Renovations in Britain’s House of Commons Uncovers Secret 17th-century Tunnel
“To say we were surprised is an understatement - we really thought it had been walled-up forever after the war."
A secret 17th-century doorway was discovered in Britain’s House of Commons during an ongoing renovation project.
The passageway is believed to have been created for the procession to the Coronation banquet of Charles II in 1660, according to a press release from the British parliament. For generations, it was used by members of parliament as the main entrance to the House of Commons. But a fire in the 19th century burned through most of the structure and the Victorians sealed the tunnel up.
During a period of construction following World War II, the tunnel was rediscovered. Bombing damage to the Palace of Westminster had revealed the tunnel, but it was sealed back up again during post-war repairs.
“To say we were surprised is an understatement - we really thought it had been walled-up forever after the war,” Mark Collins, Parliament’s estates historian, said in a statement.
A brass plaque in Westminster Hall marked the spot where the doorway once stood, although no one knew anything about it. It was buried between thick masonry and a wood-paneled cloister, which had previously been used as offices for the Labour Party and a cloakroom for members of parliament.
The renovation team discovered the possibility of the doorway by looking through old plans at the Historic England Archives. They realized there was a tiny brass keyhole in the paneling of the hallway. A locksmith came and opened up what they believed might have been an electricity cupboard. But once the panel came open, it swung to reveal the secret entrance.
“The mystery of the secret doorway is one we have enjoyed discovering – but the palace no doubt still has many more secrets to give up,” Collins said. “We hope to share the story with visitors to the palace when the building is finally restored to its former glory, so it can be passed on down the generations and is never forgotten again.”