An oil painting of the House of Commons by Leopold Braun

A new exhibition has opened in Parliament’s Westminster Hall called Parliament and the First World War.

The free display is now open to the public and will be running until 28th September. Visitors also on tours of the Palace of Westminster will have access to the exhibition. 

Parliament and the First World War

The exhibition includes a multi-touch display enabling visitors to explore documents, painting and objects to demonstrate the profound changes in parliament and democracy that occurred during the war years.

There will also be a light projection of the names of those recorded on the World War One memorials in Parliament. These names include the 46 Parliamentarians and 26 Parliamentary staff killed in service.

The exhibition highlights personal sacrifice through the stories of people connected with Parliament, including William Leveson-Gower, a clerk who began working in Parliament in 1908. He witnessed the Foreign Secretary’s 1914 speech in the House of Commons Chamber on Britain’s intention to join the war, giving him a unique insight into the political developments of the day. 

In Parliament, as elsewhere, women stepped up during the war to occupy many roles traditionally held by men, a development which was the subject of many serious debates at the time. Visitors to the exhibition will learn how that dynamic played out in Parliament itself, through the story of the Girl Porters - the first women to work in the House of Commons who were not either cleaning or kitchen staff. 

Groups can also book special tours and benefit from group packages when visiting the Houses of Parliament.

Comments on the exhibition

Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, speaker of the House of Commons, said: “We are honoured to be holding this important exhibition inside Westminster Hall. The First World War was felt across generations and borders, with no part of the UK or the Commonwealth untouched by the conflict.”

Rt. Hon. Lord Fowler, speaker of the House of Lords, said: “This exhibition pays tribute to brave members of both Houses, and staff, who worked so hard to protect Parliament, ensured that our democracy could continue to function, and even laid down their lives during the First World War.”

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