Speaker's House and its state rooms
The Speaker’s House epitomises the status of the Speaker. It always was the grandest residence in the New Palace of Westminster and is the only one to survive in anything like its original form.
The House occupies the twin-towered pavilion which projects at the northernmost end of the River Front, with one side parallel to Westminster Bridge. It is approached from New Palace Yard through the courtyard, called the Speaker’s Court. When it was first completed in 1859, it was a grand Victorian town house, with servants in the basement and on the ground floor, the State Apartments on the Principal Floor and the bedrooms on the first and second floors. The Speaker now has a private flat on the second floor, but the formal State Apartments remain on the Principal Floor and are used for official business.
Before 1795, no Speaker had an official house at the Houses of Parliament. William Lenthall (1591- 1662), who was the Speaker who defied Charles I in January 1642, first lived in King Street, Covent Garden, and then moved to Goring House, which was on the site of the future Buckingham Palace and which, at that date, was a pleasant and rural site, a very suitable place for the Speaker to entertain. Arthur Onslow (1691-1768), who was the Speaker for more than 30 years in the middle of the 18th century, lived in a modest house in Leicester Street, Soho, until 1752 when he took up his abode in 20 Soho Square, the largest and finest house in the square.
The first Speaker to live on site was Henry Addington (Speaker 1789- 1801), when he took over the Auditor of the Exchequer’s house in 1795 – one of the buildings around St Stephen’s Cloister. This was soon developed into a palatial residence by architect James Wyatt for Speaker Charles Abbot (Speaker 1802-1817).