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House of Commons.

The Commons of Great Britain hold their assemblies in this place-in St. Stephen's chapel, which was built by king Stephen, and dedicated to his namesake the proto-martyr. It was beautifully rebuilt by Edward III. in 1347, and by him made a collegiate church, and a dean and twelve secular priests appointed. Soon after its surrender to Edward VI., it was applied to its present use. The revenues at that period were not less than 1,085l. a year. The west front, with its beautiful Gothic window, is still to be seen; it consists of the sharp pointed species of Gothic. Between it and the lobby of the house is a small vestibule of the same sort of work, and of great elegance. At each end is a Gothic door, and one in the middle which is the passage into the lobby. On the south side of the outmost wall of the chapel appear the marks of some great Gothic windows, with abutments between; and beneath, some lesser windows, once of use to light an under Chapel. These, however, have undergone considerable repairs, with some alterations; so that it would be difficult to trace the original architecture. The inside of St. Stephen's, since its adaptation to its present use has been plainly fitted up. In the passage leading to the house stood the famous bust of Charles I. by Bernini, made by him from a painting by Vandyck, done for the purpose. Bernini is said, by his skill in physiognomy, to have pronounced from the likeness, that there was something unfortunate in the countenance.

The interior of the house has nothing of beauty about it; convenience, not ornament, has been the great subject had in view. It is, however, too small, and its smallness is the more apparent since the accession of members by the Irish union. There are galleries on each side, but they are for the use of members; the gallery at the end of the house, and which is opposite to the Speaker's chair, is the only place for strangers. We have already adverted to this subject in speaking of the "Accommodations for Members, Reporters, &c" but as certain improvements were made in and connected with " the Stranger's Gallery," previously to the commencement of the present Parliament, some description of them may be acceptable. The first alteration is that by which the gallery can be more rapidly cleared when strangers are ordered to withdraw, and by which those scenes of confusion and contest are prevented which formerly occurred at every division on an interesting question. An additional door, with an additional staircase, leading into the upper lobby, are now made, one of which is to be appropriated to those who enter, and the other reserved for those who retire; the one being alternately shut when the other is employed. The consequence is, that those who first retire on the order of the Speaker to withdraw, first reach the admission-door, and are first admitted. There is another change, which, as it affords an additional accommodation to the Gentlemen who report the proceedings of Parliament, may be regarded as a benefit to the public at large. Until very lately, no facilities were granted them in the execution of their arduous and important duties; they had to struggle among the crowd for admission, and when admitted had no convenience allowed them beyond the idlest by-stander. The late Speaker, without noise and without pretension, made several important arrangements for their convenience; and without granting rights which would have been inconsistent with the orders of the house, procured for them several practical privileges. To him they owe the advantage of a retiring room in cases of a division. A small door, opening inwards, is now made for the back seat which the reporters generally occupy. We refrain from making any observations on the advantage which the nation and Europe derive from the publicity given by their means to Parliamentary proceedings. Dr. PALEY even considers the free publication of the speeches of Members (which places the conduct of the Legislature and of the Government under the immediate eye of every man who can read a newspaper) a sufficient substitute for parliamentary reform.

The galleries are supported by slender iron pillars, crowned with gilt Corinthian capitals. The walls are wainscotted to the ceiling. The speaker's chair stands at some distance from the wall; and is highly ornamented with gilding, having the royal arms at the top. Before the chair is a table at which sit the clerks. In the centre of the room, between the table and the bar, is a capacious area.̶The seats for the members occupy each side, and both ends of the room, with the exception of the passages. There are five rows of seats, rising in gradation above each other, with short backs, and green morocco cushions. The seat on the floor, on the right hand of the Speaker, is sometimes called the Treasury Bench, because there many of the members of administration usually sit. The side immediately opposite is occupied by the leading members of the Opposition.

The SPEAKER'S HOUSE was a small court of the palace; but it has of late years been greatly altered, enlarged, and beautified. There were added two pinnacles at the east end of the chapel, at the time the enlargements and improvements were made. The house itself is tastefully ornamented with whatever is essential to the residence of an officer of such high rank, and a gentleman of such correct judgment as its late occupier, Mr. Abbot, now Lord Colchester. Its present inhabitant is Mr. Manners Sutton. The Speaker can go into the House of Commons, from his own apartments, a passage having been made for that purpose; and during the sitting of the House, the Speaker proceeds along it, and through the lobby, in state, preceded by the mace, attended by train-bearer, &c.

Below the bar of the Lords, and the gallery of the Commons, are accessible to strangers by means of orders from the members for such purpose; and such orders are easily obtained.

Beneath the House of Commons, in passages or apartments, appropriated to various uses, are considerable remains, in great perfection, of an under chapel, of curious workmanship; and a side of a cloister, the roof of which is scarcely surpassed by the exquisite beauty and richness of Henry the Seventh's chapel in the neighbouring Abbey.

Other London Buildings:

St. James's Palace

Buckingham House Palace

Carlton House

Kensington Palace

Lambeth Palace

St. James's Park

The Green Park

Hyde Park

The Regent's Park

Westminster Hall

The House of Lords

Courts of Justice

Tower of London

The New Mint

The Monument

Mansion House

East India House

The Bank of England

The Royal Exchange

The Auction Mart

Trinity House

New Custom House

Excise Office

General Post Office


Temple Bar

The Adelphi

Somerset House

Charing Cross

Horse Guards

The Treasury

Admiralty Office


King's Mews

New Court House, or Westminster Guildhall

Northumberland House

General List of other Noblemen's Residences

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819