Central Lobby

Central Lobby is the core of the Palace of Westminster and was designed by Charles Barry as a meeting place for Members of both Houses, and where MPs can meet their constituents. It is a lofty stone octagon with an intricately tiled floor, and a rich mosaic-covered vault. The very distinctive Central Tower is built over the Central Lobby, which forms the crossroads of the Palace: the spot where corridors from the Lords, Commons, and Westminster Hall meet.

The arches surrounding the high windows of the Lobby are decorated with statues of kings and queens of England and Scotland from Edward I. Over each of the four exits from the Lobby are four large mosaic panels, depicting in turn the patron saint of each of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom: St George for England, St David for Wales, St Andrew for Scotland and St Patrick for Northern Ireland. There was a long drawn-out controversy over the panels, mainly on grounds of expense. St George was installed in 1870 and St David in 1898, but it was not until the early 1920s that the quartet was completed.

Members of the public do not need to make an appointment to meet or lobby an MP at Central Lobby; the desk will attempt to contact the Member they ask for. However, it's always best to make an appointment first.

Grilles in the Lobby

In the windows surrounding Central Lobby you can see metal grilles. Following the 1834 fire, these grilles were originally built to cover the windows in the Ladies' Gallery in the House of Commons chamber, to ensure that MPs were not distracted by the sight of women watching them at work. The grilles also made the Ladies' Gallery very hot and stuffy, and obstructed the view of the women inside, making them a powerful symbol of the exclusion of women from Parliament.  

Suffragettes targetted the Ladies' Gallery during the period of campaigning for votes for women in the early 20th century. In 1908 two suffragettes chained themselves to a grille as a protest, with a cry of 'We have listened behind this insulting grille too long!' It had to be removed from the window to allow the women to be cut off in a committee room. 

The grilles were finally removed permanently from the gallery and placed here in Central Lobby following a vote in the House of Commons in August 1917.

Also within Living Heritage

Biography

You can access a biography of

Charles Barry

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.

Did you know?

The word €˜lobby€™ refers to a porch, ante-room, hall or corridor and especially (in the Parliamentary context) one open to the public and where one can meet MPs. Hence the verb €˜lobby€™: to seek influence or to solicit support.

Related information

Explore Central Lobby on a virtual tour

Glossary link

Also in this section

Find out more about Charles Barry