HL Deb 22 July 1878 vol 241 cc2018-21

EARL GRANVILLE rose to ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack a Question which would not embarrass Her Majesty's Government, and in the object of which he believed he would obtain the sympathy of both sides of the House. He wished to know, Whether the noble and learned Lord would exert his influence with his Colleagues to direct the Board of Works to take the necessary measures for improving the ventilation of the House? The atmosphere in it had been most oppressive during the hot weather. He never knew anything more oppressive than it was on the great occasion when the noble Earl (the Earl of Beaconsfield) came down to explain and defend his Eastern policy. On the other hand, he was told that in "another place," where superior mechanical means had been adopted, the temperature had been constantly kept not higher than 70°, and the air fresh and wholesome. This was done by means of ice and a most ingenious mechanical contrivance. The delicacy which the noble Earl had lately attributed to his (Earl Granville's) nerves prevented his proposing the heroic measure of exchanging rooms with the House of Commons, though great advantages from such an arrangement would accrue to both. Their Lordships would be cool and comfortable; while, as regarded the great popular Assembly, he would defy any man, even of the most vigorous constitution, to offer obstruction in this beautiful but ill-ventilated chamber for more than a very limited number of hours. What he proposed was merely that they should humbly follow the example of the House of Commons, and have the advantage of similar scientific appliances. He knew that he might claim the authority of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack as to the reality of the evil, and as to the necessity of a thorough reform. But they differed as to certain temporary palliatives. The noble and learned Lord, with a view to their Lordships' increased comfort, ordered at 5 every evening the windows to be opened on the shady side of the House, an order which rejoiced the hearts of their Lordships, all of them being good Englishmen. It was the only idea which an Englishman had of cooling a house. But much as he admired his countrymen, he must admit that, owing to the great blessing of a temperate climate, they did not understand warming a house when it was very cold, like a Russian or a Canadian, or keeping it cool when the weather was hot, like an Indian or even an Italian. An Italian opened everything during the night, and darkened everything during the day. By following this simple process, their Lordships would keep their own House much cooler. His impression was that the effect of opening the windows of the House of Lords was to admit outer air often 9 or 10° hotter than that of the apartment itself. But he did not venture to press any theory of his own on their Lordships. He therefore consulted Dr. Percy, the eminent Fellow of the Royal Society, who had made this subject an especial study, and who had so long been in charge of the ventilation of the Houses of Parliament. He had a letter from Dr. Percy, showing how far he was right, and giving an additional reason against opening the windows, of which he was not aware—

"July 19, 1878.

"My Lord,—The supply of air to the House of Lords is wholly effected by exhaustion through numerous openings in the ceiling, and the air comes through the floor from the adjacent courtyards, which are kept cool by watering. When the windows are open, the air enters mainly through the open window spaces, and escapes through the roof without descending to the floor of the House. This is a point, in my opinion, of the greatest importance. The temperature rises after the windows are opened in hot weather; but last night the temperature was not very high in the House, and I suspect that the discomfort which, your Lordship experienced was due not so much to high temperature as to deficient supply of fresh air from below. I hope I have made this point plain, for it cannot be too strongly insisted upon.

"I have the honour, &c.,


Dr. Percy had also sent him a copy of the hourly temperature of the House last Thursday. From noon till 5 it was 71°; but at 5.30, when five windows were opened, the temperature was at 73°, and after 11 windows were opened at 6.30, the temperature rose to 75°. Dr. Percy was of opinion that great improvement could be made by mechanical appliances in the ventilation of their House.


said, he had personally more experience of the temperature of their Lordships' House than, perhaps, any of their Lordships; and he, therefore, entirely sympathized with a certain amount of the complaint which the noble Earl had made in reference to the ventilation of the House. He had endeavoured to see the officer who had charge of the ventilation, wishing to ask him some questions; but, unfortunately, he was absent at the time he sought him. He could assure the noble Earl that he should endeavour to ascertain if any improvement could be made. With reference to what the noble Earl had said about the causes of the oppressive heat, there was not the least doubt that it was greatly owing to the fact that so large a portion of the superficial area was composed of glass, the consequence of that being that in winter they had a very cold and in summer a very hot House. Besides, the sides of the House were east and west, so that the sun was on one side in the forenoon and on the other side in the afternoon. He quite agreed with the noble Earl's theory that if they had a reservoir of cool air in a building, and wished to prevent the temperature of it rising, it was better not to introduce air which was at a higher temperature from outside; but if they had a machinery inside which was constantly raising the temperature and exhausting the freshness of the air inside, of the two evils the least was to have fresh air admitted from outside. On Thursday evening last the House was unusually crowded, and the windows were kept closed until the great crowd had assembled. He had then given orders that the windows should be opened, and he had the consolation of thinking that he had saved lives by so doing. The blinds were now kept closed to prevent the House, as far as possible, from being heated through the windows; but without some means of damping them, that contrivance was very far from being a sufficient one. The best plan of ventilation was, no doubt, to introduce fresh air from the floor, and cause it to ascend through the body of a building; but the real difficulty was not to supply fresh air from the floor, but how to counteract the heating operation on the outside glass. He would, however, make inquiries on the subject with the view of remedying the evil.