St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster: Visual and Political Culture, 1292-1941 (2013-16)

AHRC Grant 2013-2016: University of York, the Institute of Historical Research and the Palace of Westminster

Collaboration: the University of York, the Institute of Historical Research and the Palace of Westminster

Funding: £976,296, Arts and Humanities Research Council

Duration: Three years from October 2013

Principal Investigator: Dr John Cooper (Senior Lecturer, Department of History, University of York)

Co-Investigators: Professor Tim Ayers (Department of History of Art, University of York) and Professor Miles Taylor (Department of History, University of York)

The Project

The St Stephen’s Chapel research project, launched in October 2013, brought together a team of historians and art historians to research a building which was successively a royal chapel, the House of Commons, and the ceremonial entry-way to Parliament.

As the king's chapel in the Palace of Westminster, St Stephen's was rebuilt and furnished over seventy years by Edward I, Edward II and Edward III, to create a lavish setting for royal worship, rivalling any in Europe. As a monument to medieval kingship and setting for parliamentary government, St Stephen’s helped to shape the political culture of the nation. Then in 1834, a fire swept through the Palace of Westminster destroying a sizeable chunk of British history and reducing many of the medieval buildings to smoking ruins.

An exciting aspect of the project, therefore, has been the digital reconstruction of the building, showing its transformation through the ages, through 3-D modelling created by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at the University of York.

For further details about the project and its extensive research team, visit the St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster website and blog; read an article about the project and watch this video:


  • 30 June – 5 November 2015 - The Making of Parliament: St Stephen's Chapel exhibition and accompanying booklet.
  • 27 June 2016 - Promenade concert: Nicholas Ludford c.1485-c.1557, Sometime Musician at St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, held at the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, the Houses of Parliament, performed by the choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, directed by Dr Geoffrey Webber, and the Parliament Choir, directed by Nicholas O’Neill (Composer in Residence to the Parliament Choir).
  • 19-20 September 2016 - Project Conference.
  • 1 October 2016 - 'Digitale Rekonstruktion der St. Stephan's Chapel des Houses of Parliament, London’ (The Digital Reconstruction of St. Stephen’s Chapel of the Houses of Parliament, London): paper given by Professor Ayers at the AKTLD annual conference (Arbeitskreis Theorie und Lehre der Denkmalpflege; the Working Group on the Theory and Teaching of Monument Conservation.


  • Dr Rosemary Hill, ''Proceeding like Guy Faux': The Antiquarian Investigation of St Stephen's Chapel Westminster, 1790-1837', Architectural History 59 (2016), pp 253-279.


  • Dr Elizabeth Biggs, 'The College and Canons of St Stephen's, Westminster, 1348-1548', University of York, 2017
  • Dr James Hillson (associated researcher; independent AHRC doctoral award), 'St Stephen's Chapel Westminster: Architecture, Decoration and Politics in the Reigns of Henry III and the Three Edwards (1227-1363)', University of York, 2016 

Main image: H J Brewer - draughtsman, Perspective view of the old Palace of Westminster in the reign of Henry (published 1884), pen and ink on paper. Palace of Westminster, WOA 82

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