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Hidden Doorway From 17th Century Found in Parliament

Inside the forgotten passageway, a mason wrote of his love of beer
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2020 11:53 AM CST

(Newser) – Historians have made a surprise discovery during restoration work at the UK House of Commons: a long-forgotten passageway built for a king and used by the country's first prime minister and other political luminaries of the past. The passage, built for Charles II's coronation procession, wasn't exactly secret. A plaque on the wall of Westminster Hall tells of a door that once stood there. But it was thought to have been completely blocked following a 1834 fire. That is, until historian Liz Hallam Smith, a consultant to Parliament's architecture and heritage team, came across plans for a doorway in a wood-paneled room formerly used as a coat closet, per the BBC. "As we looked at the paneling closely, we realized there was a tiny brass keyhole that no one had really noticed before," she says, per the Guardian. "Once a key was made for it, the paneling opened up like a door" into the passageway.

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It led to the other side of the bricked-up door that would have opened into Westminster Hall. "I was awestruck, because it shows that the Palace of Westminster still has so many secrets to give up," Hallam Smith tells the BBC. Along with the original door hinges, historians found graffiti from those who blocked the doorway on Aug. 11, 1851. One standout line reads, "This room was enclosed by Tom Porter who was very fond of Ould Ale." Though the plaque erected in 1895 notes the passageway was used by Charles I in 1642, it's believed to be incorrect as the ceiling timbers date to 1659. Charles II's coronation came two years later. Experts believe the room was accessed again during restorations following World War II, owing to a still-functioning light switch. Evidence of the find will now be digitized so the passage won't be forgotten by future generations. (Read more discoveries stories.)

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