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The Longest Act celebrates its 200th birthday at People’s History Museum

21 September 2021

On display until Sunday 5 December 2021

Left to right The Longest Act (Land Tax Commissioners Act, 1821 Roll imaging, details and conservation (c) Parliamntary Archives

At 348 metres long and being made from 757 pieces of parchment (animal skin), in a world that is increasingly digital the Longest Act holds even more fascination.  This piece of legislation, the 1821 Land Tax Commissioners’ Act, is physically the longest law UK Parliament has passed and to mark its 200th birthday it will be on display at People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester (until 5 December 2021) thanks to a UK Parliamentary Archives loan.

Put into context this unique object spans more than the length of three football fields or almost a quarter of a mile, which puts it into a class of its own.  Its length was necessary to capture the names of the 65,000 Commissioners who would collect the money taxed on land, property and personal property, a practice that was in operation until 1963.  These men (no women) included local gentry, doctors, lawyers, merchants and shopkeepers who took on this role for Parliament and yet the majority did not have the right to vote themselves.

Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections & Engagement for People’s History Museum, says, “It feels very special for a treasure like the Longest Act to be displayed at the national museum of democracy the first time it has been exhibited outside of Parliament, and for this to be on its 200th birthday.  It reminds us what a detailed process the work and undertakings of Parliament are and that how differently this work is recorded in the modern world.  It’s a wonderful artefact and we are thrilled that visitors to People’s History Museum will be able to see it.”

Adrian Brown, Director of the Parliamentary Archives, says, “We are delighted to be loaning the Longest Act to People’s History Museum. The Parliamentary Archives is committed to making our collections as accessible as possible to a wide range of audiences. This spotlight loan, the first we have undertaken, is very important to us in advancing this goal, and we are very grateful to People’s History Museum for facilitating it.”

Also celebrating its 200th birthday this year and on display at the museum is the Tin Plate Workers Society banner, and its claim to fame is that it is the oldest surviving trade union banner in the world.  It was created for the Society by flag maker William Dixon, by painting oil on linen, and was paraded in Liverpool to commemorate the coronation of George IV in 1821.  It carries a message that was intended to assert the union’s patriotism at a time when the Society, whose members handmade many household items, encountered government and employer repression.  There is lots of symbolism to pick out, some of which also features as part of the Family Friendly I Spy activity trail.

The Tin Plate Workers Society banner is on permanent display at People’s History Museum, where it joins a display of banners that changes at the beginning of each year to enable visitors to see as much as possible of a collection that includes the largest number of political and trade union banners in the world.

People’s History Museum’s opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday, from 10.00am to 4.00pm; the Longest Act (until 5 December 2021) and Tin Plate Workers Society banner are both on display in Main Gallery One.  The museum and its exhibitions are free to visit with a suggested donation of £5.  To find out about visiting the museum, its full exhibitions and events programme based both at the museum and online visit, and you can keep up to date with the latest news by signing up to receive PHM’s e-newsletter, subscribing to the blog, or following the museum on social media on Twitter @PHMMcr, Facebook @PHMMcr, and Instagram @phmmcr.



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About People’s History Museum (PHM)
People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester is the national museum of democracy, telling the story of its development in Britain: past, present, and future.  The museum provides opportunities for all people to learn about, be inspired by and get involved in ideas worth fighting for; ideas such as equality, social justice, co-operation, and a fair world for all.  PHM offers a powerful programme with varied themes; 2018 looked at representation and commemorated 100 years since the first women and all men won the right to vote in Britain, in 2019 the focus was on protest to mark the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, the 2020-2021 programme is on the theme of migration and 2022 will explore disabled people’s rights and activism.  Previous winner of Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award.

We are hugely grateful for the generosity of our funders who have supported People’s History Museum (PHM) during our period of closure and to reopen safely:

Arts Council England, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Here for Culture, Manchester City Council and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

About Arts Council England (ACE)
PHM is an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation (NPO).  The work of PHM is supported using public funding by ACE, the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives.  ACE support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.  Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us.  In short, it makes life better.  Between 2018 and 2022, ACE will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from The National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

About Parliamentary Archives
The Parliamentary Archives collects, preserves and makes accessible the records of the UK Parliament. It aims to provide innovative and expert information management, preservation, access and outreach services enabling anyone in the world to use Parliament’s records, both now and in the future. For more information visit

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