The doorway of Samuel Pepys: Secret entrance used by famous diarist discovered in House of Commons 


Pepys, famed for writing an eye-opening diary, was an MP from 1679 to 1688

A secret doorway which would have been used by diarist Samuel Pepys has been rediscovered in the House of Commons.

The entrance, which was created for the procession to the Coronation banquet of Charles II, dates back 360 years.

It would also have been used by William Pitt the Younger and the first defacto prime minister of Britain Robert Walpole.

It has been hidden for 70 years behind wooden panelling in a cloister that was formerly used as offices by the Parliamentary Labour Party.

A brass plate marks where the doorway had once been in Westminster Hall.

Historians believed it had been filled-in following reconstruction work after the palace was bombed during the Second World War.

But it has now been rediscovered in the course of the Palace of Westminster’s Restoration and Renewal Programme.

Liz Hallam Smith, the team’s historical consultant from the University of York, said: ‘We were trawling through 10,000 uncatalogued documents relating to the palace at the Historic England Archives in Swindon, when we found plans for the doorway in the cloister behind Westminster Hall.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle examines the entrance, which was created for the procession to the Coronation banquet of Charles II in the 1660s

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle examines the entrance, which was created for the procession to the Coronation banquet of Charles II in the 1660s

It has been hidden for 70 years behind wooden panelling in a cloister that was formerly used as offices by the Parliamentary Labour Party

It has been hidden for 70 years behind wooden panelling in a cloister that was formerly used as offices by the Parliamentary Labour Party

‘As we looked at the panelling closely, we realised there was a tiny brass key-hole that no-one had really noticed before, believing it might just be an electricity cupboard.

‘Once a key was made for it, the panelling opened up like a door into this secret entrance.’

Pepys, famed for writing an eye-opening diary of 17th Century life, was an MP from 1679 to 1688, before his association with the Stuart monarchy saw him lose office following the Glorious Revolution. 

House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said: ‘To think that this walkway has been used by so many important people over the centuries is incredible.’

Mark Collins, Parliament’s Estates Historian, said he was certain the doorway dated back at least 360 years.

Dendrochronology testing revealed that the ceiling timbers above the little room dated from trees felled in 1659 – which tied in with surviving accounts that stated the doorway was made in 1660-61 for the coronation banquet of Charles II.

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