A tribute to Harry Cobb

The History of Parliament staff were sad to hear about the recent death of Harry Cobb, Clerk of the Records at the House of Lords Record Office 1981-1991. A major contributor to the study of parliamentary history, he will be greatly missed. In this blog David Prior, Head of Public Services and Outreach at the Parliamentary Archives, pays tribute…

The death of Harry Cobb on 27 June 2016 at the age of 89 has severed a connection between the Parliamentary Archives of today and the original members of staff who worked with Maurice Bond in the 1950s and early 1960s to transform the Victoria Tower into a record repository compliant with professional standards and with collections readily accessible by researchers.

Harry Cobb, 1957 © Parliamentary Archives

Harry Cobb, 1957 © Parliamentary Archives

When Harry joined what was then known as the House of Lords Record Office in 1953 it was only 7 years since Bond had been appointed to the post of Clerk of the Records following the decision of the House of Lords to establish an office with responsibility for the accumulation of records in the Victoria Tower which dated back to 1497. In the years that followed Harry played a significant part in the refurbishment of the Tower which was reopened in 1963. This picture from 1957 shows him at work in the repository, surrounded by various records including files of House of Lords Main papers – papers which had been laid on the table of the House and which remain an important source for historians.

In the preface to the Guide to the Records of Parliament, published in 1971, Bond wrote that Harry’s ‘comprehensive knowledge of the records and their historical background’  had contributed ‘richly’ to that publication.

Harry was eventually able to take his place at Bond’s desk in 1981, serving as Clerk until 1991. Even after he retired he returned every Monday afternoon, having had what increasingly became a very late lunch, to work on records which staff faithfully kept out for him on one of our trollies.

Harry has left us at a point when we are about to mark the 70th anniversary of the Parliamentary Archives and are consequently very conscious of the achievements of our predecessors. I for one am proud to have known him and to have thereby had a link with the work of those who laid the foundations for the work we do in the Archives today.


You can find out more about the Parliamentary Archives here.

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