A new Gothic vision

The new Palace of Westminster was custom-built by the Victorian architect Charles Barry for Parliamentary use. The design and layout of the building were thus carefully designed to serve the needs and workings of Parliament. In particular, Barry placed the location of the Sovereign's throne, the Lords Chamber and the Commons Chamber in a straight line, thus linking the three elements of Parliament in continuous form.

Design and detail

Barry was also careful to weld the old to the new, so that the surviving medieval buildings - Westminster Hall, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St Stephen's, and the Undercroft Chapel - formed an integral part of the whole.

In his design, Barry was also concerned to balance the horizontal (which he emphasised with continuous bands of panelling) with the vertical (which he marked with turrets that ended high above the walls). He also introduced steeply-pitched iron roofs which emphasised the Palace's lively skyline. His Gothic scheme for the new Palace also extended to its interior furnishings, such as wallpapers, carvings, stained glass and even the royal thrones and canopies.

Impact of the Palace

Towering over the modest brick-built Georgian terraces of Westminster, the new Palace had an enormous effect on the imagination of the Victorian public. It also had a significant influence on the subsequent design of various public buildings such as town halls, law courts and schools throughout the country, and internationally.

Barry's other buildings

During his lifetime, Barry also designed the Manchester Athenaeum (now part of the Manchester City Art Gallery), the Treasury building in Whitehall, the Reform Club, and the Royal College of Surgeons.

Pugin's other buildings

The draughtsman Augustus Welby Pugin became an important figure in the revival of Gothic architecture in England. Pugin later designed many Catholic churches, including Birmingham Cathedral (St Chad's), St Oswald's Church in Liverpool, and St Giles' Church in Cheadle, as well as several parish churches and convents.


You can access biographies of

Charles Barry
Augustus Welby Pugin

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.

Related information

Did you know?

Pugin did all his own drawings and supervised every project to the last detail, and told a friend that he did the work of a hundred years in forty.