Scientists have created a 3D model of first dedicated House of Commons chamber - destroyed in the 1834 Palace of Westminster fire - with the help of old documents. The House of Commons took shape in the medieval chapel of St Stephen, formerly a place of worship for the royal family. With few traces of the original building still remaining, echoes of the life of the chapel can only be found in centuries-old documents in parliamentary and national archives. Researchers at University of York in the UK developed 3D models of the Chapel and House of Commons that have been installed on a touch-screen display in the Palace of Westminster, and are also launching online. The models reveal not only the colours and textures of the building, but also parallels between political debate in the 16th century and today, researchers said. "St Stephen's was built by King Edward I to be a show- case of English royal splendour. When the Chapel was dissolved during the Reformation, it became a meeting place for politicians to debate the issues of the day," said John Cooper from University of York. "Members of Parliament had previously met in a number of different locations.
Once they took occupation of St Stephen's, however, they never left, even though there was never a grand plan for a new home for the House of Commons," Cooper said. The move into St Stephen's was a by-product of the Reformation, but it had profound consequences for the future of British politics, researchers said. When the Commons was gutted in the Westminster fire of 1834, a new debating chamber was constructed of strikingly similar design, they said. Records reveal not only how St Stephen's Chapel was built, the masons, painters, sculptors and many workmen involved its construction and how much they were paid, but also the politics later conducted within its walls, researchers said. The seating of the Commons was arranged so that politicians would be facing each other at close quarters, much like today. The overcrowding in the room meant that discussion could rise to intense levels. When divisions were called, some MPs were reluctant to get up to vote in case they lost their seats to someone else, researchers said.
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