Records of the House of Lords

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The records consist of: calendar of the journals of the House of Lords, 1509-1642, and 1660-1741, with a collection of all the protestations entered in the journals of the House of Lords, 1641-1740; and, an order to J. Thomson to give evidence before the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the state of circulation of promissory notes in Scotland and Ireland, 1826.

Administrative / Biographical History

The modern House of Lords has its origins in 11th century Anglo-Saxon witans or councils consulted by early kings and attended by religious leaders, magnates and the king's own ministers - the nobility of the country. These often assembled at Westminster Hall which was built in 1097-1099 as part of an intended reconstruction of the Palace of Westminster. By the 13th century, King Henry III (1216-1272) was meeting opposition from his nobles who were discontented by his various schemes and the 1258 Provisions of Oxford imposed a more permanent baronial Council which was to meet regularly. Attendance at these Councils began to include representatives of counties, cities and boroughs. The leader of the movement behind the new form of Council was Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester (d. 1265). By the 14th century, two distinct houses emerged within this forerunner of parliament, namely the Commons composed of shire and borough representatives, and the Lords composed of religious leaders (Lords Spiritual) and magnates (Lords Temporal).

Until the Reformation in the 16th century, the Lords Spiritual made up the majority of members of the House of Lords and included archbishops, bishops, abbots, and priors. After the suppression of the monasteries in 1539, only archbishops and bishops attended and the Lords Temporal formed the majority for the first time. In the 18th century, the Act of Union 1707 between Scotland and England, and the Act of Union 1800 between Great Britain and Ireland, entitled Scottish and Irish peers to elect representatives from among themselves to sit in the House of Lords (though elections for Irish representative peers ended in 1922).

Today the Lords Spiritual include the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of Durham, London and Winchester, and other senior Church of England Bishops. Until 1958, the Lords Temporal were all either hereditary peers (inheriting their titles) or Law Lords. In 1958, the Life Peerages Act was passed and this gave the Queen the entitlement to give non-hereditary titles (life peerages) to men and women on the advice of the Prime Minister and with no limit on numbers. The Peerage Act 1963 allowed hereditary peeresses to be members of the House, and entitled all Scottish peers to sit. Since the House of Lords Act 1999 removing the right of most hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House, only 99 peers sit by virtue of an inherited title. Of these, 75 were elected by their respective party groups and 17 had ceremonial offices. Senior judges also sit in the House of Lords as Lords of Appeal (Law Lords).

A White Paper for further reform of the House of Lords was published in 2001. In February 2002, a total of 700 peers were entitled to sit there.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance. Note that the order to J. Thomson to give evidence before the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the state of circulation of promissory notes in Scotland and Ireland, 1826, at Dc.7.110/1, f.2-3, was not found (11 April 2002).

Note

The order to J. Thomson to give evidence before the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the state of circulation of promissory notes in Scotland and Ireland, 1826, at Dc.7.110/1, f.2-3, was not found (11 April 2002).

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) History of the House of Lords. Full-text [online].  History of the House of Lords [Accessed 4 April 2002]. (2) The House of Lords. Full-text [online].  The House of Lords [Accessed 4 April 2002].

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Accruals

Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to House of Lords related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): A collection of all the protestations entered in the journals of the House of Lords, 1641-1732, at La.III.677; and, a letter of H. Collen to an unnamed correspondent about a scheme for warming and ventilating the House of Lords, 1847, at La.II.426/114. There is also a reference to the House of Commons (check the Indexes for more details): the affairs of the House, discussed in letters from W. C. Foster to T. Townshend, 1830, at Gen. 835/14, nos. 2-5.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes for the House of Lords: letters, state and miscellaneous papers, 17th century-18th century, House of Lords Record Office, The Parliamentary Archives, Ref. Braye papers NRA 7116, and draft journal, 1641-1642, Ref. Braye papers addnl, and 160 deeds of appointment of proxies, 1767-1816, NRA 717 Lords proxies; volume of peers' proxies, 1768-1821, Keele University Library, Ref. 6/8 NRA 1085 Richards; and, secret committee minutes, 1793, 1797-98, Hampshire Record Office, Ref. 21M57 NRA 8798 Agar. For the House of Commons: letters, state and miscellaneous papers, 17th century-18th century, House of Lords Record Office, The Parliamentary Archives, Ref. Braye papers NRA 7116; and, House of Commons Diaries, 1593, 1601, Ref. Braye papers addnl.