9 / GEORGIAN SOURCES OF POWER FROM TAXES AND ARMIES TO KINGS, POLITICIANS AND WOMEN POLITICAL CHEER-LEADERS
MEMORIALS TO TAXATION ARE EASIEST TO FIND IN CASES OF TAXPAYERS’ RESISTANCE – SINCE IT IS COMMON FOR CITIZENS TO WISH GOVERNMENTS TO BE FUNDED WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY NOT WISHING TO CONTRIBUTE PLENTIFULLY THEMSELVES. MEANWHILE, THE GEORGIAN STATE WAS DEVELOPING A BUREAUCRACY TO LEVY CUSTOMS DUTIES AT THE PORTS, EXCISE DUTIES ON SPECIFIED CONSUMER GOODS, LAND TAX ON LANDOWNERS AND, AFTER 1799, INCOME TAX ON THE WEALTHY.
9.1 PUNISHING EVADERS OF CUSTOMS DUTIES
The Smugglers’ Stone (1749) stands as a warning to the many smugglers who tried to evade payment of Customs Duties in all British ports. The weather- beaten monument marks the spot where six smugglers who had caused the deaths of two customs officials were executed in 1749 and where a seventh, who died the day before the execution, was summarily buried.
The Stone is located in Broyle Road, Chichester, Sussex
PO19 6AW, England.
9.2 RECORDING THE MOST FAMOUS EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY TAXPAYER REVOLT IN BRITAIN AND
Boston Tea Party Museum records information about the dramatic confrontation in 1773, when indignant colonialists in Boston, Massachusetts, took direct action to oppose Britain’s 1773 Tea Act. The legislation allowed the East India Company to export tea from China directly to the North American colonies, where the tax levied would go to the British government, and was intended to cover some of its costs in safeguarding the colonies, Angry Bostonians, some dressed in costumes of the indigenous population, seized the controversial ships and dumped the tea stocks in the harbour. The demonstrators’ cry of ‘No Taxation without Representation’ was one of many preludes to the 1776 American Declaration of Independence. Subsequently, the Tea Party name has been invoked by anti-government grass-roots protestors on both left and right of the spectrum, most particularly in
The Museum is located on the Congress Street Bridge in Boston, Massachusetts, US A, where its exhibits include one of the two known surviving tea chests from the
9.3 VIEWING A PROMPT TO PERSONAL TAX EVASION, IN THE FORM OF A GENTLEMAN’S POWDERED WIG
From the 1770s onwards, successive British governments experimented with new taxes on goods and services enjoyed by affluent consumers, in order to tax the real wealth of the country, which was untapped by the traditional tax on large estates of freehold land. Yet consumers quickly changed their behaviour to avoid the charges, leaving William Pitt the Younger with no other option but to introduce in 1799 the unpopular Income Tax as a war-time emergency.
Failed taxes included those on carriages (1776), servants (1777), windows (1778), horses (1784), hounds (1796), pocket-watches (1797) and wig powder, subject to a new duty (1786) plus a license to buy (1795).
These latter innovations greatly accelerated the developing trend for gentlemen to show their own hair, unpowdered and without a wig. The old-style wig, common for most of the eighteenth century, then vanished very quickly, except those for specialist display – such as by barristers in the law courts.
A grey horsehair wig that belonged to clergyman and classical scholar Martin Routh (1755 – 1854), long-time President of Magdalen College, Oxford, can be seen in the Virtual Collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Parks Road, Oxford
OX1 3PW, England:
FIVE BATTLEFIELDS, WORLD-WIDE, WHICH WITNESSED SUCCESSES FOR THE BRITISH CROWN, WHILST NOTING THAT SUCCESS FOR BRITAIN ENTAILED OFTEN GRIEVOUS LOSSES FOR ITS OPPONENTS
9.4 Battle of the Boyne, near Drogheda, Ireland (July 1690), when the new monarch, the Dutch Protestant William III defeated the supporters of the deposed monarch, the Catholic James II.
The riverside site has a Visitor Centre; but the battlefield is partially built over
9.5 Battle of Blenheim (Blindheim), Bavaria, S. Germany (August 1704), where John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, heading the British forces, in alliance with Austria, Prussia and the Dutch Republic, defeated the army of the French monarch Louis XIV and his
There is a modest memorial of the battle at nearby Lutzingen, Germany
9.6 Battle of Plassey/Palashi, West Bengal, India (June 1757), where Robert Clive, heading the East India Company’s army, defeated the Nawab of Bengal and his
Some of battlefield site has been eroded by the Hoogly river; but, nearby, the substantial Palashi Monument memorialises the Indians who fell in the struggle.
9.7 Battle of Quebec (September 1759), where James Wolfe, heading British troops in Canada, scaled the Heights of Abraham, just outside Quebec City, to launch a surprise attack, which defeated the French under Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm. The battle proved to be a pivotal point in the British-French contest for control of Canada, and was further remarkable for the fact that the two rival generals were both killed in the fighting and its immediate aftermath.
Today the battlefield site is a pleasantly landscaped urban park; there is also an ecumenical monument in the form of an obelisk (1828) commemorating Wolfe and Montcalm together, which is located in the Parc des Gouveneurs in Quebec City. QC, Canada.
9.8 Battle of Waterloo (June 1815), located at Waterloo, in Walloon Brabant, in modern Belgium, where Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, led the British Army with units manned by Britain’s continental allies, in conjunction with the Prussian Army under General von Blücher, to victory over the French Army under Napoleon Bonaparte – finally ending Bonaparte’s meteoric career.
Today the battlefield is a site for tourism and research; the terrain was altered in 1820, by the King of the Netherlands’ construction of the huge Lion’s Mound, topped by a lion statue; but otherwise the site is unaltered, and is now surrounded by monuments to the fallen, a museum and Visitor Centre.
BRITAIN WAS PARTICULARLY PROUD OF THE ROYAL NAVY AND ADMIROUS OF ADMIRAL HORATIO NELSON, WHO DIED IN BATTLE IN 1805, WHILE DEFEATING A COMBINED FRENCH AND SPANISH FLEET
TEN NELSON COLUMNS OF WHICH NINE ARE STILL STANDING, COMMEMORATE THE MOST FAMOUS AND SUCESSFUL OF BRITAIN’S EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY ADMIRALS – WHO HAD LOST AN EYE AND AN ARM IN NAVAL COMBAT AND WHO DIED IN BATTLE, CEMENTING HIS REPUTATION AS A
There are countless monuments to Nelson, both large and small, but much the most conspicuous are these towering columns, listed in date order:
9.9 Nelson Monument (1806): Glasgow Green,
Greendyke St, Saltmarket, Glasgow G1 5DB. Scotland
9.10 Nelson’s Obelisk (1807), Swarland,
Swarland Hall Park, Northumberland NE65 9HU, England
9.11 Nelson Monument (1807 – 16): Calton Hill,
32 Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5AA Edinburgh, Scotland
9.12 Nelson’s Monument (1808): Portsdown Hill, nr Portsmouth,
Portchester, Fareham, Hampshire PO17 6AW, England
9.13 Nelson’s Column (1808 – 9): Montreal,
Place Jacques Cartier, Old Montreal, Canada
9.14 Nelson’s Pillar, Dublin (1809; destroyed by bomb in 1966),
formerly located in O’Connell Street, Dublin D01 F5P2, Ireland
9.15 Nelson’s Column (1809): Castle Green, Hereford,
1 Quay St, Hereford, Herefordshire HR1 2NH, England
9.16 Nelson’s Column (1810): Birchen Edge, Derbyshire,
Birchen Edge, Nr Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1PS, England
9.17 Nelson’s Monument/ Britannia Monument (1819): Great Yarmouth,
Fenner Rd, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk NR30 3PX, England
9.18 Nelson’s Column (1840 – 3): Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DN, England
9.19 A belated monument to Emma Hamilton (1765 – 1815). Nelson’s dying request that funds be provided for his partner Emma Hamilton, and their daughter Horatia, was ignored; and Hamilton lost her fashionable cachet and life-style. In 1815, she died alone and penniless in Calais, but recently campaigners have resolved to mark her resting-place, marking the end of her remarkable career, which took from a poor unlettered background to become a famous courtesan, an artist’s model, a mime artist, a respectable wife with a title, and, ultimately, the partner/lover of Horatio Nelson.
In 1994 an elegant obelisk, surmounted with a ball in Calais stone, located in the Parc Richelieu, 185 Rue Richelieu, 62100 Calais, France, was dedicated to Hamilton, at a ceremony attended by the Major of Calais, by Anna Tribe, a descendant of Nelson and Hamilton, and by Jean Kislak, the American who funded
THREE EDIFICES DEDICATED TO BRITAIN’S EMERGENT CIVIL SERVICE, WHOSE LABOUR WAS NEEDED TO OVERSEE DOMESTIC GOVERNMENT AND POLICY FOR THE GROWING OVERSEAS COLONIES
9.20 Old Admiralty Building, Whitehall, London, England, was first constructed in 1695 but, when proving too small for the Admiralty’s expanding administration, was replaced by a new building in 1726 by master carpenter Thomas Ripley (hence becoming known as the Ripley Block). In 1760, a dignified screen wall, facing onto Whitehall, was added by the eminent Scottish architect Robert Adam. The building contains the imposing Admiralty Board Room dating from 1695, which contains a richly carved overmantel from the workshop of Grinling Gibbons, and a wind clock, which shows the direction of the blowing wind. The Board Room suffered some damage in World War II (expertly repaired) and is still occasionally used for
The Old Admiralty Building, Whitehall, London SW 1A 2BL , is part of the adjacent Admiralty complex, including Admiralty House (built 1788), all of which remain working government property; thus, while the complex of buildings is visible from the exterior, their interiors are not open to the public.
9.21 Horse Guards/Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall, London, England, housed the army HQ, next to the Admiralty, in a complex of buildings and parade ground, on the site of a former royal cavalry barracks and offices. A new Horse Guards building was designed by William Kent in 1745, in the fashionable Palladian style, and housed not only an updated barracks but also administrative offices and residences for senior commanders of the British Army, before the administration was transferred to a new War Office building in 1858. Behind Horse Guards lies the wide expanse of the Horse Guards Parade: it was used for a long time in the twentieth century as an open-air car park for senior civil servants; but, after considerable controversy, has been used since 1997 for ceremonial, sporting and similar public events.
The Horse Guards turret displays a Georgian clock (rebuilt 1815 – 16) and the building is home to the Household Cavalry Museum, which offers views, through a glazed partition, of horses in a working stable dating from the eighteenth-century. Outside the central archway leading from Whitehall to Horse Guards Parade (London SW 1A 2AX) mounted cavalrymen keep a daily ceremonial watch, on a traditional site marking the entry to the former
9.22 The Custom House, Dublin, Ireland, is a majestic neo-classical building on the banks of the Liffey, which was constructed between 1781 and 1791, on the site of an earlier Customs House, built 1707. The building’s facades are decorated with coats of arms and statues, representing Ireland’s four largest rivers. As the port over time moved down-river, the building was re-deployed for other government purposes. Then in 1921 the Custom House was seriously burned, during the Irish War of Independence, destroying the dome, the Georgian interior and many records; but was subsequently reconstructed by the new Irish state.
The Custom House, North Dock, Dublin 1, is a major Dublin landmark, and, while its Visitor Centre is currently closed (2021), there are long-term plans to provide improved public access.
[For its rooftop display of the historic insignia of the Kingdoms of Great Britain & Ireland, see Witnesses-1.5]
THREE EDIFICES DEDICATED TO THE ROYAL COURT
THE ROYAL COURT REMAINED AN IMPORTANT CENTRE NOT ONLY FOR CEREMONIAL AND DIPLOMATIC OCCASIONS BUT ALSO FOR THE SOCIAL PRESENTATION OF ELITE FAMILIES AND FOR DAY-TO-DAY MANOEUVRING OF
9.23 Hampton Court Palace, by the River Thames, 16 miles (25.7k) from central London, was the palace of choice for the later Stuart monarchs, William III, Mary II and Queen Anne. Under William and Mary, massive rebuilding works destroyed a substantial proportion of the former Tudor Palace, although the common use of salmon pink bricks confers an element of visual unity upon the stylistic hybrid. Some refurbishment continued under George I and George II, who was the last reigning monarch to reside there.
From the 1760s onwards, Hampton Court was used to house grace-and-favour residents, nominated by the Lord Chamberlain in recognition of their service to the state, the most famous being the scientist Michael Faraday, resident from 1860 – 67.
Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey Surrey KT8 9HB , England, with many artworks and furnishings dating from the early eighteenth century, and its grounds, including William III’s Dutch Garden (see Witnesses-13), are regularly open to visitors.
9.24 St James’s Palace, on Pall Mall in central London, was built in Tudor times (1531 – 36), initially as a London pied-à-terre for the English monarchs, being an outlier of the larger Whitehall Palace (burned 1698). St James’s rose in importance under the early Hanoverians and remains the UK Court to which all foreign diplomats are accredited. In the eighteenth century, the Palace was considered relatively dowdy, when compared with (say) the Versailles of the French monarchs. However, its central location made it a political hub, until George III moved his Queen and growing family into nearby Buckingham House (purchased 1762; enlarged early nineteenth century).
There was some remodelling of St James’s state apartments in the later eighteenth century; but, when a fire in 1809 destroyed the family’s living quarters, that section of the Palace was not rebuilt, St James being retained chiefly for ceremonial purposes such as court levees, and as an administrative base for various royal offices.
St James’s is today a working Palace, with a sprawling complex of buildings, some used to house members of the royal family. The only part open to the public at specified times is the Queen’s Chapel (Marlborough Rd, St. James’s, London SW 1A 1BG ) built in Palladian style by Inigo Jones in 1623 – 25.
9.25 The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, was the most flamboyant royal architectural initiative under the Hanoverians; but, because of its spiralling costs and the unpopularity of its patron, the Prince of Wales, later George IV, it was also highly controversial. A sequence of architects worked on the site from 1787 onwards before John Nash remodelled and completed the design in 1815 – 23, creating a bravura Gothic-Indo-Islamic composite by the seaside, contrasting totally with the standard classicism of the eighteenth century. The building was also serviced by the very latest technologies of heating and sanitation. However, after 1837 the Pavilion lost royal favour, Victoria disliking its location in crowded Brighton. The Pavilion was sold to Brighton Corporation, which used it as an urban
Today the Pavilion, located at 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton BN1 1EE , is open to visitors and is a popular venue for marriage ceremonies
9.26 Contrasting extra: Blenheim Palace is much the grandest non-royal palace in the UK, easily outshining St James’s Palace and remaining one of the largest houses in England to this day. It was built in Baroque style in 1707 – 23, with state funding (not without controversy) and on land conveyed by Queen Anne, as a mark of gratitude to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who led Britain’s troops successfully against Louis XIV of France. The property remains the home of the Spencer-Churchill family, who pay a symbolic annual rent to the crown, in the form of a copy of the French royal flag.
The Palace and its grounds, located at Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP, England, are open to the public on payment of a fee.
TWO ADROIT GEORGIAN POWER-BROKERS, WHO DOMINATED THEIR OWN POLITICAL WORLDS AND LEFT SIGNIFICANT LEGACIES FOR LATER GENERATIONS
9.27 Sir Robert Walpole (1676 – 1745), created 1st Earl of Orford in 1742 as acknowledgement of his long tenure as Prime Minister from 1721 – 42. Walpole steered British politics into an era of calm and stability, based upon a moderate Whig stance, supporting religious toleration and constitutional monarchism, and opposing the Jacobite supporters of the deposed Stuart dynasty. He sought to avoid controversy and favoured a peace policy abroad, to keep taxation low. When he did face popular opposition, over his plans to extend and reform the excise in 1733, he simply withdrew the policy – and stayed in power. A genial man, Walpole used the arts of political patronage to maintain support from the monarchy, political colleagues, MPs, Anglican clerics, merchant interests, and landowners in the shires, whilst also making a few discreet concessions to the Protestant Nonconformists.
He finally fell from power, when he lost the support of his cabinet, once the country drifted into war with Spain and was doing badly. His Whig allies continued in office for another two decades, following Walpolean methods of patronage (attacked by his opponents as corruption) and the avoidance of controversy. In essence, he showed how the political system could be managed, demonstrating both the advantages and the flaws of patronage as a tool of government.
A marble statue of Walpole (1857) is located in St Stephen’s Hall, in the Palace of Westminster; and there are two busts of Walpole – one in marble (1726), one in terracotta (1738) – by sculptor John Michael Rysbrack: the latter held by the National Portrait Gallery, London. One testimony to Walpole’s power and financial success in office is the grand Palladian mansion, Houghton Hall, at Houghton nr. King’s Lynn in Norfolk (PE 31 6UE ), which Walpole commissioned in 1722. Another is the celebrated Walpole collection of Old Master paintings, of which many were sold by the 3rd Earl in 1779 to Catherine the Great of Russia – and of which 127 remain in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.
9.28 William Pitt the Younger (1759 – 1806), was born into the world of elite politics, being the younger son of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, who was in high office 1757-61 and again as Prime Minister 1766-68. William Pitt the Younger, a reserved and unclubbable man, who was often unwell, was twice Prime Minister in 1783 – 1801 and 1804-6. He steered the country through the war against revolutionary France, and established the hegemony of a political conservatism (though he did not use that term), allied to fiscal and administrative reforms. His most significant achievements in domestic politics (all controversial) were the clamp-down on lower class radicalism in 1795, the introduction of Income Tax in 1799, and the Union of the Parliaments with Ireland in 1801. But other reforms that he personally favoured, such as Catholic Emancipation in 1801, were blocked.
The Younger Pitt benefitted from the support of the King, from his own powers of oratory in Parliament, and from a pro-war rally in 1794 by many of his political opponents. He also had efficient political managers, such as Henry Dundas in Scotland, who wielded the powers of patronage. The Younger Pitt’s chief legacy was to entrench an updated conservatism – and he became an icon for the new Conservative Party post 1834. The Younger Pitt lived austerely, other than his heavy daily consumption of port, so left only debts (paid by Parliament) and no grand mansion.
A statue of Pitt (erected 1831) stands in Hanover Square, London W1, another in George Street, Edinburgh (erected 1831-3), and another in St Stephen’s Hall, Palace of Westminster (erected 1857). There are also memorials in the City of London’s Guildhall (erected 1812) and in Westminster Abbey, where Pitt was interred next to his father.
TWO DOUGHTY GEORGIAN SPOKESMEN FOR OPPOSITION VIEWS
9.29 Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678 – 1751) had a tumultuous and largely unsuccessful political career but left an ideological legacy through his articulation of principled opposition to oligarchy and especially to political corruption. From Wiltshire landed stock, Bolingbroke combined a well-educated, cultivated and mercurial mind with an unconventional private lifestyle. Ideologically, he supported a traditional Toryism, stressing loyalty to the crown and the Church of England, and he became a powerful member of Robert Harley’s Tory ministry (1710 – 14), which was buoyed by public warweariness after long years of war. But the accession of George I in 1714 divided the Tories, and, after some hesitation, Bolingbroke fled to France and joined the Old Pretender, whose Jacobite uprising in 1715 failed.
Thenceforth Bolingbroke was viewed by many with great suspicion, even though in 1723 he returned to England and gained a royal pardon. He remained active in political and literary circles, helping to organise opposition to Walpole, writing a lively opposition journal The Craftsman and calling for a ruler to rise above parties in The Idea of a Patriot King (1740). Bolingbroke’s chief legacy was in fostering the importance of a regular constitutional opposition in parliament; supporting freedom from central government oppression; opposing political corruption; and, indirectly, encouraging anti-British republicanism in America.
A funerary monument (1751) to Bolingbroke and his second wife is located in St Mary’s Church, Battersea, London SW 11 3NA, where he was Lord of the Manor (a family inheritance until sold in 1763). A bust (c.1730-32) by the sculptor John Michael Rysbrack is also to be seen at Petworth House, Petworth, Sussex; with a copy (1737) at Lydiard House, Lydiard Tregoze, Swindon SN5 3PA, Wiltshire, the ancestral country home of the Viscount Bolingbrokes.
9.30 Charles James Fox (1749 – 1806), leader of the Whig opposition to William Pitt the Younger, is famed especially for flying the flag of parliamentary opposition, even in wartime and against considerable domestic criticism. Fox, like Pitt, was also born within the political world and began with conventional opinions, even while enjoying a colourfully unconventional private life. But, especially after the American War of Independence, when he sympathised with the Americans, Fox articulated a stance of moderate Whig reform, supporting religious toleration, individual liberty against despotism, anti-slavery, and hostility to the length and cost of the war against France. In Parliament for 38 years, Fox had high office only briefly, in 1783 with Lord North in the short and ill-advised Fox-North Coalition, and in his final year of life as Foreign Secretary in the short Ministry of All the Talents. But his powers of oratory and his persistence, even in the political wilderness post 1794 when many of his allies switched to support Pitt, underpinned Fox’s prowess as an advocate of peace, reform and personal liberty. Thus, while the opposition Whigs were never able to topple the government of Pitt the Younger, Fox’s charismatic leadership was able to bind a loyal group together. His last political action was to promote the Act abolishing Britain’s role in the Slave Trade, which was passed in 1807, shortly after Fox’s death. Charles James Fox’s indomitable political stance was much admired by nineteenth-century liberals, though his reputation has faded somewhat since then.
There is a marble bust of Fox by Joseph Nollekens (1792); a public statue (1816) in Bloomsbury Square in London WC 1; a statue of Fox (1857) within the Palace of Westminster; an obelisk (1810), honouring Fox’s role in abolishing the Slave Trade, at Mayfield Park, Southampton SO19; and a postmodernist bronze bust by Ian Rank-Broadley, inspired by the Nollekens bust, and on public display in Chertsey, Surrey KT16, where Fox resided during the last years of his life.
TWO NOTABLE FEMOCRATS, WHO HOSTED SOCIO-POLITICAL MEETINGS, AS UNOFFICIAL CHEER-LEADERS FOR
9.31 Sarah Sophia Child Villiers (née Fane), who became by marriage Countess of Jersey (1785 – 1867), was sole heir to the banking fortune of Childs Bank, and used her wealth and high social position to support traditional Tory or conservative political views. Her husband, George Villiers, 5th Earl of Jersey, added the surname Child to his, in acknowledgement of her contribution to the family fortunes, but did not intervene in her business life as senior partner of Child & Co. Lady Jersey hosted guests at her inherited family home, Osterley Park, in West London, but especially at the fashionable and exclusive London club, Almack’s, where she was one of the powerful
There is no public memorial to Lady Jersey, but the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, London, has a marble bust of an unnamed lady (1827: acc no A.66-1949) by sculptor William Behnes, which is thought to represent Lady Jersey. In addition, her impressive family home can be viewed at Osterley Park, Isleworth TW7 4RB , West London, as can the site of Child’s Bank at 1 Fleet Street, EC 4Y – its HQ since 1673 (rebuilt 1880) – long a family-run bank but now owned by the Natwest Banking Group.
9.32 Elizabeth Fox (née Vassall), Baroness Holland (1771 – 1845), heir to a substantial fortune from West Indian sugar plantations, was married for her second time to Henry Fox, 3rd Baron Holland. Lady Holland shared her politician husband’s views, which favoured moderate Whig reform. She hosted many political soirées as well as literary gatherings at Holland House, in Kensington, and became famed for her domineering nature, which caused contemporary comments but did not escalate into rows on a scale sufficient to dent her influence.
There is no public memorial to Lady Holland, and today her family’s financial acceptance of profits from Caribbean sugar plantations would come under critical scrutiny; but those interested can consult in the British Library her journals (Add.Mss. 51926-51940) and the Holland House Dinner Books (Add.Mss, 51950-51957). Or they can inspect the partial ruins of Holland House (built in the early seventeenth century; bombed 1940), which form the backdrop to the Holland Park Open-Air Theatre, Holland Park, London W8 6LU.
TWO GEORGIAN PARLIAMENTS, PROVIDING SPACE NOT ONLY FOR SET-PIECE ORATORY BUT ALSO FOR POLITICAL LOBBYING AND NEGOTIATIONS
9.33 The Parliament House, Kingdom of Ireland, was built between 1729 and 1739, on the site of its precursor building, located in central Dublin. The semi-circular building constituted the world’s first purpose-built bicameral legislative assembly; and it gave pride of place to the octagonal Irish House of Commons chamber, scene of many famous debates and given new legislative freedom after 1782. The building was further embellished in the course of the century; and, after the Commons’ original domed chamber was destroyed by fire in the 1790s, it was rebuilt, less grandly, in 1796. However, that change was soon followed by the Irish Act of Union with Britain (1800; becoming operative in 1801), and the Parliament House lost its central raison d’être. In 1803, it was purchased from the British government by the Bank of Ireland, which has resisted much later attempts to return the building to some state use. Designs for the Irish Parliament House were studied by American architects when building state legislatures in the later eighteenth century.
The chamber of the House of Commons has since been subdivided and cannot be viewed in its original state; but the Speaker’s Chair is now kept by the Royal Dublin Society, while a bench from the Commons is preserved in the Royal Irish Academy. Meanwhile, the smaller but impressive chamber of the Irish House of Lords, with its original tapestries; Irish oak woodwork; mahogany longcase clock; and a massive late eighteenth-century Dublin crystal chandelier, is used for many public functions and is also open to visitors during banking hours. Ireland’s Parliament House/ Tithe na Parlaiminte is located on College Green, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Republic of Ireland.
9.34 The British Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster, by the River Thames in central London, England, were reconstructed slowly after a disastrous fire in 1834 destroyed a warren of rooms surviving from the thirteenth-century palace. The chosen design for the new building, by the architect Charles Barry, was English Perpendicular Gothic, offering a stylistic tribute to the earlier building, whose surviving remains were incorporated into the new edifice. The interior was designed in a similar neo-Gothic style by Augustus Pugin, with the décor including scenes from history and statues of leading parliamentary debaters, such as Pitt and Fox. The rebuilding took many years, but the Parliament’s distinctive silhouette soon established it as a London landmark, while the clock tower and its clock, known as Big Ben, (completed 1859) have become iconic. In deference to tradition, the capacity of the green benches in the House of Commons was deliberately restricted, so that, in crowded debates, many MPs have to stand. While that characteristic can add intensity to the debates. it can also be criticised as inappropriate for a working legislature in the twenty-first century.
The Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster, London SW 1 are recognisable world-wide; and are now listed, as part of a World Heritage site. A range of free and paid-for tours are available. Individuals can also hear the Commons debates from the Strangers Gallery, either by getting a ticket from their MP or by queuing for admission (no guarantee); and the same applies to the House of Lords. The rebuilt Parliament’s neo-Gothic design stresses the quasi-sacral dignity and the long history of the British legislature; and it provided inspiration for Hungarian architect Imre Steindl, when designing the remarkable neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament on the banks of the Danube (inaugurated 1896; finished 1902). In Britain, the eighteenth century was the first period when Parliament met regularly every year (from 1694 onwards) and when it developed its own constitutional procedures. It did that, whilst honouring its traditional premises, and its neo-Gothic redesign post-1834 did the same.