TWO MEMORABLE FIRES

TWO MEMORABLE FIRES

On October 16, 1733 and 1834. respectively, Berkeley house, London, and the British Houses of Parliament, in the same city, were burned down. The former stood in Piccadilly, on the site of the present Devonshire house. It boasted a staircase of cedar and princely furniture, but (according to Evelyn’s Diary) the kitchen and stables were “ill placed and the corridore worse. * * * The porticos are in imitation of a house described by Palladio, but it happens to be the worst in his booke.” The fire was caused by the workmen leaving a gluepot among the shavings, which boiled over while they were at breakfast, and set fire to the house. This was before the days of policemen, for (savs the Daily Journal of the day after the fire) “the Earl of Albemarle at tended in person, with a party of Guards, to secure what goods were saved from being plundered by the mob; and all persons unknown were searched as they went out.” The burning of the Houses of Parliament, sixty nine years ago. on the 16th of October, was caused by official stupidity. For centuries the accounts of the Exchequer had been kept by means of the antiquated tally stick, and though in the reign of George III. a proposition was made to use pen, ink, and paper, red tapeism scouted the idea, and the use of tally sticks was continued down to the year 1826. In 1834 the large stock was ordered to be destroyed, and, instead of distributing them to the poor of the neighborhood, some wiseacre decided that they should be burned in the stove of the House of Lords. The stove became overheated and set fire to the paneling; the paneling set fire to the House of Lords; and the House of Lords set fire to the House of Commons The cost to the nation was about $10,000,000.

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