Secret House of Commons doorway from 17th century discovered during restoration works

Andy WellsFreelance Writer
Yahoo News UK
Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, being shown a secret doorway that has been rediscovered in the building. (PA)
Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, being shown a secret doorway that has been rediscovered in the building. (PA)

A lost doorway at the House of Commons that dates back to the 17th century has been discovered during restoration work.

The secret entrance, thought to have been used by political luminaries such as diarist Samuel Pepys and Robert Walpole, the first de facto prime minister, dates back more than 350 years.

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The hidden walkway was originally established for Charles II's coronation in 1660 to allow guests to process to the new king's celebratory banquet.

The hidden walkway was originally established for Charles II's coronation in 1660. (PA)
The hidden walkway was originally established for Charles II's coronation in 1660. (PA)
The door was rediscovered following recent investigative work by Parliament's architecture and heritage team. (PA)
The door was rediscovered following recent investigative work by Parliament's architecture and heritage team. (PA)

MPs later used the door to access the Commons, which was in the medieval Palace of Westminster before a fire destroyed much of its structure in the 19th century.

Only Westminster Hall – the oldest part of the palace, where the doorway was found – survived the blaze and was incorporated into Parliament's neo-Gothic rebuild.

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For the past 70 years, the entrance remained forgotten behind wooden panelling in a cloister that was formerly used as offices by the Parliamentary Labour Party, according to Commons authorities.

A brass plate marks where the doorway had been in Westminster Hall, but historians thought it had been filled in during reconstruction work after the palace was bombed during the Second World War.

For the past 70 years, the entrance remained forgotten behind wooden panelling. (PA)
For the past 70 years, the entrance remained forgotten behind wooden panelling. (PA)
The secret entrance is thought to have been used by political luminaries such as diarist Samuel Pepys and Robert Walpole. (PA)
The secret entrance is thought to have been used by political luminaries such as diarist Samuel Pepys and Robert Walpole. (PA)

It was rediscovered following recent investigative work by Parliament's architecture and heritage team, who have been undertaking the Palace of Westminster's £4bn restoration programme.

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Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: "To think that this walkway has been used by so many important people over the centuries is incredible.

"I am so proud of our staff for making this discovery and I really hope this space is celebrated for what it is – a part of our parliamentary history.”

Graffiti written by bricklayers who helped architect Sir Charles Barry restore the palace following the fire in 1834 was also discovered during the works.

One sentence of the graffiti, dated 1851, reads: "This room was enclosed by Tom Porter who was very fond of Ould Ale."

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