There’s nothing quite as inspiring as historic architecture – at least, not to us at Mallards. Every visit to a stately home, medieval church or castle gives Douglas and his team yet more ideas for heritage-themed jewellery. The House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster has some of the most incredible architectural details we’ve seen. Here’s a look at the House of Lords and the details that inspired us.
About the House of Lords
The House of Lords is the Second Chamber in the UK Parliament. Its role is to scrutinise Bills approved by the House of Commons, and recommend amendments and changes, acting as a check before Bills become law. Members aren’t voted into the House: they’re either appointed, or inherit the role through their role or hereditary title. It took this form in the 14th century under Edward III, and we’ve had the same bi-house system ever since (although the Lords was abolished during the Commonwealth). The main change has been the gradual shift of power from the Lords to the Commons; and the former’s main power today lies in amending and rejecting Bills.
The Chamber itself is familiar to most of us from broadcasts of the Queen’s speech at the State Opening of Parliament. It shares the Palace of Westminster with the House of Commons. The current building dates from the 1840s, when the medieval Palace was rebuilt following the 1834 fire. The new Gothic building was created by two of the era’s grandest names in design: architect Charles Barry and designer Augustus Pugin.
Visiting the House of Lords
The House of Lords is open to the public. You can observe business in the Chamber, or take a tour on Saturdays or during the holidays. Traditionally, the easiest way to attend a session was to queue outside an hour prior to the session (unless you happen to know a Lord), or book a tour through the Parliamentary website.
During 2020, visits and tours are suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, you can take a virtual tour of the Lords and Commons chambers online. We appreciate this isn’t the same as getting close to Pugin’s astonishing interior design skills; however, it will still give you a good idea of the architectural splendour of the Palace.
Inspiring Architectural Details
Douglas was fortunate to visit the Lords before it brought down its Portcullis in 2020. Pugin embraced his Gothic brief thoroughly, and the sheer volume of Gothic detailing is astonishing: perfect for those in search of inspiration.
The Lords chamber is 80 feet long, with stained glass windows and frescoes. The windows are post-WWII replacements, depicting coats of arms, while the Victorian frescoes have the medieval themes of Justice, Religion and Chivalry. The benches are always red (the Commons are green), and the gold canopy and Throne dominate the south end of the Chamber. The brass gates at the far end of the Chamber from the throne each weigh three quarters of a ton. Throughout the Chamber, the rich wood panelling is intricately carved, and the ceiling is divided into 28 compartments, each with traditional emblems (such as the White Hart).
Outside, the Peers’ Lobby is ornately decorated with heraldic crests, and the Tudor Rose forms the centrepiece of the spectacular tiled floor. Leading to this, the Peers’ Corridor has a series of wall paintings, telling the history of the Civil War – a reminder to the Lords that liberties are hard won.
From a jewellery designer’s perspective, the House of Lords is an incredible place, right down to the last finial or piece of wallpaper. If you live, work or simply love a historic building and would like to capture it in a piece of jewellery, please contact us at Mallards. We specialise in recreating architectural and other historic details in bespoke jewellery, and work with both the heritage industry and private customers.