Leslie Mitchell

Fiery Debates

The Day Parliament Burned Down

By

Oxford University Press 333pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

According to The Times, on 16 October 1834 London was visited by an ‘afflicting accident’, which was a ‘spectacle of terrible beauty’. Quite simply, the Houses of Parliament burned down. For over 600 years after its foundation, the Exchequer, the forerunner of today’s Treasury, had kept its accounts on wooden tallies. These bundles were not regarded as a superb archive of medieval administrative practice but as an embarrassing nuisance. Accordingly, two Irish labourers were instructed to burn them in the boilers situated immediately below the Chamber of the House of Lords. They worked with a will and achieved a result that exceeded all expectations. At a subsequent inquiry, both men expressed surprise at what their handiwork had caused.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Her favourite design included a body in the shape of a horse, with a steam engine inside ... The passenger would t… ,
    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,