Graphical version

London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/017

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1844-1962

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 44 production units.

Name of creator(s): Union Society of London | debating society


Administrative/Biographical history:

According to tradition, the Union Society of London was founded in 1835 by members of the Oxford and Cambridge Unions. Its stated object was the promotion of debate and its laws were analogous to those of the two University Unions. Debates were conducted in accordance with House of Commons principles. The Society originally met at the members' private houses in rotation. However, by 1844 it was meeting in Lyon's Inn, Wych Street. It subsequently held meetings at the Alpine Club, St. Martin's Place, 1865-8; Dick's Coffee House, 7 Fleet Street, 1869; the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, 1 Adam Street, 1870-86; and the Century Club, 6 Pall Mall Place, 1886-7. It was amalgamated with the Mansfield Debating Society in 1886. In February 1887, it was removed to the Inner Temple Lecture Hall where it remained until the beginning of the First World War, when attendances sank so low that meetings were held in members' chambers. From 1916 to its demise, ca. 1958, the Society met in the Middle Temple common room. Its membership comprised mainly members and students of the legal profession in addition to members of the Oxford and Cambridge Unions. Distinguished visitors were also invited to attend debates and the Society's annual dinner.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Union Society of London, debating society. They comprise: regulations, 1877-1938 (Ms 22403-4); minutes, 1844-1947 (Ms 22405-6); report re treasurer's account, 1904 (Ms 22407); records concerning members, 1876-ca. 1959 (Ms 22408-10); accounts, 1862-1962 (Ms 22411-16); instructions regarding procedures, undated (Ms 22417); papers regarding the history of the Society, 1885-ca. 1924 (Ms 22418-19); and papers regarding debates, speeches and annual dinners, 1921-58 (Ms 22420-3). Although the Society appears to have ceased meeting formally in 1957 or 1958 (notices of debates last appear in the Law Journal for 1957), two of its members continued to pay subscriptions until 1961/2 (Ms 22413). Records catalogued by a member of Guildhall Library staff in 1987.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The records have been arranged in order reflecting the record function, e.g. administration, financial and so on.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The surviving records of the Society were donated to Guildhall Library in 1987. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.


Publication note:

A published history of the Society, The Union Society of London: the First Hundred Years, by K. Ingram and A. Llewellyn (1935) is available in the Printed Books Section of the Guildhall Library. A proof copy is contained among the archives (Ms 22418).

DESCRIPTION NOTES Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: June to August 2010.

Debating | Group communication | Communication process
Debating societies | Societies | Associations | Organizations
Discussion groups | Groups
Learned societies | Associations | Organizations
Speeches | Literary forms and genres | Literature

Personal names

Corporate names
Cambridge University x University of Cambridge
Oxford University x University of Oxford
Union Society of London | debating society

London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe