How I Got to Here
So, with just a week to go until publication of The Day Parliament Burned Down, the story behind the story…
When I began work at the Parliamentary Archives in 1999, I often found myself having to tell readers in our public searchroom that nearly all of the historic Commons’ records were lost in the fire of 1834. I became increasingly curious about it. But I couldn’t discover very much – mention of the disaster was usually confined to a paragraph or two in books about the new Palace of Westminster, and its architects Charles Barry and AWN Pugin. Then I became frustrated. Why had almost everyone forgotten about this monumental catastrophe – one which changed the face of London and Parliament forever? Surely it must have had a massive impact on contemporaries? What did people think at the time? What was the old Palace like? Why did the fire spread so quickly? What treasures were lost and what was saved? Who was killed? And why had no-one written in detail about it before? I I found the report of the official inquiry on the cause of the fire. Then I looked at a few newspaper accounts of the disaster. I remembered some items I’d catalogued years before in a previous job at the (then) Public Record Office. Things started to connect in my head. One thing led to another, and eventually some nine years later I found I had gradually gathered enough material together to write that book myself. It took me another two years to complete it in my spare time. I found an agent. He found me a publisher. And next week The Day Parliament Burned Down finally hits the shelves of a bookshop or Kindle near you. There’s something in there for everyone – history, art, architecture, Charles Dickens, JMW Turner, political scandal and corruption, Parliamentary reform, the slums of Westminster, floating fire engines, terrorism, child labour, vast quantities of beer, the London Irish, and a dog called Chance. I hope everyone enjoys reading the story as much as I did writing it.
The Day Parliament Burned Down ISBN 9780199646708 is published on 9 August, and will be available on Amazon (including Kindle) and at all good bookshops. Signed copies can be purchased from the Houses of Parliament Shop price £15.99 (RRP £18.99).