Refreshing Times

The Palace of Westminster has been host to many events, feasts and banquets. The coronation banquet of James II, held on 23rd April 1685, in Westminster Hall was a huge event with an extensive menu, which included hot and cold foods and room for spectators in the galleries, above the tables. More recently, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association hosted a lunch in Westminster Hall, in honour of the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

Dinner is served...

Royal Feast Image

Parliamentary Archives: LGC/8/1/5

'The Royal Feast in Westminster Hall', Chapter VIII of The History of the Coronation of James II

Coronation Banquet Image

Parliamentary Archives: LGC/8/1/5

The commemorative work, The History of the Coronation of James II by Francis Sandford, provides a remarkably detailed insight into the day's events.  Reflecting the developments made in printing across Europe, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the 'festival book' drew upon Italian and French influences and combined illustrations with an intricate written commentary about the royal event.  The modern reader can learn of the 'manner of furnishing and covering their Majesties Table', look at a plan of the seating arrangements in Westminster Hall, or examine the wording of the ceremony itself. 

Left: A list of the 1145 dishes consumed by the abundance of guests is one of the highlights of the volume - they included, ducklings, sweet meats and for dessert, jellies and blancmange. 

Menu Image

Parliamentary Archives: HC/SO/1/21 and HL/PO/RO/1/174

As well the above commemorative record for a royal occasion, the Parliamentary Archives holds a variety of documents that illustrate the significant role the Palace has played in hosting various functions over the past two centuries.

The menus on the left, which include one from a Speakers' Dinner in 1889 and two from annual Press Gallery events in the 1950s, offer an insight into the different styles used in order to reflect the occasion.

Left: A selection of the menus held in the Parliamentary Archives. 

Food for Thought ...

There were no catering services within the Parliamentary Estate until 1773, when a small bar serving snacks was set up by John Bellamy.  There have been enormous developments in the past three centuries and today, the Refreshment Departments of both Houses run numerous restaurants, cafeterias, bars and hospitality rooms,  which provide catering services that meet the needs of the members, staff, and others working within the Parliamentary Estate - potentially over 12000 people.  One of the cafeterias is known as Bellamy's.

Through catering services, and by providing facilities for members and others to entertain their guests in the Palace of Westminster, the Refreshment Departments play an important role in providing access to Parliament for the public. 

Right: An inventory from the House of Lords Refreshment Club and a manuscript list of silver 'handed to Captain Elliot'.

Cutlery Image

Parliamentary Archives: HL/PO/RF/5/14


The catering establishments have undergone significant relocations and alterations throughout their history.  The following photographs and plan visually illustrate some of these changes, whilst complementing the collection of written records held by the Archives, such as the two documents pictured above. 


Right: Members Dining Room, 1897

Stone Member's Dining Room Image

Parliamentary Archives: HL/PO/LB/1/111/6/11


Today, Strangers Cafeteria is more commonly known as the Terrace Cafeteria.

Terrace Plan Image

Parliamentary Archives: Uncatalogued plan of Strangers Cafeteria Design, 1954

Refreshment Rooms in the Houses of Parliament, 1945-1963

Refreshment Rooms Image

Parliamentary Archives: OOW/12/36

During Service Image

Parliamentary Archives: HL/PO/RO/12/6/35 and HL/PO/RO/12/6/36

Left: A member of the House of Lords Refreshment staff  "During Service" - at work in November 2006.

In 2006, to mark the 60th anniversary of the creation of the House of Lords Record Office, and the name change to the Parliamentary Archives, the Parliamentary Archives ran a photography competition called 'Record Your Place in History', encouraging those who work in the Palace of Westminster to take photographs which reflected their role in the organistion.  The images opposite, which were taken by by Victoria Russell of the House of Lords Refreshment Department, illustrate the busy and fast paced work which Refreshment Department staff of both Houses perform during any working day. 

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