burning houses parliament 1834 ignited destroyed london england

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19th era / Alamy Stock Photo
Image ID: B8P3GX
On 16 October 1834, a fire broke out in the palace after a stove used to destroy the Exchequer's stockpile of tally sticks ignited panelling in the Lords Chamber. In the resulting conflagration both houses of Parliament were destroyed along with most of the other buildings in the palace complex. Westminster Hall was saved largely due to heroic firefighting efforts. The Jewel Tower, the crypt of St Stephen's Chapel and the cloisters were the only other parts of the palace to survive. A Royal Commission was appointed to study the rebuilding of the Palace and a heated public debate over the proposed styles ensued. The neo-Classical design, similar to that of the White House and Congress in the United States, was popular at the time, but had connotations of revolution and republicanism, whereas Gothic design embodied conservative values. The Commission announced in June 1835 that "the style of the buildings would be either Gothic or Elizabethan". In 1836, after studying 97 rival proposals, the Royal Commission chose Charles Barry's plan for a Gothic-style palace. The foundation stone was laid in 1840; the Lords Chamber was completed in 1847, and the Commons Chamber in 1852 (at which point Barry received a knighthood). Although most of the work had been carried out by 1860, construction was not finished until a decade afterwards. Barry (whose own architectural style was more classical than Gothic) relied heavily on Augustus Pugin for the sumptuous and distinctive Gothic interiors, including wallpapers, carvings, stained glass and furnishings, like the royal thrones and canopies. During the Second World War, the Palace of Westminster was hit fourteen times by bombs (see The Blitz). The worst of these was on 10 May 1941, when the Commons Chamber was destroyed and three people were killed. The chamber was re-built under the architect Giles Gilbert Scott; the work was completed in 1950.