Artwork - Westminster Hall on Fire 1834

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Artwork
  • Title: Westminster Hall on Fire 1834
  • Artist: George B. Campion
  • Date: 1834
  • Medium:
  • Categories: Buildings
  • Catalogue number: WOA 1669
  • Description: George Bryant Campion's watercolour shows the interior of Westminster Hall during the fire that destroyed Parliament in 1834.

    Westminster Hall became the focus for the firemen's efforts and those of hundreds of volunteers when it became clear that the fire was uncontrollable in the rest of the Palace. The thick stone Norman walls provided an excellent barrier against the spread of fire, but the late fourteenth-century oak roof timbers were in great peril and were saved only by repeated dousing with water. "Save, O save the Hall!" cried the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the middle of the evening, "Damn the House of Commons, let it blaze away!"

    In this watercolour, looking towards the great south window, behind which the fire is blazing fiercely, the scene is one of chaotic action. Figures can be seen shinning up scaffolding and ladders on the east (left) wall to help save the great hammerbeam roof dating from 1398. Fire engine hoses have been joined up together to create enough water supply to tackle the fire to the south, where broken glass, burning timbers and melted lead pour down onto the shoulders of the firemen. The efforts of all, plus a lucky change of wind direction at midnight, started to turn the tide and the Hall was saved from destruction.

    Acquisition: Fire Protection Association gift 1972.

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