1835. 16.5x22.6; 15.6x22.3cm. Two pencil drawings mounted on plain paper with date and title captioned in English. A very good condition.
Unidentified artist (signature E.C. in the left bottom corner).
Rare historical evidence of one of the most famous fires in the 19th century England.
The views of the destruction of both Houses of Parliament from Abington and Surrey side on the night of the 16th October 1834.
One of the most disastrous fires in the history of England was caused by the unsupervised burning of two large cartloads of wooden tally sticks (a form of medieval tax receipt) in the heating furnaces. Warning signs were persistently ignored by the Housekeeper and Clerk of Works, and the Prime Minister would later declare the catastrophe, ‘one of the greatest instances of stupidity upon record’. A huge fireball exploded out of the building at around 6.30pm, immediately attracting hundreds of thousands of people. The conflagration was fought by parish engines, insurance companies and the private London Fire Engine Establishment. Hundreds of volunteers, including MPs and Peers, staffed the pumps on the night, and were paid in beer for their efforts. The fire lasted for most of the night and destroyed a large part of the palace, including the converted St Stephen’s Chapel - the meeting place of the House of Commons - the Lords Chamber, the Painted Chamber and the official residences of the Speaker and the Clerk of the House of Commons.
The damage to the wrecked Palace was estimated at £2 million. No-one however was prosecuted, though the public inquiry found various people guilty of negligence and foolishness. The fire ultimately resulted in the establishment of the first public London Fire Brigade and the creation of a National Archives for the United Kingdom.
Interestingly, at the time people perceived the blaze as a judgement from God for the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which completely abolished the system of providing support to the poor.
The Palace was rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style by the architects Charles Barry (1795-1860) and Augustus Pugin (1812-1852) in the mid-19th century.