The Commons Chamber

The Commons Chamber looks very different to that of the Lords.

The current Chamber was rebuilt after the Blitz by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in relatively austere style (although it was less ornate than the Lords Chamber even before 1941).

Its benches, as well as other furnishings, are green in colour, a custom which goes back 300 years. The adversarial layout - with benches facing each other - is in fact a relic of the original use of the first permanent Commons Chamber on the site, St Stephen’s Chapel.

The previous Commons Chamber on this site was designed by Charles Barry to be smaller and less elaborate than the Lords Chamber. When it opened in May 1852, the Members complained about its inadequate acoustics and insisted that the roof should be remodelled to rise from the sides towards the centre. Barry was forced to redesign the ceiling of the Chamber accordingly, and the roof of the present Chamber retains this general shape.

When the Chamber was rebuilt after 1945 at the cost of £2 million, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed a steel-framed building of five floors (two taken by the Chamber), with offices both above and below. He also introduced modern heating, light and ventilation and enlarged the galleries to provide many more seats, and especially for the press and public. But because of post-war budget constraints, he provided a simpler and plainer Gothic design for his Chamber. The windows of the new Chamber, for instance, are of plain rather than stained glass, and the walls are decorated only by plain oak panelling.

Contributions from the Commonwealth

A number of Commonwealth countries also contributed to the cost of materials for the new Chamber: Australia the Speaker’s Chair, Canada the Table of the House, Jamaica the Bar of the House, India and Pakistan the Entrance doors to the Chamber and New Zealand the despatch boxes. Other Commonwealth countries contributed to the cost of fitting out the new ministerial offices in the new block. The new Chamber was used for the first time on 26 October 1950.

Biographies

You can access biographies of

Giles Gilbert Scott
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?

Giles Gilbert Scott was also responsible for designing Battersea Power Station and the red telephone box.

Also in this section

Related information


Take a walk around the Commons Chamber on a virtual tour

Listen to a tour of the Commons Chamber given by a visitors' assistant at the Houses of Parliament

More on the colour green

View images of the House of Commons Chamber on flickr