Discovering Parliament through virtual reality   

Construction of the new Education Centre for Parliament has proved controversial for some Thorney Island members. This was partly because it encroached on rare green space in Victoria Tower Gardens and partly because it was difficult to believe that a new building costing £7 million was going to be "temporary" for just 10 years as claimed.

At the end of October we visited it and were very impressed with the facilities provided to enlighten school children of primary and secondary age about the history of our parliamentary democracy. A series of rooms mimicing the look of the House of Commons and Lords utilise augmented reality techniques to explain over a thousand years of history at rapid speed to 100,000 of today's techno savvy kids every year.


                     Raised flowerbeds in Thomas Hill's book of 1586


Walking through the front door of Bridgewater House overlooking The Green Park, you are almost blown over by what you see. Instead of a hallway to a private residence you are immediately propelled into the Great Saloon designed by Charles Barry as part of a reconstruction and looking like the forum of Barry's Reform Club only it is even bigger. Standing on the million pound carpet and looking skywards towards the glass roof your eye is caught by a ring of domes, half of which turn out to be mirror images.

At one end of the ground floor is a set of murals by Jakob Götzenberger depicting scenes from the masque Comus which was actually commisioned from John Milton (who lived for part of his life on the other side of St James' Park in Petty France) by a former owner of the house and depicts the Earl of Bridgewater talking to
Milton. Bridgewater was an ancestor of Lord Ellesmere who orchestrated the present reconstruction in the 1840s and to make sure posterity did not forget, he  left dozens of his initials at strategic points throughout the house. 

The famous gallery with works by Titian, da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt and others is no longer there having been converted into offices but we were able to get a glimpse of its former glory by seeing the pillars at either end, one section of which has been converted into a small chapel.