The Woolsack is the seat of the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords, the Upper House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. From the Middle Ages until 2006, the presiding officer in the House of Lords was the Lord Chancellor and the Woolsack was usually mentioned in association with the office of Lord Chancellor. In July 2006, the function of Lord Speaker was split from that of Lord Chancellor.

The Woolsack is a large, wool-stuffed cushion or seat covered with red cloth; it has neither a back nor arms. The Lords' Mace is placed on the rear part of the Woolsack.

Introduced in the 14th century, the seat was originally stuffed with English wool, which, due to the importance of the wool trade, was a symbol of the nation's prosperity. When the Woolsack was remade after damage in the Second World War, wool from the various nations of the Commonwealth was used, in order to symbolise the Commonwealth's unity.

The Lord Speaker may speak from the Woolsack when speaking in his or her capacity as Speaker of the House, but must, if he or she seeks to debate, deliver his or her remarks either from the left side of the Woolsack, or from the normal seats of the Lords.

If a Deputy Speaker presides in the absence of the Lord Speaker, then that individual uses the Woolsack. However, when the House meets in the "Committee of the Whole", the Woolsack remains unoccupied, and the presiding officer, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman, occupies a Chair at the front of the table of the House.

In front of the Woolsack is an even larger cushion known as the Judges' Woolsack. During the State Opening of Parliament, the Judges' Woolsack is occupied by the Law Lords. The seat, however, is by no means restricted to judges only; during normal sittings, any Lord may occupy it.

In an episode of Rumpole of the Bailey Rumpole is appalled when it appears his pompous superior is going to "sit on the Woolsack" (become Lord Chancellor).


* [http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom90/woolsack.htm The Woolsack] at the UK Parliament site. URL accessed February 6, 2006
* [http://www.explore.parliament.uk/Parliament.aspx?id=125&subSection=true The Interior of the House of Lords] at the Explore Parliament website. URL accessed April 25, 2006. Right-click on the image to see it at full resolution. The woolsacks are the large, low, rectangular objects in front of the throne, surrounded by ropes.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Woolsack — Wool sack , n. A sack or bag of wool; specifically, the seat of the lord chancellor of England in the House of Lords, being a large, square sack of wool resembling a divan in form. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Woolsack — ► NOUN ▪ (in the UK) the Lord Chancellor s wool stuffed seat in the House of Lords …   English terms dictionary

  • woolsack — [wool′sak΄] n. 1. a sack of wool 2. a cushion stuffed with wool, on which the British Lord Chancellor sits in the House of Lords …   English World dictionary

  • Woolsack — 51°29′55.7″N 0°07′29.5″O / 51.498806, 0.124861 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Woolsack — Der Woolsack im ehemaligen irischen House of Lords. Der Woolsack ist der Sitzplatz des Lordkanzlers (bzw. seit 2006 des Lord Speaker) im britischen House of Lords. Er ist ein großes, mit Wolle gestopftes Kissen. Er ist mit rotem Stoff überzogen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Woolsack — noun 1》 (in the UK) the Lord Chancellor s wool stuffed seat in the House of Lords. 2》 (the woolsack) the position of Lord Chancellor …   English new terms dictionary

  • woolsack — /ˈwʊlsæk/ (say woolsak) noun 1. (in Britain) the seat of the speaker (formerly the Lord Chancellor) in the House of Lords, originally made of a large, square, cloth covered bag of wool. 2. (formerly) the office of the Lord Chancellor. 3. a sack… …   Australian English dictionary

  • woolsack — noun Date: 14th century 1. archaic woolpack 2 2. a cushion that is the official seat of the Lord Chancellor or his deputy in presiding over the House of Lords …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • woolsack — /wool sak /, n. 1. a sack or bag of wool. 2. Brit. a. (in the House of Lords) one of a number of cloth covered seats or divans stuffed with wool, for the use of judges, esp. one for the Lord Chancellor. b. the Lord Chancellor s office. [1250… …   Universalium

  • Woolsack — The large red cushion, stuffed with wool, on which the lord *chan cellor sits as speaker of the House of Lords. It signified just how vital the wool trade was to the national economy. At first it was simply a sack filled with wool for the judges… …   Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases