The Putney Debates

Putney Debates 1647 Exhibition

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  • In 1647, this church was the forum for the first debates about the nature of democracy in England. It was the first known discussion of democracy in Europe since the ancient Greeks. England was in the throes of a civil war and members of the New Model Army, waiting near London to maintain pressure on Parliament, sat in St Mary’s Church in Putney discussing the nature of the society that they wanted to see emerge from the civil war. They formulated the first known account of a doctrine of male suffrage in Britain.

    It remains part of our heritage, and we have a permanent exhibition about the Putney Debates, funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund.

    For opening times please ring 020 8788 4414. Whilst the exhibition is generally open on weekdays and Saturdays, it is important to check when planning your visit, since it is closed for the midday service on Wednesdays and when other occasional pre-booked events are taking place.

    We also have a website relating to our permanent HLF funded exhibition: 

Putney Debates 2017

St Mary’s Church is the site of the original Putney Debates, the first debates about the nature of democracy in England. Here, 370 years ago, with England in the throes of civil war, civilians and ordinary soldiers in the New Model Army met to discuss the constitution and the future of the country. Here is a second chance to hear the 2017 debates in full, featuring a range of themes presented by distinguished guest speakers.

Please see the programme listed below and follow the link to hear the sessions:

Session I: Parliament and the People

2.00-4.00pm, Thursday 2nd February 2017

Session II: Changing and Strengthening the Role of the People
5.30-7.30pm, Thursday 2nd February 2017

Session III: Parliament, the Executive, and the Courts
2.00-4.00pm, Friday 3rd February 2017

Session IV: Preserving the Liberal Constitution
5.30-7.30pm, Friday 3rd February 2017

Constitution in Crisis: The New Putney Debates

Following the success of the Putney Debates 2017, the Oxford Foundation for Law, Justice and Society has published a collected volume of essays to emerge from the Debates.

Constitution in Crisis: The New Putney Debates is available to buy in bookshops and from us at St Mary’s Church, Putney.

Featuring contributions from commentators including A.C. GraylingVernon BogdanorDavid Runciman, Timothy Garton Ash and our very own Rev’d Canon Ailsa Newby, the volume brings together 25 prominent intellectuals to grapple with the Brexit conundrum and debate the constitutional crisis at the heart of today’s politics.

Putney Debates book

The Invisible Revolution

The English revolution of the 17th century is almost invisible in modern London. Historian Dr. Neil Faulkner visits the site of the Putney Debates where revolutionary events took place and uncovers a story that has largely been forgotten by the British establishment.

Click on the link to watch this documentary filmed at St Mary’s Church: