The Pugin Room

Lord Norton

44101We have one Parliament but the Palace of Westminster houses two distinct institutions.  The House of Commons has its own infrastucture (library, refreshment department, clerks) and so too does the House of Lords.  When it was decided that there should be one parliamentary ICT department, an Act of Parliament was necessary to bring it into being.  Otherwise, employeees are employed by either the Commons or Lords.

The demarcation between the two Houses is clear, especially on the principal floor, through the colour scheme.   The Commons has everything in green – carpet, benches, chairs, screens – and the Lords is in red.  Even Westminster Bridge (Commons end) is painted green and Lambeth Bridge (Lords end) is painted red. 

There is one exception.  One reader reached this site recently through inputting the term ‘Pugin Room House of Lords’.  This is rather contentious.  The Pugin Room is a small tea room, overlooking the Thames, and is on red carpet.  However, it is used by the Commons and not the Lords.   It is the subject of a territorial dispute!  The Room was given over by the Lords to the Commons in 1906 in return for the use of a committee room.

Since then, the facilities available to the Commons have expanded enormously, not just in terms of office space but also in terms of dining facilties.   The Lords would like to reclaim the Pugin Room, and the Chairman of Committees has previously made representations to the Commons about it, but to no avail.  The Commons have no intention of giving it up. 

It is a running sore.  Perhaps we could make it a neutral zone – enabling members of both Houses to use it – and have a different colour for the carpet!

11 comments for “The Pugin Room

  1. 13/07/2009 at 11:48 pm

    How delightful! This really must present opportunities with a little lateral thinking! How about offering the Foreign Office a chance to build relationships with some appropriate nation by inviting its diplomats to come and mediate? I’m sure they’d be honoured and it could be quite fun!

    Or maybe some kind of sponsored contest between Lords and Commons in aid of Save the Children or another good cause, winners to get the Pugin Room? Could even make it an annual event?

    I’m sure with enough thought and goodwill, something good can come out of it.

  2. 14/07/2009 at 4:19 am

    To whom it may concern,
    Dont’you think it’s discrimanation?
    My spouse is the great grandchild of
    Augustus Welby N. Pugin. We are relatives
    from Canada. Why shouldnt’ be used by the

  3. 14/07/2009 at 9:14 am

    Another great blog post from Lord Norton. Are we likely to see this boundary dispute in the High Court? Just don’t plant any Leylandii!

  4. lordnorton
    14/07/2009 at 11:26 am

    stephenpaterson: What an excellent suggestion. There are some annual Lords versus Commons sporting events, not least the annual tug-of-war in aid of charity. As you suggest, perhaps we could have one of the events with the winner having the right to use the Pugin Room (and, if it is a draw, both Houses could use it). I must check which of the sporting events the Lords usually wins!

    Lee-Ann Parizeau Pugin: Thanks for your comment. I think the fact that the room was designed by Pugin for use by the Lords adds to our case.

    CMetcalfe: I doubt if it will go beyond an exchange of letters. If it had become a legal dispute, it would have been interesting to see what would happen if it had gone all the way to the law lords – who arguably (at least until this October) could be argued to have had a vested interest!

    • 14/07/2009 at 12:56 pm

      I’m pleased you like the idea. I was thinking of golf or chess for some reason.

      Chess would be interesting as there’s no end of amateur chess analysts who’d love to pour over the games of the (relatively) famous. Plus it doesn’t require much organising,can be fit easily into people’s timetables, and you don’t get wet if it rains.

      I thought it might work best if there was a member of each House passionate about a particular charity (possible Baroness Murphy in the Lords with the Alzheimer’s Society, unsure as yet re the Commons) to get teams fired up behind the scenes.

      You might even put an Honours Board on a wall of the Pugin Room showing whose team, captained by whom, won each year. As to what might be a novel idea for a trophy, sounds like a good idea for a quiz.

  5. lordtyler
    15/07/2009 at 1:17 pm

    As a former MP, I am allowed to use any of the refreshment facilities of the Commons, including not only the Pugin Room but even the sacrosanct Members’ Tea Room. However, I have to confess I wouldn’t dare go to the latter unless invited in. Equally, I would be happy entertain any colleague from the Lords in the Pugin Room who feels the need to lay claim to that bit of red carpet. Meanwhile, I can assure other readers that I too think it’s all rather daft!

  6. 15/07/2009 at 5:20 pm

    This is an excellent idea.I do think that
    Pugin should be recognize even in the Palace of Westminster for the work that he did. He did so much for his Contry. I woul kike to
    let you know that my spouse grandfather
    Peter Paul Pugin and Edward who was the sons of Pugin they also work at the Palace of
    Wesminster to finish the work after Pugin died. I will also tell you that I would not
    call that Room a Tea Roomm considering the
    size of the Room, it is spacious. I have a
    large collection of books on Pugin’s work an
    I did saw the size of the Room.
    Have a lovely day.

  7. Senex
    15/07/2009 at 9:10 pm

    Lord Norton: Do MP’s turn green with envy when they think of the other place? Do peers turn red with rage when bills have to be repeatedly sent back to the Commons for rework?

    From the link below:

    “It probably stems from the use by kings of red as a royal colour and its consequent employment in the room where the King met his court and nobles. The use by the Commons of green is much less easy to explain.”

    Ref: Factsheet G10: House of Commons Green

  8. lordnorton
    15/07/2009 at 9:35 pm

    Stephenpaterson: I was rather thinking of table-tennis, since we have some rather good players!

    Lee-Ann Parizeau Pugin: Thanks for your further comments. The family connection is fascinating. I call it a tea room for shorthand: it is always referred to as the Pugin Room.

    Senex: I cannot speak for the MPs, but we msy turn a little red when we see some of the Bills coming our way. Given that the red stems from the royal connection, it is perhaps ironic that the carpet on which the Queen walks is blue.

  9. 16/07/2009 at 12:16 am

    I always thought it was open to both Houses already – thanks for putting me straight on that! What a fascinating dispute. I always enjoyed the demarcation in the old Lord’s Bar (before the refit) when they refused to allow the Commons annunciator to be left on, and tuned it to sport or news instead.

  10. Carol Gauthier
    14/04/2013 at 2:48 am

    Weather it is for the lords or the commons or both preferably, it is a beautiful room. My Great Great Grandfather designed it and it would be a great honour for me to visit this room and to have tea or a meal within. My Grandfather, Edmond Pugin, my mother, Rita Pugin.
    Please let me know if it is at all possible for me to visit/reserve for either July 14th or 15th, 2013. We will be in London at this time and I would love to have the privilege of just seeing this particular room.
    Thank you

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