Skip to main content

Public buildings

Parliament passed much legislation in the 18th and early 19th centuries authorising the construction of individual public buildings.

Local economy

A good example of this practice was the 1722 Act for the construction of a handsome new 'exchange' building in Bristol where merchants could meet and do business. The Act followed petitions to Parliament from the city corporation, its merchants and traders and other chief inhabitants.


Beginning in the late 1760s, a series of Acts enabled individual towns to build theatres. The first two of these were passed in 1768 for building a 'Theatre Royal' at Bath and another at Norwich.


From the 1780s, local Acts were initiating the construction of imposing new prison buildings in county towns throughout the country. Similarly, the County Asylums Act of 1808 initiated the process of constructing purposely designed buildings for the treatment of the mentally ill. The first of these was opened at Nottingham in 1811.


The New Churches Act of 1818 endeavoured to address the problem of an inadequate number of Anglican churches for growing town populations. The Act provided a fund of £1,000,000 for building new churches, and by 1834 no fewer than 134 new ones had been constructed.

Related information

Historic Hansard

The House of Commons debates the Building of New Churches