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From College to Fire

No longer a chapel after 1548, the Undercroft sat empty for many years while the upper chapel became the House of Commons.

It was during this period that Oliver Cromwell is said to have stabled his horses here. The cloisters and the rest of the college's buildings became housing for royal favourites and then civil servants in the late sixteenth century. Finally, the entire area became the Speaker of the House of Commons' house and new kitchens were built in the central area of the medieval cloisters. The former vicars' hall became an art gallery. The Undercroft was subdivided at some point into the Speaker's Dining Room and the Court of Burgesses of the city of Westminster.


When the fire started on 16 October 1834, it destroyed almost all the Old Palace of Westminster, including burning out most of the later alterations to St Stephen's Chapel, destroying part of the cloisters and severely damaging the Undercroft. Westminster Hall alone was saved nearly untouched by the flames. In the immediate post –fire period, the Undercroft was used to store fragments of carved stone salvaged from St Stephen's Chapel above, as in this image.


Discover how St Mary Undercroft is used today.




Last updated April 2017

Related information

Find out more about the 1834 fire which destroyed large parts of the Old Palace