In the winter enormous wood fires are lit in the hearths at either entrance – more than welcome when coming in from the cold!
On visiting the old Irish Houses of Parliament - now the Bank of Ireland – you may be struck by the feeling that they are somehow familiar. This is because the dramatic Palladian architecture you see before you became the model for the exterior designs of both the British Museum and the US Capitol Building. The original structure was completed in 1733, and was the world’s first purpose-built two-house parliament. Its design also features a very unusual and highly symbolic detail. Where most parliaments of the day gave equal position to both the upper and the lower house (and sometimes precedence to the upper), the Irish Parliament’s construction placed the House of Commons in the very centre of the building. The House of Lords, by contrast, occupied a smaller chamber off to one side.
The Upper Crust
These days, though, the upper house far outshines the lower in terms of visitor appeal. While the latter was altered considerably in both form and function after the dissolution of the Irish Parliament, the old mahogany and Irish oak panelling of the former has been left largely untouched since the days when Irish MPs debated beneath its still-present 18th century crystal chandelier.
A Paneless Experience
One curious feature of the building as a whole is the total absence of windows. During the period in which it was constructed there was a “glass tax” in force in both Britain and Ireland. As a result, the windows included in the original plans were filled in to cut costs. The intention was to install them at a later date, but this never happened, and the solid stone walls remain windowless to this day.
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