Great Parchment Book awarded UNESCO Memory of the World status

The Great Parchment Book of The Honourable the Irish Society will be inscribed to the UK register of the UNESCO Memory of the World, a move which puts on record its iconic and historical significance.

The announcement will be made tonight (21 June 2016) at the UK Memory of the World awards at the Senedd in Cardiff, hosted by the First Minister, and aimed at recognising documentary heritage collections of ‘outstanding significance to the UK’.

The Great Parchment Book of The Honourable the Irish Society is a hugely significant record of the Ulster Plantation in the early 17th century, providing a unique insight into an important period of the history of Northern Ireland, for which there are few other original archives surviving. The Great Parchment Book is central to the study of the Plantation and the social, economic, cultural, religious, and political history of Northern Ireland. Historians say that it cannot be overstated how important the Plantation of Ulster was to the history of Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and it still has influence today.

Geoff Pick, Director of the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives, said:

“My colleagues at LMA are delighted that the Great Parchment Book will be inscribed to the UK Register. The addition of the Great Parchment Book means that four items under London Metropolitan Archives’ stewardship have now been added to this important register, the others being, the Charter of William I to the City of London, London County Council Bomb Damage Maps, and Robert Hooke’s Diary 1672-83.

“No other public archive service has achieved this, which demonstrates the importance of the History of London collections held by LMA which, along with the printed collections at Guildhall Library, are also designated as ‘outstanding’ by the Arts Council England.”

The Great Parchment Book is also notable for being badly damaged in a fire in 1786, which led to it being unavailable to researchers for over 200 years, and for being successfully reconstructed as a result of a cutting-edge digital imaging project.

Edward Montgomery, Secretary of The Honourable The Irish Society said:

“We are delighted that the Great Parchment Book of The Honourable The Irish Society has been awarded UNESCO Memory of the World status and pleased that The Honourable The Irish Society was able to play a pivotal role in bringing the manuscript ‘back to life’.

“The Book is such a marvellous testament to history and provides a fantastic account from 1639 of the City of London’s role in the Plantation of Ulster and its administration. It is a wonderful tool for anyone interested in their ancestral history within Ulster and an excellent teaching aid for those exploring early modern Ireland.”

In 2013, The Rt Hon Peter D Robinson MLA, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, wrote that the Great Parchment Book was “a veritable treasure trove of information relating to a most significant period in the history of Ulster; and illustrating as never before the central role played by the London Guilds in the creation and preservation of the city of Londonderry and its environs.” During his visit to the United Kingdom in 2014, Michael D Higgins, the President of Ireland, viewed a display of folios from the Great Parchment Book at a State Banquet in his honour at Guildhall.

The City of London Corporation invests £80m every year in heritage and cultural activities of all kind; and cares for its heritage through institutions, such as London Metropolitan Archives, The Monument, Keats House, and Tower Bridge.

Click here to see short film on the restoration of the Great Parchment Book of The Honourable The Irish Society.


Notes for Editors:

John Park, Senior Media Officer, City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 3639 / Mobile: 07824 343456


About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation provides local government and policing services for the financial and commercial heart of Britain, the 'Square Mile'. In addition, the City Corporation has three roles: (1) it supports London’s communities by working in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on economic regeneration, education and skills projects. In addition, the City of London Corporation’s charity, the City Bridge Trust, makes grants of more than £15 million annually to charitable projects across London; and it also supports education with three independent schools, three academic schools, a primary school and the world-renowned Guildhall School of Music & Drama; (2) It also helps look after key London heritage and green spaces including Tower Bridge, Museum of London, Barbican Centre, London Metropolitan Archives, City gardens, Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches, and important ‘commons’ in south London; and (3) it also supports and promotes the ‘City’ as the world’s leading international financial and business centre, with outward and inward business delegations, high-profile civic events, research-driven policies all reflecting a long-term approach.

About the London Metropolitan Archives:

London Metropolitan Archives is a public research centre, which specialises in the history of London. The majority of items in an archive are unique, handwritten documents which cannot be seen anywhere else. It cares for, and provides access to, the historical archives of businesses, schools, hospitals charities and all manner of other organisations from the London area. With 100km of books, maps, photographs, films and documents dating back to 1067 in our strong rooms, it is proud to provide access to one of the finest city archives in the world - you could call it the memory of London. Our users have a wide range of research interests, including family, community and local history, and it works with students, artists, producers and architects.

London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB
Admission: Free, check websites for opening times.

The nearest underground stations are Farringdon and Angel.

About the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme:

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was established in London in 1945 to promote a culture of peace by fostering intercultural dialogue and international cooperation through collaborative work in the fields of education, the natural and social sciences, culture, communication and information. The UNESCO Memory of the World Programme aims to facilitate preservation of the world's documentary and audio-visual heritage, to assist universal access and to increase awareness worldwide of the existence and significance of this documentary heritage. UNESCO’s International and national level Memory of the World Registers are catalogues of the world’s most prized documentary and audio-visual heritage.

The UK Memory of the World Committee is a voluntary team of expert, UK-based librarians and archivists, who administer and review applications to the Registers.

To learn more about the MoW programme visit

Full list of 2016 Awards:

UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register

Inscribed collections 2016

About the Great Parchment Book:


The Great Parchment Book of the Honourable The Irish Society is a major survey, compiled in 1639 by a Commission instituted under the Great Seal by Charles I, of all the estates in Derry managed by the City of London Corporation through the Irish Society and City of London livery companies. It represents a hugely important source for James I's policy of settling or 'planting' Ulster with English and Scottish Protestants, a policy which the City and livery companies were reluctantly compelled to administer. Given the paucity of archival records for early modern Ireland, the manuscript contains key data about landholding and population in Ulster at this time, not only for the English and Scottish settlers, but also for the native Irish, as well as information about the relationship with London and central government. This Domesday of the Ulster Plantation documents a significant period in the history of Northern Ireland and still has resonance today. The Great Parchment Book provides a key record of the population of early 17th century Ulster at the time of the Plantation, not just the Protestant settlers who came from both England and Scotland, but also the native Irish, and exceptionally many women, at all social levels. It contains unique information about the properties and individual buildings they inhabited, as well as the extent and layout of the towns of Coleraine and Londonderry.