In the early evening of 16 October 1834, to the horror of bystanders, a huge ball of fire exploded through the roof of the Houses of Parliament, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor, and from stagecoaches on top of the South Downs. In front of hundreds of thousands of witnesses the great conflagration destroyed Parliament's glorious old buildings and their contents.
For those who watched the destruction through the night it was the most staggering occasion of their whole lives. Numerous artists captured the event and the ruined building that it left behind. Today, many of these works are in the Parliamentary Art Collection.