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Records of Parliament

During the 15th and 16th centuries there were important institutional developments in Parliament, especially in its record keeping.

From its earliest days the Clerk of the Parliaments who recorded its proceedings for the Rolls of Parliament was an official of the Chancery, the principal administrative department of the King. The Clerk, as a royal official, formally worked for the Upper House, but with its increasing influence, the Commons soon acquired its own Clerk, in about 1363.

Start of an institution

By the late 15th century, Parliament had become such an important institution that it gained its own independent officials and organisation. From 1497 the Clerk began to keep the copies of the Acts passed in Parliament in his own possession at Westminster instead of returning them to the Chancery archives in the Tower of London.

The rolls on which the texts of these statutes were recorded, known as the Original Acts, were known to have been kept from at least 1621 in the Jewel Tower, one of the few surviving buildings of the old Palace of Westminster. Today these parchment rolls, with the more modern Acts of Parliament printed on parchment too, are kept by the Parliamentary Archives in the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster.

The Journals

The records of Parliament also underwent change. The business, votes and decisions of each day in the House of Lords have been recorded since 1510, though with a few omissions in the early years, and this official daily account, known as the Lords Journal, is still produced today.

The official record for the Lower House, the Commons Journal, was not started until 1547. The Journals of the two Houses of Parliament have been widely available since they were printed in the 18th century, and now some can be read online. They remain the official record of Parliament.

External links

English Heritage information on visiting the Jewel Tower

View historical Lords and Commons Journals on British History Online