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A Changing House : the Life Peerages Act 1958

Celebrating Fifty Years of Life Peers

2008 is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Life Peerages Act 1958, which allowed the creation of life peers. This included women, meaning women were able to sit in the House of Lords for the first time fifty years ago.

The Act achieved Royal Assent on 30 April 1958. The names of the first life peers were announced on 24 July 1958, and they were introduced in the Lords from 21 October 1958.

The Parliamentary Archives is marking the anniversary with an exhibition this summer in the Royal Gallery, House of Lords.

A Changing House: the Life Peerages Act 1958. An exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the admission of life peers to the House of Lords.

Royal Gallery, House of Lords, 12 June – 26 September 2008.

On display will be documents from the Parliamentary Archives and works of art from the Palace of Westminster collection illustrating the history and achievements of life peers and women in Parliament. This will include the original Life Peerages Act vellum, the Test Roll signed by all the first life peers in 1958, and a banner unveiled by suffragettes in the House of Commons one hundred years ago in 1908.

Access: Free guided visits to the exhibition incorporating a commentary on the history of women & Parliament, including the suffragettes.

Available at 10 AM and 11 AM on Mondays & Tuesdays (16 June – 22 July), and on Wednesdays & Thursdays (30 July - 25 September).

No need to book: arrive at St. Stephen’s Entrance, Palace of Westminster, and present yourself at the Visitor Service Desk in Westminster Hall. Please arrive 20 minutes before your chosen tour time, and allow up to 45 minutes for your guided visit. 

Large groups (10+) only: please provide information a week in advance of your visit via email to cto@parliament.uk

Life Peerages Act 1958: original act vellum front cover
Read the text of the Life Peerages Act 1958  PDF file
Barbara Wootton, photographed in the 1970s

Who were the first life peers?

The first life peer to obtain his letters patent was Lord Fraser of Lonsdale (Sir William Jocelyn Ian Fraser) on 1 August 1958. The first life peer to be introduced in the Lords was Lord Parker of Waddington (Sir Hubert Lister Parker) on 21 October 1958. However, Lord Parker was actually the last of the eleven male life peers to be announced in 1958. He was additional to the first list of ten men and four women which had been announced on 24 July 1958, because his peerage was consequent to his creation as Lord Chief Justice; his life peerage was announced on 5 September 1958.

The remaining male life peers created in 1958 were:  Lord Stonham (Victor John Collins), Lord Geddes of Epsom (Sir Charles John Geddes), Lord Granville-West (Daniel Granville West), Lord Taylor (Stephen James Lake Taylor), Lord Shackleton  (Sir Edward Arthur Alexander Shackleton), Lord Twining (Sir Edward Francis Twining), Lord Boothby (Sir Robert John Graham Boothby), Lord Ferrier  (Victor Ferrier Noel-Paton) and Lord Stopford of Fallowfield (Sir John Sebastian Bach Stopford). They were all introduced into the Lords on 21 and 22 October 1958, except for Lord Boothby, who was introduced on 12 November 1958, and Lord Stopford, who was introduced on 10 March 1959.

Four women peers were created in 1958. The first woman peer to receive her letters patent, dated 8 August 1958,  was Baroness Wootton of Abinger (Barbara Frances Wootton Wright).

The first woman peer to take her seat in the Lords was Baroness Swanborough (Dame Stella Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading), ahead of Baroness Wootton on 21 October 1958.

The remaining two women peers were introduced on 22 October 1958, Baroness Elliot of Harwood (Dame Katharine Elliot) and Baroness Ravensdale of Kedleston (Mary Irene Curzon). Baroness Ravensdale was also a hereditary woman peer in her own right, but hereditary women peers were not able to sit in the House of Lords until the Peerages Act 1963.

The first woman peer to speak in the Lords was Baroness Elliot, who made her maiden speech on 4 November 1958.

After the passage of the Peerages Act 1963, the first hereditary woman peer to take her seat was Baroness Strange of Knokin. She took her seat on 19 November 1963.

Katharine Elliot, photographed in the 1970s
House of Lords Library Note: The Life Peerages Act 1958
The history of the Act and its passage through Parliament PDF file
House of Lords Library Note: Peerage Creations, 1958-2007
Information about life peers, with lists of all life peers created under the Life Peerages Act, including women peers. PDF file
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Updated 05/06/2008 17:20