The Palace of Westminster as a whole underwent significant alterations from the 18th century onwards, as Parliament struggled to carry out its business in the limited available space of ageing buildings. Calls for an entirely new palace went unheeded – instead more buildings of varying quality and style were added.
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St Stephen's Chapel is the forgotten heart of the Palace of Westminster. For seven centuries St Stephen's was at the centre of the political and religious life of the nation, and it's influence is still detected today.
The Palace of Westminster contains the House of Commons, House of Lords and Westminster Hall. It can be visited in many ways, best way for a UK citizen is to contact your MP’s office well in advance for democracy tour tickets and constituent pass for Commons which are free.
- London, SW1A 0AA
The Palace of Westminster site was strategically important during the Middle Ages, as it was located on the banks of the River Thames.Known in medieval times as Thorney Island, the site may have been first-used for a royal residence by Canute the Great during his reign from 1016 to 1035.
- The Normans
- Parliaments in The 13th Century
- Destruction by Fire
In 1066, the Anglo Saxons were defeated by the Normans. William the Conqueror inherited the throne at the Westminster Palace. He considered himself the heir to the kingdom of England. In 1097, his son, William II (Rufus) laid the foundation for the construction of the Westminster Hall.It took two years for the construction of the Westminster Hall. It was and is the largest of its kind in the whole of Europe. It was used for royal celebrations, feasts, and banquets. Westminster was, therefore,...
Openings of all parliamentary occasions were done at the Kings “Painted Chamber” which was his private room since 1259.The Parliaments of Edward I always sat in Painted Chamber. They held discussions on various things.The room adjacent to the Painted Chamber was the “White Chamber”. If not in the Painted Chamber, the Lords visited in the White Chamber which sort of became permanent overtime. Therefore, the “White Chamber” came to be known as the “House of Lords“.The Commons of the kingdom had...
The only threat to the Palace of Westminster since the 10th century was fire.The fire of 1263, destroyed the Painted Chamber and its original decorations. A minor fire took place in 1298 also which led the Palace to waste.The major fire in 1512, at the time of King Henry VIII, caused him and his family to move the royal residence from Westminster to Whitehall Palace which was a hundred yards away. However, reconstructions and modelings kept taking place.On October 16, 1834, a major fire broke...
Palace Of Westminster Address: Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom Palace Of Westminster Contact Number: +44-2072193000 Palace Of Westminster Timing: 09:00 am - 05:00 pm
- Rules and Traditions
- Culture and Tourism
- Further Reading
The Palace of Westminster site was strategically important during the Middle Ages, as it was located on the banks of the River Thames. Known in medieval times as Thorney Island, the site may have been first-used for a royal residence by Cnut the Great during his reign from 1016 to 1035. St Edward the Confessor, the penultimate Saxon monarch of England, built a royal palace on Thorney Island just west of the City of London at about the same time as he built Westminster Abbey (1045–50). Thorney...
Fire and reconstruction
On 16 October 1834, a fire broke out in the Palace after an overheated stove used to destroy the Exchequer's stockpile of tally sticks set fire to the House of Lords Chamber. In the resulting conflagration both Houses of Parliament were destroyed, along with most of the other buildings in the palace complex. Westminster Hall was saved thanks to heroic fire-fighting efforts and a change in the direction of the wind. The Jewel Tower, the Undercroft Chapel and the Cloisters and Chapter House of...
In the course of the German bombing of London during the Second World War (see The Blitz), the Palace of Westminster was hit by bombs on fourteen separate occasions. One bomb fell into Old Palace Yard on 26 September 1940 and severely damaged the south wall of St Stephen's Porch and the west front. The statue of Richard the Lionheart was lifted from its pedestal by the force of the blast, and its upheld sword bent, an image that was used as a symbol of the strength of democracy, "which wo...
Sir Charles Barry's collaborative design for the Palace of Westminster uses the Perpendicular Gothic style, which was popular during the 15th century and returned during the Gothic revival of the 19th century. Barry was a classical architect, but he was aided by the Gothic architect Augustus Pugin. Westminster Hall, which was built in the 11th century and survived the fire of 1834, was incorporated in Barry's design. Pugin was displeased with the result of the work, especially with the symmetrical layout designed by Barry; he famously remarked, "All Grecian, sir; Tudor details on a classic body".
The Palace of Westminster contains over 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 4.8 kilometres (3 mi) of passageways, which are spread over four floors. The ground floor is occupied by offices, dining rooms and bars; the first floor (known as the principal floor) houses the main rooms of the Palace, including the debating chambers, the lobbies and the libraries. The top-two floors are used as committee rooms and offices.
The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod oversees security for the House of Lords, and the Serjeant at Arms does the same for the House of Commons. These officers, however, have primarily ceremonial roles outside the actual chambers of their respective Houses. Security is the responsibility of the Palace of Westminster Division of the Metropolitan Police, the police force for the Greater Londonarea. Tradition still dictates that only the Serjeant at Arms may enter the Commons chamber armed. With rising concern about the possibility that a lorry full of explosives could be driven into the building, a series of concrete blocks was placed in the roadway in 2003. On the river, an exclusion zone extending 70 metres (77 yd) from the bank exists, which no vessels are allowed to enter. Despite recent security breaches, members of the public continue to have access to the Strangers' Gallery in the House of Commons. Visitors pass through metal detectors and their possessions are scanned...
Eating, drinking and smoking
The Palace has accumulated many rules and traditions over the centuries. Smoking has not been allowed in the chamber of the House of Commons since the 17th century. As a result, Members may take snuff instead and the doorkeepers still keep a snuff-box for this purpose. Despite persistent media rumours, it has not been possible to smoke anywhere inside the Palace since 2005. Members may not eat or drink in the chamber; the exception to this rule is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, wh...
Hats must not be worn (although they formerly were when a point of order was being raised), and Members may not wear military decorations or insignia. Members are not allowed to have their hands in their pockets – Andrew Robathan was heckled by opposing MPs for doing this on 19 December 1994.
No animals may enter the Palace of Westminster, with the exception of guide dogs for the blind; sniffer dogs, police horses,and horses from the Royal stables. Speeches may not be read out during debate in the House of Commons, although notes may be referred to. Similarly, the reading of newspapers is not allowed. Visual aids are discouraged in the chamber. Applause is also not normally allowed in the Commons. Some notable exceptions to this were when Robin Cook gave his resigna...
The exterior of the Palace of Westminster—especially the Clock Tower—is recognised worldwide, and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in London. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) classifies the Palace of Westminster, along with neighbouring Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's, as a World Heritage Site. It is also a Grade I listed building. Although there is no casual access to the interior of the Palace, there are several ways to gain admittance. UK residents may obtain tickets from their local MP for a place in the viewing gallery of the House of Commons, or from a Lord for a seat in the gallery of the House of Lords. It is also possible for both UK residents and overseas visitors to queue for admission on the day, but capacity is limited and there is no guarantee of admission. Either House may exclude "strangers" if it desires to sit in private. Members of the public can also queue for a seat in a committee session, where...FootnotesBibliography
Tanfield, Jennifer (1991-12). In Parliament 1939–50: The Effect of the War on the Palace of Westminster. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0-10-850640-6. More than one of |author= a...
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