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12 Days of Parliamentary Archives

The weeks leading up to Christmas can be hectic, so we wanted to give you a reason to take a short break from putting up Christmas decorations, shopping and wrapping presents to sit back, relax and learn more about the building that houses the Parliamentary Archives, the collections and teams that look after them.

Whether you use our collections regularly, follow us on social media, or are a first-time visitor to the blog, we hope at least one of the 12 stories we’ll be sharing will surprise and delight you. We’ll let you decide if you’d rather read one story each day on 12 days before Christmas or save them until Christmas Day when the 12 Days of Christmas starts.


Day 1: One monarch’s entrance

We’re going to kick things off by sharing some facts about Victoria Tower, which not only stands above Sovereigns but is a Victorian skyscraper that houses the Archive collection, in our blog THE OTHER TOWER | Parliamentary Archives: Inside the Act Room. Follow that up by taking a look behind the scenes in our online virtual tour of the Parliamentary Archives, led by Dr. Mari Takayanagi.


View from above of the monarch entering Parliament though an octagonal shaped whole.
The view from The Well as Queen Elizabeth II arrived for the State Opening of Parliament, 27 May 2015, Parliamentary Archives

Day 2: Two proclaiming suffragettes

This wonderful photograph shows suffragettes from the Women's Freedom League (WFL) pasting a Proclamation on a board advertising Hackney Carriage Prices. The two women are Barbara Duval (doing the pasting) and Helen Fox, standing holding more copies of the Proclamation, with a cheeky grin on her face. Learn more in our blog, Pasting the Proclamation: Helen Fox and Barbara Duval.

Black and white photograph of two women in long dresses. One woman is facing the camera with a cheeky expression, while the other is pasting a banner on a wall.
Barbara Duval and Helen Fox pasting ‘Proclamation’ posters on the wall of Scotland Yard, 12 October 1908, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/RO/1/229


Day 3: Three ghostly figures

The Parliamentary Archives Heritage Photographers uncovered some weird and wonderful details while digitising glass plate negatives in our early 20th century photographic collections. Find out more about their discoveries in their blog Haunted Glass and Hidden History – details from our photographic collections | Parliamentary Archives: Inside the Act Room.

Set of three black and white photographs of the Palace of Westminster all showing ghost like figures.
Details of photographs taken from the Farmer collection showing Speaker’s Chair, House of Lords Chamber and Division Lobby, c.1905, Parliamentary Archives, FAR/5/12, FAR/2/4 and FAR/7/3


Day 4: Four national emblems

The symbols of the United Kingdom can be spotted throughout the Palace of Westminster (if you know where to look) and the Acts of Union, which form the foundation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as it is today, are housed in the Parliamentary Archives. Learn more about the symbols and Acts in our blog Leek, Thistle, Shamrock and Rose: Symbols of the UK and the Elizabeth Tower | Parliamentary Archives: Inside the Act Room.

Drawing of a design for two stained glass windows depicting floral emblems, for the House of Commons lobby in the Palace of Westminster, 1835-1856, Parliamentary Archives, HAR/1/4


Day 5: Five conservators

The Collections Care team carried out a pilot project to research and test different conservation treatments for transparent papers in poor condition to decide how to best treat the items in our collection. Read their two-part blog Seeing through the years: The Conservation of Transparent Papers in the Parliamentary Archives Collection Part I | Parliamentary Archives: Inside the Act Room to discover more about this project.

Image of five women looking at an old volume
The Collections Care team in their studio in Victoria Tower, 5 December 2022, Parliamentary Archives


Day 6: Six years preparing

While cleaning and boxing the Archives collection to prepare them for a move offsite, one of our Collection Care Assistants was surprised and delighted to discover the creative flourishes left by past scribes in the flat acts from the Tudor period. Uncover these hidden surprises in the blog Tudor Acts ( To read more details about the Archives Relocation Programme, visit Archives Relocation Programme - UK Parliament.

Detail from An Act for the Earl of Oxford, touching the Avoidance of Certain Assurances made to the Duke of Somerset, 1551, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PB/1/1551/5E6n35


Day 7: Seven monarchs ruling

We got into the Coronation spirit by examining the role of King Charles III while he was Prince before he succeeded to the throne. But let’s not forget the six remarkable Queens that came before him in our online display Succession: Queens that Ruled.

three people standing with their backs to the camera looking at an open display case.
Parliamentary Archives staff installing the Prince in the Palace display in the Royal Gallery, 30 June 2023, Parliamentary Archives


Day 8: Eight centuries flying

Visitors to Westminster Hall have been admiring the 26 angels flying quietly overhead since the 14th century. Restored to their former glory in 2018, these angels have witnessed some amazing historic events. Discover more about the oak hammer beam roof and the disasters it’s survived in our blog Hark! The Herald Angel’s Roof | Parliamentary Archives: Inside the Act Room.

Black and white photocopy showing the angels carved into roof beams.
Westminster Hall Roof Angels, 1914, Parliamentary Archives, ARC/PRO/WORK29/3465

Day 9: Nine spoonsful of suet

If you’re still wondering what to bake for the holidays, why not try a plum pudding recipe from our Victorian recipe book? It was compiled by Lady Farnborough, wife of Thomas Erskine May, Clerk of the Commons in the 1870s. The handwritten recipes for food and medicines appear to have been gathered from households around the country and some are dated to specific years: 1857, 1866, 1874, 1876 and 1877. Many recipes in the book assume knowledge of cooking techniques and only occasionally include measurements. The ingredient measurements will need scaling down (most of the recipes produce dinner party quantities) but if you get it right, you will hopefully end up with ‘a good plum pudding’ as promised!

An open volume showing handwritten text
Two Victorian plum pudding recipes, Parliamentary Archives, ERM/18/72

Day 10: Ten facts about feathers

During a time when it was the height of fashion for ladies’ hats to be topped by stunning displays of ornamental bird feathers, women led the way in the movement to protect birds and prohibit the importation of exotic bird feathers. Learn more about the change they set in motion in our blog  PLUMAGE & PARLIAMENT | Parliamentary Archives: Inside the Act Room.


Two quill pens found underneath the floorboards of the House of Commons Library in 1979, 19th century, Parliamentary Archives, HC/LB/2


Day 11: Eleven cricketers from the Pavilion 

From 1848 members and peers put aside party allegiances for the sheer enjoyment that the game of cricket brings by joining the Lords and Commons Cricket Team. Learn more about the club and its esteemed members in our blog, HOW’S THAT!!! Parliament’s Love Affair with Cricket.

black and white photo showing men behind a picket fence.
Commons and Lords Cricket Team, July 1964, Parliamentary Archives, PUD/F/1177


Day 12: Twelve Big Ben bongs 

As the New Year approaches, we will once again hear the bongs of Big Ben ring out across London as midnight strikes. Learn more about the famous Bell and importantly when it was silenced in our blog, The New Year Chimes of Big Ben.

New Years Eve Fireworks in Westminster, 2017-18, Parliamentary Archives, PIC/D/7/5


We hope you’ve enjoyed unwrapping the 12 ‘gifts’ we selected for you. The Parliamentary Archives teams wish you all the best this holiday season and hope your new year will be full of new possibilities!

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