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Parliament was frequently summoned to sites other than Westminster between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, including to York, Winchester, Oxford, Nottingham and to other sites in London.

However, this became substantially rarer in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Under the Tudors (1485 to 1603), all but two parliamentary sessions were held in Westminster (meeting at Blackfriars in 1523 and 1529). Under the Stuarts (1603 to 1714), four parliamentary sessions assembled at Oxford (1625, 1644, 1665 and 1681), including the Royalist parliament of 1644.

The final parliamentary session to be held outside Westminster, in Oxford in March 1681 was a response to fears of public disorder during the “Exclusion Crisis.” The session met for a single week. The “Exclusion parliaments” is the name given to three short assemblies which met in 1679, 1680 and 1681 that were dominated by issue of excluding from the throne the brother of Charles II, James, Duke of York, a Catholic. The Duke of York acceded to the throne as James II, who ruled from 1685 to 1689.

The term “parliament” and the development of the institution

Parliament grew out of a tradition of medieval assemblies and councils convened by the crown to discuss issues of law, taxation, or governance.

Especially in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, Parliament’s form, functions or composition were not firmly established.

Membership during the reign of Henry III regularly involved the King, members of royal council, and ecclesiastical and lay leaders (such as Earls and Barons). It was during the reign of Edward I (1272 to 1307) that the term “parliament” became the standard term for the meetings and the first evidence of knights being summoned as representatives of individual countries and burgesses on behalf of towns is recorded.

Even after this point, Parliament’s powers and role remained very different from today. It was not until after the Revolution of 1688-89 that Parliament sat annually and passed substantial and regular amounts of legislation. From the later seventeenth century, contested elections and the development of political parties also became part of the political landscape. Before this point, Parliament’s meetings were infrequent and unpredictable in their timing and length, as were their legislative and judicial output. 

The downloadable Excel file lists the year, monarch, and location of English and Welsh Parliaments (from the Acts of Union with Wales passed from 1536 to 1524) held away from Westminster from the early 13th century. Source details are available in the Excel file.  

Further information  

For further reading on the history and development of parliament, see:

Parliament: facts and figures

The Parliament: facts and figures series covers topics including elections, government, legislation, Members and parliamentary business. 

Please get in touch with us at with comments, corrections, or if you would like to access the data in a different format. 

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