The Historic Furniture and Decorative Arts Collection includes almost 11,000 items of historic furniture, clocks, silver and ceramics. Our collection is a working one with many pieces in daily use across the Parliamentary estate, for example, in the House of Commons and House of Lords Chambers, committee rooms, offices and dining rooms.
About the Historic Furniture and Decorative Arts Collection
During a tour of the Palace of Westminster you can see many of our objects that play a central role in the daily life of Parliament. In both chambers are the despatch boxes. In the Robing Room you will find the Chair of State, used once a year by the Sovereign during the State Opening of Parliament. And thousands of historic chairs are in use all over the Palace.
The New Palace of Westminster
Much of the collection consists of objects created for the New Palace of Westminster after the 1834 fire. Architect Charles Barry (1795-1860) designed the new building and worked closely with Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852), who designed all the furniture and details in the Gothic Revival style.
A handful of objects survived the 1834 fire – the oldest item in the collection is a silver tankard from 1649.
After World War 2
The collection also includes a large number of objects designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960) for the House of Commons following its destruction during World War 2 bombings. Scott followed Pugin’s example closely, working in the Gothic Revival style, although the post-war budget did not allow for such detailed decoration as the Victorian era.
51 Commonwealth countries gave gifts of furniture or materials for the restored House of Commons. Examples include the inkwells in the Commons division lobbies, which are engraved with the names of the Commonwealth countries that donated them.
The collection today
Our team of heritage specialists look after the collection. Two conservators and two documentation staff work under the Keeper of Historic Furniture and Decorative Arts.
The team conserves and researches the collection so that it can be enjoyed now and in the future. Alongside making new acquisitions, organising repairs and answering public enquiries, it supports ceremonial events such as the State Opening of Parliament.