Awe-inspiring and intricately carved.
The Speaker’s Chair, an awe-inspiring, intricately carved neogothic-style chair, sits in the House of Representatives Chamber and is a replica of the United Kingdom’s own Speaker’s Chair in the Palace of Westminster. Carved from oak and timbers from both Westminster Hall and HMS Victory, the flagship of Admiral Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar, the Chair speaks to Australian democracy’s deep ties to the United Kingdom.
Centre: Sitting in the Speaker's Chair the Sir Littleton Groom is presiding as Speaker in the House of Representatives, May 1927
Credit: National Archives of Australia: A3560, 3091
The Speaker’s Chair was formally presented to the Australian Parliament on 11 October 1926, a gift from the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association. Crated up like a modern-day IKEA flat pack, the chair travelled from the UK on the Australian Commonwealth Line steamer Hobson’s Bay and then by train to Canberra. Unpacked and assembled, the Chair measures a towering 4 metres.
The entire piece uses dowels rather than screws or nails.
This coloured technical drawing shows the proposed design of the desk that was added to the Speaker’s Chair. There are four views of the desk with an outline of the chair drawn in pencil behind the desk detail. The front, side and top view of the desk are painted in a light grey watercolour.
Credit: National Archives of Australia, A2617 76/1420
The Westminster Chair upon which the Speaker’s Chair was based was destroyed during an air raid in 1941. In an act of solidarity, the Australian government presented the UK with a replica of the Australian chair carved from Black Bean, an Australian rainforest timber. The new chair was inscribed with ‘The Gift of Australia’ and remains an enduring symbol of the connection between Australian and British democracy. The House of Representatives chamber is currently closed for an extensive program of conservation work, but will be open again next year.
The presentation of the Speaker’s Chair to the Australia Parliament by the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association, 11 October 1926.
Credit: National Archives of Australia A3560, 2399