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The Putney Debates Exhibition at the

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Putney,  London, England


Illustrations by Clare Melinsky, 

The Putney Debates 1647 Exhibition

 This permanent exhibition stands as a monument to celebrate one of the most important events in our constitutional history.


St Mary's Church, Putney (by Putney Bridge)

the site where the Putney Debates were held in 1647.


Normal Opening Hours: 

Monday - Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm.

Please call 020 8788 4414 before visiting as weekly events in the church can cause the exhibition to temporarily close.

The Putney Debates DVD is now available



 Rampart Lion Publications




The Putney Debates of 1647 - The Conception of British Democracy

From the 28th October to 9th November 1647, soldiers and officers of Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, including civilian representation, held discussions on the constitution and future of England. 


Should they continue to negotiate a settlement with the defeated King Charles I?  Should there even be 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? 


This 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. 



The Exhibition  


The exhibition is 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 community.  

St Mary's Mediaeval Tower

St Mary's Church, Putney 1797

The 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, where 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 globe.

The exhibition is 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.

House of Commons portcullis

The 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. 


These debates on constitutional reform in Britain paved the way for many of the civil liberties we value today.

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