22 Reading Room
View of the Parliamentary Library Reading Room. Before the 1907 fire, this room served as the Lobby, connecting the original House of Representatives debating chamber, Legislative Council Chamber, and Bellamy's.
Parliament's library is a vital research institution for Parliament and houses many thousands of books and other important documents.
When Parliament was in Auckland, until the early 1860s, the library was crammed into a tiny room. In Wellington from 1865, the library grew steadily and soon became the most important in the country. At times, it even overflowed its premises. Heating was by open fire - lovely for reading in winter but hazardous for the collection.
In 1899, Parliament built a fireproof library - an impressive Victorian Gothic structure. When fire destroyed Parliament Buildings in 1907, the library was saved by its fireproof door. The building was renovated in the early 1990s, and many of its impressive original features were restored.
Lobby (originally located here)
The Lobby was originally located on this site. Built in 1883, it linked the old chambers of the House of Representatives and Legislative Council, with doors leading to Bellamy's and other rooms.
The Lobby was the centre of parliamentary social life. Here, members of Parliament dealt with business, talked, and sometimes made bets, played tricks, or held spontaneous sporting matches. Some even slept on the large leather seats during long debates. In winter, they kept warm around large fireplaces.
A fire in 1907 destroyed the Lobby and most of Parliament Buildings. However, a renovation project in the early 1990s recreated the Lobby in the form of the Reading Room.
House of Representatives debating chamber (originally located here)
The debating chamber for the House of Representatives was very uncomfortable for many years.
Wellington's first debating chamber was better than the cramped one in Auckland - but only just. Parliament soon outgrew it. On top of that, the drainage underneath it was poor, and 'simply detestable' smells wafted in from Bellamy's restaurant.
In the 1870s, the debating chamber was enlarged and padded couches were installed - a significant improvement. However, the 240 gaslights that lit the room made it hot and airless - and the drains still smelled bad.
Despite new fans and vents, and then a shift to a new debating chamber in 1918, things didn't improve much until the late 1940s. Since then, working conditions have been much more pleasant.
Legislative Council Chamber (originally located here)
The Legislative Council was Parliament's Upper House. Its members were appointed rather than elected. The Council's job was to revise laws passed in the House of Representatives (Lower House) and draft some laws of its own.
The Council was meant to play an independent and influential role like Britain's House of Lords, but this didn't happen. After Governments (rather than the Governor) began appointing its members and 'stacking' it with their supporters, the Council's independence weakened.
Occasionally, Council members resisted the Government's moves, as they did in the 1890s. The Government's attempt to stack the Council backfired when the Governor refused to approve the nominees. Eventually, Britain ordered him to cooperate.
From then on, the Council was no longer independent. It was eventually abolished in 1951.
Bellamy's (originally located here)
Parliament used to be like an exclusive gentlemen's club. Many members frequented Bellamy's restaurant and bar, which served the finest liquor at cheap rates.
In fact, the first bill that Parliament passed, in 1854, was the so-called 'Bellamy's Bill', which allowed the sale of alcohol on the premises. A Legislative Councillor described it as 'setting up a grog-shop for members'.
With Parliament's move to Wellington, Bellamy's became the country's finest restaurant. Expensive cutlery and table linen were shipped in from Britain. Even so, women weren't allowed to dine there for many years.