The Putney Debates Exhibition
Church of St Mary the
by Clare Melinsky,
Putney Debates 1647 Exhibition
Permanent exhibition stands as a monument to celebrate one of
the most important events in our constitutional history.
Church, Putney (by Putney Bridge)
the site where the Putney Debates were held in 1647.
- Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm.
call 020 8788 4414 before visiting as weekly events in the church
can cause the exhibition to temporarily close.
Putney Debates DVD is now available
Putney Debates of 1647
- The Conception of British Democracy
the 28th October to 9th November 1647, soldiers and officers of Oliver Cromwell's New Model
including civilian representation, held discussions on the
constitution and future of England.
they continue to negotiate a settlement with the defeated King Charles I? Should there
a King or Lords? Should suffrage (a civil right to vote, known as
the franchise) be limited to property-holders? Would democratic
changes lead to anarchy?
historic event saw ordinary soldiers take on their generals to argue for
greater democracy and provided a platform for 'common people' to make their
voices heard. These
debates, forced by the Levellers, paved the
way for many of the civil liberties we value today.
exhibition will be sited inside a dedicated enclosed area in St Mary’s
Church which is situated on the riverside at Putney, South West London.
The church was magnificently restored in 1982 after a fire
retaining many elements of the original building combined with a new
gallery and modern
café entrance which provides a lively social meeting place for the
St Mary's Mediaeval Tower
Church, Putney 1797
first mention of a church in Putney was in 1292
The Guardian national newspaper ran a readers competition to unearth which neglected event in Britain’s radical past most deserved a
proper monument. St Mary’s Church Putney, the site of the Putney Debates
was the worthy winner.
Inscribed inside the church,
one would normally expect to find an improving verse from scripture, are the
immortal words from the Debates of Colonel Rainsborough, the highest ranking
officer to support the ordinary solders:
“I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live,
as the greatest he”
The aim of the exhibition is to reach out and
engage not just local and London visitors, but on an international scale
with all those who are interested in questions of democracy around the
The exhibition will be based on
secondary source material from the Wandsworth Archives including: material
illustrating the social context of Putney and its riverside position in the
Civil War; its fiery local preacher and Cromwell’s chaplain Hugh Peters
who was also one of the founders of Harvard University in the United States
of America; an introduction to
the Debates and copies of the original transcript; and the democratic and
religious context by leading historians and human rights specialists. A fully accessible audio narrative and video will be included
as well as educational material.
English civil wars of the 1640's still stand as a pinnacle of our
progressive past and the debates at Putney in the autumn of 1647 were a
significant advance in British democracy.
debates on constitutional reform in Britain paved the way for many of the
civil liberties we value today.
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