The Early Years
No one is quite sure what was done to convert St Stephen's Chapel into the House of Commons by 1550.
Surveyor of the royal works Lawrence Bradshaw recorded that about £404 was spent on the initial alterations. The larger inner chapel became the new debating chamber of the Commons, while the smaller nave was used as a lobby where petitioners waited to speak to MPs. The choir stalls were ripped out, to be replaced by tiered seating. At some point tapestries were hung on the walls and a committee room put in above the nave of the chapel, so that the Commons had their own working space. A lower roof was added to make it easier to hear debates, and a gallery was constructed to reduce the crush. In the 1620s an awning was installed outside the east window to protect MPs from the sun in their eyes.
The biggest mystery is the fate of the magnificent carved stone pulpitum or screen which had divided the chapel in two. Was it taken down, or could it have been recycled to become the divide between the Commons chamber and the lobby?
Our model assumes that such a substantial structure would probably have been re-used, once its Catholic imagery had been removed.
Last updated April 2017