In search of the perfect (parliamentary) picture

ipswich photo2

In Ipswich the other day I went into the Church of St Mary Tower, and came across this wonderful and very unusual memorial to William Smart or Smarte, who died in 1599. Smart was MP for Ipswich in 1589, and was a member of the corporation for almost 40 years. He was a great benefactor to the town, with his book collection the basis of the second oldest municipal library in the country, now held at Ipswich School.
He also funded Almshouses – Smart’s Almshouses – in the town, on which his gift is commemorated with the inscription ‘Let gentle Smart sleep on in pious trust / Behold his charity, respect his dust’ . The memorial in St Mary Tower has two acrostic verses mourning and praising Smart (‘Schooles, Churches, Orphanage rooms shal keepe ye stil in sight / Men women children ould and young shal wear thee day and night / Alas then not for ye we cry but for our selves alas’), together with an image of Ipswich itself at the bottom, and a picture of Smart, praying.

I took some very poor pictures of the memorial and of Smart himself: the lights in the church and the glass on the memorial made it difficult to do a better job. But this is only one of the many wonderful treasures in local churches and elsewhere which make visible the careers of the politicians who are covered in the History of Parliament. As you can see, we’ve been trying to find images of our MPs to illustrate our website pages, with some brilliant help from individual photographers, as well as from the National Portrait Gallery, the Parliamentary Art Collection and others. But there are very many more out there.

So here’s a challenge – can you provide pictures of any of our MPs? Browse the gallery section of the site for examples of the sort of thing we’re after – tombs, monuments (preferably ones with a representation of the individual concerned on it). We’re also very happy to receive images which in some way illustrate elections in the past, which we could use on our constituency pages – perhaps showing benefactions by individual MPs to towns, or sites well known to be the site of the election.

If we use the images, we’ll of course credit them properly. If you like, we’ll send you a set of our printed volumes if we use three or more of your pictures – take your pick from any of the periods 1509-58, 1558-1603, 1660-1690, 1754-90, or 1790-1820 (be careful – they are quite large, with 2 or more volumes in each set). We’d need the images to be your own copyright, with no copyright issues about rights to use them. Please contact Emma Peplow ( with your pictures!

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