AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership: ‘A palace within a Palace’: the Speaker’s House at Westminster, 1794-1834

Posted on 13 November 2018

Applications are invited for a potential AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral award based at the University of York’s Department of History of Art in collaboration with The Houses of Parliament. The three-year award covers fees and an annual maintenance grant.

This PhD project will explore the creation of a lavish Speaker’s House within the Palace of Westminster in 1799-1807, which incorporated the (extant) Tudor cloisters of St Stephen’s College. Arising from AHRC- and Leverhulme-funded research on St Stephen’s Chapel and its Tudor cloisters, this project will provide the first account of this little-known episode in the architectural history of the Palace of Westminster. Based in the History of Art department at York, the PhD will also be interdisciplinary in approach, exploring how institutions shape buildings and how buildings shape institutions.  The project will benefit from the ongoing partnership between the University of York and the UK Parliament, including access to the site and specialist advice at Westminster.

In 1794 the Commons Speaker took over from the Exchequer a splendid if decrepit mansion next to the House of Commons, incorporating a jumble of earlier buildings set around the Tudor cloisters of St Stephen’s College.  This area was lavishly remodelled, fitted out and furnished by James Wyatt between 1799 and 1807 at enormous expense.  After the 1834 fire at Westminster his work was largely swept away and today goes almost unrecognised. This project will provide a virtual reconstruction of the House and an assessment of Wyatt’s work, drawing upon the surviving fabric and archival record.  Broader research questions might include the impact of this space on contemporaries, how it fits with Wyatt’s work more broadly, and the extent to which this ‘palace within a Palace’ influenced Barry’s and Pugin’s later designs.

The project will be co-supervised by Professor Anthony Geraghty (University of York) and Dr Elizabeth Hallam Smith (Strategic Estates, Houses of Parliament).  The supervisory team has a strong record of academic collaboration and the support of early career scholars.  The PhD student will be offered working facilities within the Palace, study visits to the cloisters and the opportunity to contribute to broader research on and conservation plans for them, and access to Parliament’s collections including manuscript archives and works of art.  Public engagement and impact will be encouraged, for instance public lectures, internal briefings within Parliament, media activities, and /or contributions to educational resources.  A parallel PhD project, “St Stephen’s College Buildings, 1593-1794: politics, patronage and space”, will be based in the department of History.  This twin collaboration between York and the UK Parliament is intended to bring benefits to both parties in the run up to the high-profile Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster: one of the most iconic, significant and visited buildings in the world.

Person Specification

Essential skills, qualities and knowledge:

  • A first class or upper second class honours degree including study within a relevant discipline.
  • Candidates would normally be expected to hold a Master’s degree in a relevant area by 1 October 2019.
  • Experience of undertaking research in a relevant area.
  • Ability to be self-motivated, well-organized, and to respond to constructive criticism.
  • Ability to work collaboratively as part of a team.
  • Willingness to take a full part in the WRoCAH postgraduate community, and the research activities of the University.

Desirable skills, qualities and knowledge:

  • Experience of working in collaboration with non-academic organisations.
  • Experience of writing for different audiences.

If you are unsure of whether you are suitable to the project, please get in touch with Prof. Anthony Geraghty (anthony.geraghty@york.ac.uk).

Financial Support and Eligibility

AHRC studentships are only available to students from the UK or European Union. Applications cannot be accepted from students liable to pay fees at the Overseas rate.  Normally UK students will be eligible for a full award which pays fees and a maintenance grant if they meet the residency criteria and EU students will be eligible for a fees-only award, unless they have been resident in the UK for 3 years immediately prior to taking up the award.

Full-time AHRC Competition Studentships for doctoral research are 3 years in duration (or 6 years part time). Awards are subject to satisfactory academic progress. Awards must be taken up in October 2019. No deferrals are possible. Awards will comprise UK/EU fees at Research Council rates and, for eligible students, a maintenance grant (£14,777 in 2018/9).

Please note that all applicants should meet the AHRC’s academic criteria and residency requirements (http://wrocah.ac.uk/new-student/2019-cda/).  

How to Apply

Applicants are advised to contact Professor Anthony Geraghty (anthony.geraghty@york.ac.uk) to discuss their application in the first instance.

The application is a three-step process. In the first step, you should apply to Prof. Geraghty to be selected as our candidate for the project.  If chosen, Step 2 requires you to apply for the History of Art PhD programme at York. Finally, Prof. Geraghty will work with you to develop your application to the third step, the main WRoCAH competition, which closes 5pm Wednesday 23 January 2019. Successful studentships will be announced in April 2019.

To apply for the first step, please send an email containing the following to anthony.geraghty@york.ac.uk:

(1)   a c.v. detailing your academic record (no more than 3 pages);

(2)   academic transcript from your university;

(3)   names and professional email addresses for two referees who will be able to provide a reference by 11am on Thursday 6 December 2018;

(4)   800 word statement of purpose.  As the general scope of the project is already defined, the 800 word statement of purpose should explain why you would be interested in undertaking this particular programme of research and what experience and skills you would bring to the position. The statement should also include details about previous research experience and training, and anything else that you feel is relevant.

Deadline for first step applications is 11am on Thursday 6 December 2018. Please send applications direct to anthony.geraghty@york.ac.uk.