The day the Houses of Parliament burned down no one batted an eyelid as the stone floor became hotter and hotter in the House of Lords. The housekeeper opened the door to the chamber in the morning, and in the afternoon, and thought she could smell smoke. She closed the door again. She took a group of visitors on a guided tour. They thought the air seemed a bit hazy. There was that sharp smell of something burning.
It started as an attempt to get rid of some sticks of wood that had been used to keep track of taxes. For years they had sat in a room, forgotten and drying out. Two great carts were filled and the sticks hauled to the boiler underneath the House of Lords. Two men spent a whole day feeding them to the roaring fire.
The fire was hungry. The more it ate the hungrier it became. That evening a giant flame shot out of one of the chimneys and after that the Houses of Parliament burned down. The year was 1834 and the building we know today was built in the years that followed.
After the fire the author Charles Dickens remarked:
“All obstinate adherence to rubbish which the time has long outlived is certain to have in the soul of it more or less that is destructive; and that will some day set fire to something or other.”
It makes me wonder about all the old rubbish we hold onto, in our homes and in our hearts, and how important it is to notice when that fire starts to burn.
– Story adapted from The Day Parliament Burned Down by Caroline Shenton.