Restoration in 19th and 20th centuries

When the Palace was rebuilt after the fire of 1834, Westminster Hall was regarded by the architect Charles Barry as part of his greater design for the Palace.

Great south window

In about 1850, he replaced the Hall's great south window with the present stairs and arch while moving this end of the Hall several yards further back, as part of the entrance to his new St Stephen's Hall. He also reconstructed the niches for the statues of the kings on the south wall.

The changes introduced by Barry nevertheless altered the historic character of the Hall, from a large enclosed room to what was effectively a corridor (though a grand one) leading elsewhere.

They were also somewhat ineffectual, because the Hall did not form the approach to the rest of the building as Barry originally intended, either for Members or the public, until very recently.

Flying buttresses

Several other reconstruction projects took place after Barry's time. In 1883, J L Pearson rebuilt the flying buttresses on the west side of the hall due to their bad condition, and repairs were also undertaken following a Fenian attack in 1885 which damaged an area by the Undercroft Chapel's stairs.

Repairs to the roof

In 1913, an inspection of the Hall's roof beams revealed that they were seriously affected by death-watch beetle, so much so that four out of the thirteen trusses were in danger of collapse.

The wall-posts were almost all useless and some cavities were so excavated by beetles that a full-grown man could lie in them completely hidden from sight.


Extensive repairs were carried out to the Hall's roof by Frank Baines in 1914-23. The entire roof was reinforced by concealed steelwork, and the decayed portions replaced with new oak from Wadhurst in Kent.

Baines sought to preserve as much as possible of the original timber (less than 10 per cent was replaced), and even its unique golden-brown colour, which he identified as the result of a harmless fungus.


But he did not manage to eliminate the beetle completely; nor was it achieved in 1971 with canisters of pesticide in the form of smoke.

Also within Living Heritage

Read more about the Great Fire of 1834 and the architecture of the Palace


You can access biographies of

Charles Barry
J L Pearson

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.