19th February 2023

Matthew and Illia Visit the Houses of Parliament

Matthew & Illia Visit the Houses of Parliament

Matthew’s experience:

 

“It all started last year when I wrote to lots of different famous people and organisations. Some didn’t write back but a few did. For example, I got a signed player’s photograph and certificate from Liverpool FC, a Blue Peter badge because they liked the letter and artwork I sent and an original Mickey and Goofy drawing and some great advice on how to get into animation from Phil Weinstein who’s a producer at Disney in California.

 

One of the most exciting responses I got was from Wes Streeting. He’s the local MP for Ilford North where I live (and you might too if you cross the train bridge to come to school). He is also the Shadow Health Minister. He answered my questions and told me all about what he wanted to be when he was 9. He invited me to parliament and because my friend Illia also lives in Ilford North, he was invited too!

 

On January 9th we caught the train to Westminster and started with a tour. Our guide was very kind and knowledgeable. The tour began in Westminster Great Hall. Lots of important things in history have happened there. Guy Fawkes was put on trial there and just this year Queen Elizabeth was lying in state there (remember the massive queue?).

 

We were allowed to take photos in the Great Hall and the next hall but soon we were into the part of parliament where no photos are allowed. The House of Commons and the House of Lords are on opposite sides and in the middle is a place called the Central Lobby. It’s really beautiful and there are statues there, it even has its own post office. 

 

In the next room we saw statues of past Prime Ministers including Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. MPs used to touch Churchill’s foot for luck as they went into the House of Commons but his foot got too damaged and the metal rubbed away so there’s a sign now saying you’re not allowed to touch him!

 

Next it was time to go into the Chamber. It was smaller than I thought it would be – it looks a lot bigger on the television. Our guide explained that we weren’t allowed to sit down as only MPs are allowed to sit there. I felt excited to be in there and I felt almost like I was an MP!

 

When we’d finished in the House of Commons we went to the Lords. That was bigger and more grand than the Commons. We saw the throne where King Charles will sit when he opens Parliament for the first time. There was also something in the middle that looked like an inflatable couch! I asked what it was, and our guide said it’s a Wool Sack where people sit in the Lords. It’s stuffed with wool from sheep taken from every country in the commonwealth.

 

In one of the rooms next to the House of Lords, there were lots of paintings of kings and queens and a statue of Queen Victoria. Our guide told us that below this room was the cellar where Guy Fawkes hid his gunpowder and was planning to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Every year before the opening of Parliament the cellar is still checked for gun powder, but none has been found.

 

Our tour finished and we had a great time and learnt so much. However, we hadn’t met Wes Streeting yet so we went to Westminster Abbey whilst we waited to see if we could get in touch with him. Westminster Abbey has been there for nearly 1000 years and so many important people are buried there. We saw Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton’s graves. We saw a statue of William Wilberforce who was one of the people who helped to end slavery. We also saw the tomb of the unknown soldier and the graves of Queen Elizabeth I and Henry VII. A man who worked there told us all about the coronation that is going to be there in May and said that maybe when we were older we’d be invited to King William or King George’s coronation! Finally, we went to the top of the abbey – the views were amazing as long as you’re not scared of heights.

 

By the time we finished in the Abbey it was nearly time to go home – Wes Streeting got in touch and said we could use the Lobby system to call him. We ran back to parliament and filled in our green cards at the desk. Wes came down and was very kind to us, he asked us what we’d enjoyed seeing on our tour and took us to see some of the parts that the tour missed out like the MPs cloakroom. He told us about his job as an MP and answered our questions. When it was time to leave, he took us to Westminster Station by the MPs entrance – we all agreed that it was just like the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter!

 

I really enjoyed our trip to parliament, and I learned a lot. It made me realise that writing letters isn’t a waste of time and important people can listen to you even if you’re only 9!”

 

Illia’s experience:

“Parliament is an extraordinary place to visit. It has lots of British history and wonderful architecture.

 

I felt very excited to be visiting Parliament and our local MP. When I entered the Great Hall, I was amazed by how beautiful it was. The hammer-beam roof was magnificent with its cut out angels on the sides. During our visit to Parliament, we met our local MP for Ilford North, Wes Streeting. He showed us the MPs cloakroom and even a secret entrance to the tube. I was particularly impressed by the underground entrance because it was hidden from the public. Moreover, Parliament is a place of democratic debates and the place where laws are constructed by our government, so it was brilliant to be in a place where history is made.”