The Day Parliament Burned Down

Paperback | October 18, 2013

byCaroline Shenton

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In the early evening of 16 October 1834, to the horror of bystanders, a huge ball of fire exploded through the roof of the Houses of Parliament, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor, and from stagecoaches on top of the South Downs. In front ofhundreds of thousands of witnesses the great conflagration destroyed Parliament's glorious old buildings and their contents. No one who witnessed the disaster would ever forget it. The events of that October day in 1834 were as shocking and significant to contemporaries as the death of Princess Diana was to us at the end of the 20th century - yet today this national catastrophe is a forgotten disaster, not least because Barry and Pugin's monumental new Palace of Westminsterhas obliterated all memory of its 800 year-old predecessor. Rumours as to the fire's cause were rife. Was it arson, terrorism, the work of foreign operatives, a kitchen accident, careless builders, or even divine judgement on politicians? In this, the first full-length book on the subject, Parliamentary Archivist Caroline Shenton unfolds the gripping story of the fire over the course of that fateful day and night. In the process, she paints a skilful portrait of the political and social context of the time, including details of theslums of Westminster and the frenzied expansion of the West End; the plight of the London Irish; child labour, sinecures and corruption in high places; fire-fighting techniques and floating engines; the Great Reform Act and the new Poor Law; Captain Swing and arson at York Minster; the parlous stateof public buildings and records in the Georgian period; and above all the symbolism which many contemporaries saw in the spectacular fall of a national icon.

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From the Publisher

In the early evening of 16 October 1834, to the horror of bystanders, a huge ball of fire exploded through the roof of the Houses of Parliament, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor, and from stagecoaches on top of the South Downs. In front ofhundreds of thousands of witnesses the great co...

Caroline Shenton is Clerk of the Records at the Parliamentary Archives in London. She was previously a senior archivist at the National Archives and has worked in and around collections relating to the old Palace of Westminster for over twenty years. Educated at the University of St Andrews, Worcester College Oxford and University Col...

other books by Caroline Shenton

Mr Barry's War: Rebuilding the Houses of Parliament after the Great Fire of 1834
Mr Barry's War: Rebuilding the Houses of Parliament aft...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:360 pages, 8.5 × 5.31 × 0.07 inPublished:October 18, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199677506

ISBN - 13:9780199677504

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Table of Contents

Prologue1. Thursday 16 October 1834, 6am: Mr Hume's Motion for a New House2. Thursday 16 October 1834, 7am: Novelty, Novelty, Novelty3. Thursday 16 October 1834, 9am: Worn-out, worm-eaten, rotten old bits of wood4. Thursday 16 October 1834, 3pm: Manifest Indications of Danger5. Thursday 16 October 1834, 6pm: One of the Greatest Instances of Stupidity Upon Record6. Thursday 16 October 1834, 7pm: The Brilliancy of Noonday7. Thursday 16 October 1834, 8pm: Immense and Appalling Splendour8. Thursday 16 October 1834, 9pm: Damn the House of Commons!9. Thursday 16 October 1834, 10pm: But Save, Oh Save, the Hall!10. Thursday 16 October 1834, 11pm: Milton's Pandemonium11. Friday 17 October 1834, Midnight: A National Calamity12. Friday 17 October 1834, 1am: Emptying the Thames13. Friday 17 October 1834, 3.30am: Thank God We Seem All Safe14. Friday 17 October 1834, 4am: Guy Faux has Rose Again15. Friday 17 October 1834, 6am: Past PerilEpilogueDramatis PersonaeNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"[Shenton's] book is deeply researched ... yet surprisingly gripping." --Andrew Holgate, The Sunday Times