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Adapting the Chapel

The first reference to St Stephen's Chapel as the new home of the House of Commons comes in 1550, when a grant states that ‘the king hath lately granted the upper chapel' to the Commons as their meeting place. 

Prior to 1550 the Commons did not really have a permanent home.  MPs had met in the chapter house or the refectory of Westminster Abbey, at Blackfriars in London, or in Oxford, York or Winchester according to circumstances.

The House of Commons in 1548 already numbered 341 MPs and was growing in size, so quite a lot of alteration was needed to convert a chapel designed for 48 members of St Stephen's College into a home for the elected house of Parliament.  Further work would be necessary to increase the number of seats as MPs were added from Scotland (in 1707) and Ireland (1801) as well as the fast-expanding English cities. In 1834 there were 658 MPs.

Find out more about St Stephen's Chapel in the early modern period.



Last updated April 2017