The heart of Democracy

The Houses of Parliament are an iconic symbol of Victorian Britain. From 1894 edition of The History of London by Sir Walter Besant:

1803 – Houses of Parliament

This was the London of a hundred and fifty years ago. No longer picturesque as in the old days, but solidly constructed, handsome, and substantial. The merchants still lived in the city but the nobles had all gone. The Companies possessed the greater part of the City and still ruled though they no longer dictated the wages, hours, and prices. Within the walls there reigned comparative order: outside there was no government at all. The river below the Bridge was crowded with ships moored two and four together side by side with an open way in the middle. Thousands of barges and lighters were engaged upon the cargoes: every day the church bells rang for a large and orderly congregation: every day arose in every street such an uproar as we cannot even imagine: yet there were quiet spots in the City with shady gardens where one could sit at peace: wealth grew fast: but with it there grew up the mob with the fear of anarchy and license, a taste of which was afforded by the Gordon Riots. Yet it would be eighty years before the city should understand the necessity for a police.

Parliament is really the home of democracy, it’s not perfect but I for one cannot think of any other system of rule that works, so maybe the best of a bad bunch!

On the 16th October 1834 a fire started from overheated chimney flues when old tally sticks were being burned. This spread rapidly throughout the old medieval complex and developed into a raging inferno, the biggest to occur in London since the Great Fire of 1666.

The fire lasted for hours and most of the Palace was gutted including St Stephen’s Chapel where the Commons sat, the Lords Chamber, Painted Chamber and the official residences of the Speaker and the Clerk of the House of Commons.

Continue reading