16th October 1834. Hoare Memorial Hall, Westminster?
The Houses of Parliament were burnt down Today in 1834, some say by the igniting of the medieval Exchequer’s ‘Tally Sticks’, which got out of hand. Out of the ashes arose Barry’s and Pugin’s Gothic masterpiece.
Just over a 100 years later in May 1941, Parliament took another battering, this time from German bombs which destroyed the Commons Chamber and damaged the medieval roof of Westminster Hall.(1)
So it was in the Hoare Memorial Hall, Church House, Westminster, where the Commons had re-located, that some of the more dramatic announcement in WW2 were made, including news of the sinking of HMS Hood and the German ship Bismarck.(2)
Preparations had already been put into place in October 1940, when Church House was requisitioned as a parliamentary annexe, with the first meeting being held there the next month to test its suitability. The Lords met in the Convocation Hall.(3)
It was there that the Monarch opened the 1940-1 session. A third location at the Park lane Hotel was prepared should anything happen to Church House.
Parliament met at Church House in 3 main periods: November-December 1940; after the bombing from 13th May to June 1941, and finally between June-August 1944 with the VI threat.
Altogether the Houses of Parliament suffered 14 hits, which as well as the Commons Chamber saw Big Ben scarred although the clock continued to give perfect time.
In 1948, Col. D. Clifton-Brown, Later Lord Ruffside, and Commons Speaker, laid the foundation stone of the new House with Churchill, now out of office, looking on.
Churchill suggested that one damaged archway should be left as it stood as a reminder to future generations of ‘those who kept the bridge in days of old’, referring to Macaulay’s Horatius standing against the Lars Porsena [of Hitler]. It became known as the Churchill Arch.
In 1948 a plaque was erected by Prime-Minister Attlee and Churchill, in Hoare Hall recording its part in the governance of Britain in those dark days.
On 26th October 1950, The Commons returned to its own House, having met in The Lords’ Chamber, since June 1941, despite itself having suffered slight damage. The Lords were also now able to move back from the Royal Robing Room.
(1) On May 10th 1941.
(2) On 24th May 1941.
(3) On 16th October 1940. First Meeting took place on 7th November 1940.
Ref: churchhouse.org.uk/Pics. of Chambers.
Ref: alamy.com/Pic of Newspaper.