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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (shorthandstories.com). To read more details about the Archives Relocation Programme, visit Archives Relocation Programme - UK Parliament.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!