The Longest Act: UK law spanning 348 metres celebrates 200th anniversary at the People’s History Museum

  • 1821 Land Tax Commissioners’ Act celebrating its 200th anniversary at People’s History Museum in Manchester 
  • Act is 348 metres long and was made from 757 pieces of parchment
  • Jenny Mabbott, head of collections: 'It feels very special for a treasure like the Longest Act to be displayed' 

A piece of legisaltion known as The Longest Act is celebrating its 200th anniversary with a display at the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

The 1821 Land Tax Commissioners’ Act was a piece of legislation passed by the UK Parliament which said commissioners could collect the money from taxes on the land, property and personal property for the government.

The reason for its length of 348 metres is that the act names all 65,000 commissioners who could collect tax for the government, a practice that was in operation until 1963.

If unrolled the act would reach a quarter of a mile long and take 10 minutes to walk from end to end and back again.

The Longest Act rolled up
The Longest Act rolled together

Although famous for its length, the act was also pivotal in the reorganising of tax collection as the UK developed during the industrial revolution and was central to the government maximising revenue raised by the tax.

The act is currently on display at the People’s History Museum on loan from the UK Parliament Archives.

Head of collections Jenny Mabbott said: “When we were approached by parliament, we thought it was a really important way to connect with parliamentary archives as we are the museum of national democracy.

“It’s the first time the act has been on loan and it’s a good opportunity for it to come to a different area.

“It’s great for the museum and for the audiences and communities to see things on loan that they wouldn’t otherwise see, we have had loans in the past but nothing as high-profile as this.

“Before the act got here we had to make sure we had the correct temperature and humidity controls, with it being made of animal skin if there were spikes in temperature there would be problems.”