Save The Houses Of Par­lia­ment!

Af­ter sur­viv­ing fires, bombs and gun­pow­der plots, the fa­mous build­ing is once again un­der threat. Dianne Board­man finds out more.

The People's Friend Special - - CROCHET -

The Palace of West­min­ster, oth­er­wise known as the Houses of Par­lia­ment, is one of the most recog­nis­able build­ings in the world. Its ori­gins date back to the 11th cen­tury and it’s been un­der threat many times since then, most fa­mously by the Gun­pow­der Plot of Novem­ber 5, 1605, when a plot to as­sas­si­nate King James I (& VI of Scot­land) was foiled when the con­spir­a­tors were dis­cov­ered in a cel­lar un­der the House of Lords with 36 bar­rels of gun­pow­der.

The build­ing be­came home to Par­lia­ment af­ter a ma­jor fire in 1512, hav­ing pre­vi­ously been a palace for King Henry VIII and his var­i­ous wives. Fol­low­ing the fierce blaze, Henry took over the ad­join­ing Palace of White­hall, leav­ing the build­ing and its re­pair to his ad­min­is­tra­tive and le­gal staff.

Over 200 years later, in Oc­to­ber 1834, an­other ter­ri­ble fire swept through the build­ing, de­stroy­ing most of the Palace of West­min­ster.

The Palace we recog­nise to­day was de­signed by Charles Barry in 1836, and sits at the heart of UK gov­ern­ment, hous­ing both the House of Com­mons and House of Lords, a trove of art­works and trea­sures and a de­pos­i­tory of history.

How­ever, this beau­ti­ful build­ing is un­der threat once again – this time by at­tacks from wood­worm, as­bestos, col­laps­ing pipes, rot­ting beams and more. I de­cided to visit the Houses of Par­lia­ment and find out what the res­cue op­tions are.

Vicky Wood is my guide on the tour of the Palace, which she aptly calls “A walk through history”. From the mo­ment of en­ter­ing West­min­ster Hall, I feel history, from the tow­er­ing oak ceil­ing to the plaques on the old stone floor mark­ing the spots where Thomas More, Wil­liam Wal­lace, Guy Fawkes and Charles I, along with many oth­ers, were tried and sen­tenced.

West­min­ster Hall is the old­est part of the Palace of West­min­ster, dat­ing from 1090, and, amaz­ingly, it sur­vived the huge fire of 1834 and, later, the bombs that de­stroyed much of the build­ing in 1941.

It’s still used for state oc­ca­sions and is dom­i­nated by a huge stained-glass win­dow con­tain­ing the mono­grams of MPs, peers and staff who died in World War II. It’s here that state oc­ca­sions are held, mon­archs lie in state and corona­tion feasts are en­joyed.

Vicky moves us on through to St Stephen’s Hall, orig­i­nally built on the site of the royal chapel where the House of Com­mons sat from the mid-16th cen­tury un­til the 1834 fire de­stroyed it.

Vicky has many sto­ries of de­bates that have taken place here, from ar­gu­ments against the slave trade by Wil­liam Wil­ber­force to speeches by other fa­mous or­a­tors such as Walpole and Pitt, and Charles I’s at­tempt to ar­rest five mem­bers of the House of Com­mons.

Stat­ues de­pict th­ese fig­ures from history, in­clud­ing the first Prime Min­is­ter Robert Walpole, but even they show the pas­sage of time: 17th-cen­tury Lord Falkland’s boot is miss­ing a spur af­ter a suf­fragette chained her­self to him in 1909.

The Cen­tral Lobby joins the House of Lords with the House of Com­mons and is where you of­ten see news­cast­ers stand­ing on tele­vi­sion.

This oc­tag­o­nal room has eight arches dec­o­rated with stat­ues of kings and queens stand­ing ver­ti­cally one on top of the other.

The or­nate ceil­ing is equally spec­tac­u­lar and Vicky points out the

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