Magna Carta banner gifted to Lincoln Castle from Houses of Parliament

A special banner created for the Houses of Parliament to mark 800 years of Magna Carta is to have a new home at Lincoln Castle.

Parliament commissioned nine artists to produce 18 banners commemorating key moments along the journey to modern democracy in celebration of the anniversary of the historic document.

These were displayed in Westminster Hall throughout 2015 in an exhibition entitled ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome’.

Now, the banner commemorating radical MP and journalist John Wilkes’ 1771 drive for freedom of speech in Parliament has been gifted to Lincoln Castle.

Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Culture and Heritage. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Culture and Heritage. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Culture and Heritage, said: “We’re very grateful to the Houses of Parliament for this generous gift.

“As the home of an original 1215 Magna Carta, the castle is the ideal place for this wonderful banner to be displayed.

“It’s a very impressive piece of work and I think it will look spectacular.

“I hope many people will take the time to come and see it.”

John Wilkes was a popular national figure, who was convicted in 1764 for publishing an attack on George III and the Government.

Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln, said: “Politicians and political publications have often faced censorship; achieving freedom of speech in Parliament was a milestone moment in our history.

“In 1771, John Wilkes MP used his influence in the City of London to protect people who printed parliamentary debates from arrest.

“That moment paved the way for access to parliamentary debates; from Hansard (Parliament’s official record), to radio and television broadcasts, and online streaming.

“I am thrilled that Lincoln Castle has been selected to receive the 1771 Wilkes: Freedom of Speech in Parliament.

“Having been on public display in Parliament’s Westminster Hall throughout 2015, it is fantastic that thousands of visitors to the castle will have the opportunity to see the banner closer to home.”

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney. Photo: Steve Smailes/The Lincolnite

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney. Photo: Steve Smailes/The Lincolnite

The 5m x 3m banner, designed by British artist Ruth Ewan, features wording from a famous parliamentary speech by MP Peter Wentworth in 1576: ‘Sweet indeed is the word liberty but the thing itself holds a value beyond all inestimable treasure’.

Wentworth was imprisoned for defying Elizabeth I’s restrictions on freedom of speech in Parliament. He was repeatedly imprisoned for expressing his views, and he died in the Tower of London in 1596.

The banner is being officially presented to the castle at a special ceremony at the Houses of Parliament on Thursday, January 21.