Listen: The Soundscape of the Historic House of Commons

Being heard in the House of Commons could be a challenge, even for a practised speaker.

Listen to this speech on the slave trade made by Henry Beaufoy, MP for Great Yarmouth, on 25 April 1792. It was recorded in an anechoic chamber designed to absorb the reflections of sound waves. The result was then processed using software to simulate the acoustics of the pre-1834 Commons chamber. How easy is it to hear Mr Beaufoy?

Raised as a Quaker, Henry Beaufoy was a frequent speaker in Parliament. His passionate condemnation of the British slave trade appealed to reason as well as emotion.

Arguing for a phased abolition, Beaufoy explained that this would give time for the planters to adjust and thus protect the lives of their enslaved workforce.

Popular speakers were often given a respectful hearing in the Commons, but at other times 'hubbub' and 'pandemonium' were said to reign.