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The creation of the Ladies' Gallery

In 1834 the Houses of Parliament were destroyed by fire, and as part of the subsequent rebuild by Charles Barry, a dedicated gallery for women was created. A select committee decided this space was to be separate from the men and 'screened in front by an open trellis work.' This space was called the Ladies' Gallery, and because of the grilles over the windows, it was nicknamed 'The Cage'.

The grilles were put there deliberately so the women could see out but men could not see in, and therefore not be distracted by the women watching them. The lighting was kept low for this purpose; on 16 November 1896 Mr Burnie MP asked if there could be better lighting in the Ladies' Gallery, to which the Office of Works replied that 'a brilliant illumination of the Ladies' gallery would not have an agreeable effect in the House, and would make the presence of the ladies conspicuous.'

Explore more images from the Farmer Collection of Glass Plate Negatives


House of Commons General View, showing the Ladies' Gallery above the Speaker's Chair



Catalogue number

Parliamentary Archives, FAR/1/7