Some US officials said on Wednesday that a forgotten passage in the British parliament constructed for the 1661 coronation of King Charles II had been rediscovered during renovation work. The parliament was found behind a small wooden door that people assumed contained an electricity cupboard. It was constructed in 1807 and has not been accessed for more than 70 years.
The passage led out of Westminster Hall, the only building to survive a devastating fire in 1834 that destroyed the House of Commons and Lords. The 36-year-old parliament was reopened during the reconstruction after the fire but closed again in 1851.
There is no doubt that the complex was constructed for the coronation of King Charles in 1661, and 17th-century wooden timbers are present all over the ceiling. Several critical political personalities such as diarist Samuel Pepys and Britain’s first effective prime minister, Robert Walpole, would have likely used it. The House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said, “To think that this walkway has been used by so many important people over the centuries is incredible.”
Several artworks or graffiti by the 19th-century bricklayers are there on the walls. One such section read, “This room was enclosed by Tom Porter, who was very fond of Ould Ale (beer).”
The old-age parliament was discovered by workmen dealing with bomb damage from World War II. They installed an electric light and a small access door.
The door is a wood panelling in a cloister formerly used as offices by the Labour Party. The door had only a tiny brass keyhole and it was soon forgotten. “As we looked at the panelling closely, we realized there was a tiny brass keyhole that no-one had really noticed before, believing it might just be an electricity cupboard,” said Liz Hallam Smith, a historical consultant on the project.