Architecture of the Palace: Key dates

1834 - The Great Fire destroys most of Palace
The Palace of Westminster was almost completely destroyed by the 'tally-stack' fire of 16 October. Only Westminster Hall, the Undercroft Chapel, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St Stephen's and the Jewel Tower survived.

1835 - Competition to find architect for rebuild
A Parliamentary Committee decided that the Palace should be rebuilt in either the Gothic or Elizabethan style. A design competition was held and won by the architect Charles Barry, who drew up plans for a new Gothic-Revival palace.

1840 - The first stone laid
The first stone of the new Palace was laid by Charles Barry's wife

1847 - The Lord's Chamber completed

1849 - Defects in the choice of stone became apparent
Barry experiments with various compositions on the stone

1852 - The Common's Chamber completed
... and Charles Barry was knighted

1859 - Big Ben installed in the Clock Tower

1860 - Victoria Tower completed

1870 - The rebuilding of the Palace completed

1883 - Electric lighting installed in the House of Lords

1912 - Electric lighting installed in the House of Commons 

1920 - A large fragment of stone fell from the Victoria Tower

1936 - Restoration work of Victoria Tower
Scaffolding was erected around the Victoria Tower so that restoration work could begin. This was halted during the Second World War

1940-1 - Both Houses of Parliament sometimes sat in Church House in Westminster Abbey
This was due to fear of wartime bombing raids

11 May 1941 - The Commons Chamber destroyed on the last day of the Blitz
The Commons consequently met in the Lords Chamber until 1950 while the Lords met in the Robing Room

1943 - Architect appointed for rebuild of chamber
The Commons decided that its new chamber should be designed on similar lines to the old. The architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was appointed to undertake the work.

1948 - Foundation stone of new Commons Chamber laid

1950 - The new Commons Chamber first used on 26 October

1950s - Work on the exterior of the Victoria Tower finally completed

1951 - The House of Lords returns to its Chamber on 29 May

1971 - Working group set up to offer advice on restoration
Pollution was again taking its toll

1981 - A major restoration programme begun over several phases

1990-4 - Victoria Tower restored

2000 - Portcullis House completed
A new Parliamentary building was completed

Biographies

You can access biographies of

Charles Barry
Giles Gilbert Scott

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

Also in this section

  • The Palace's structure

    The history of the present-day Palace of Westminster is a journey which begins with its reconstruction by the architect Charles Barry after the Great Fire of 1834, through various ravages of the 20th century such as the Second World War, to the magnificent building as we know it today.

  • Palace's interiors

Also within Living Heritage

Read about the history of the Palace of Westminster before 1834