649.


This event is free of charge. Admission to Parliament for Open House London is free to visitors from the UK and overseas on a first come, first served basis. There are no advanced booking facilities for this event.

Find out more about Open House at Parliament

Find out about the Festival of Freedoms programme


2015: Parliament in the Making

Join Parliament as we commemorate a series of major anniversaries in 2015: 750 years since De Montfort Parliament and 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta.