Soane's improvements, 1824-1827

The Royal Gallery of the old Palace of Westminster was built by John Soane in 1823-4.

New Royal Gallery

It was constructed on the site of the Queen's Chamber, which had housed the House of Lords, and ran from the top of the Royal Entrance to the eastern end of the Painted Chamber as part of the royal processional route during state openings.

The work was undertaken at great speed in order to be completed by the February 1824 opening of Parliament. The workmen who toiled night and day had their labours recognised by a feast paid for out of Soane's own pocket, despite the disapproval of the Surveyor General.

Neo-classical v Gothic

John Soane had been making designs for new buildings and alterations to the Palace of Westminster since the 1790s.

These plans gained the approval of King George III, but the political and economic situation and the ascendancy of his rival, James Wyatt, left these grand neo-classical designs unrealised.

Extensive additions

Soane's chance eventually came in the 1820s; in addition to the Royal Gallery and new court buildings for the Kings' Bench and Chancery, he was also commissioned to carry out extensive additions to the southern part of the Palace.

Damaged by 1834 fire

The northern end of the Royal Gallery was damaged in the fire of 1834, and the room was completely demolished in 1840, as part of the site clearance for the new Palace of Westminster. Soane's neo-classical style was never greatly appreciated at Gothic Westminster.

Biography

You can access a biography of

John Soane

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.