Houses of Parliament

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The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster which incorporated the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The palace is located on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, a London borough close to the other government buildings in Whitehall.

As the political centre of the United Kingdom, the present Houses of Parliament was rebuilt between 1840 and 1888 on the ashes of previous one, which was fired in 1834. During the World War II, the Parliament was destroyed but the Clock’s Tower that lodges the Big Ben, remained intact and it is possibly London’s most famous landmark. The name Big Ben refers to the huge thirteen ton bell that strikes the hour.

Sir Charles Barry, the architect includes several towers. Victoria Tower, the tallest, is a square tower with 98.5m at the south-western end of the Palace; today it is home to the Parliamentary Archives. Atop the tower is an iron flagstaff from the Union Flag is flown.

At the base is the Sovereign’s Entrance to the Palace used for any official ceremony. St. Stephen’s Tower is also called the Central Tower with 91.4m tall, making it the shortest of the tree principal towers of the Palace. It possesses a spire and stands immediately above the Central Lobby and is octagonal. Its function was originally a high-level air intake.

Between Westminster Hall and Old Palace Yard, a small tower is positioned at the front of the Palace; it contains the main entrance to the House of Commons. The Clock tower is the most famous at the north-eastern end of the Palace with 96.3m tall. It houses a large, four-faced clock-the Great Clock of Westminster, also it houses five bells which strike the Westminster Chimes every quarter hour.

Big Ben is the largest and most famous of the bells which strikes the hour and officially The Great Bell of Westminster.

History

The Palace of Westminster has been a centre of authority for over a thousand years. Once the home of the royal family and still officially a royal palace, the buildings that now make up the modern Houses of Parliament have developed through design, accident and attack.

Edward the Confessor’s was the first known royal palace to occupy Parliament’s site. The site was used as a royal residence until Henry VIII moved the royal family out in 1512.

Big Ben, Clock Tower - LondonThe oldest part of Parliament is Westminster Hall, which is one Europe’s largest medieval halls with an unsupported roof; its walls were built in 1097 and extensively rebuilt during the 14th century.

The hall once used as a law court and it has held several notable trials, including that of Sir William Wallace. Today the hall is often used for important State occasions.

The fire on 16 October 1834 destroyed everything except Westminster Hall, the crypt of St. Stephen’s Chapel and the Jewel Tower. The Houses of Parliament, as we known them today, were rebuilt after the fire and it was completely finished by 1870. August Welby Pugin assisted to Charles Barry architect for a new design with his gothic vision, especially in the details, fittings and furniture.

During the World War II, on 10 May 1941, a bombing raid destroyed the Commons chamber that killed three people. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott architect designed a new, five-floor block (with two floors occupied by the chamber) that was used for the first time on 26 October 1950.

Surrounding the Palace of Westminster, there are a number of small gardens. Victoria Tower Gardens is a public park; Black Rod’s Garden, Old Palace Yard, Cromwell Green, New Palace Yard and Speaker’s Green are closed to the public. College Green is commonly used for television interviews with politicians.

The Palace of Westminster includes over 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 4.8 kilometres of passageways. The building includes four floors; the ground floor includes offices, dining rooms and bars.

The “first floor” (known as the principal floor) houses the main rooms of the Palace, including the Chambers, the lobbies and the libraries.

The Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the Prince’s Chamber, the Lords Chamber, the Peers’ Lobby, the Central Lobby, the Members’ Lobby and the Commons Chamber all lie in a straight line on this floor, from south to north. Westminster Hall lies to a side at the Commons end of the Palace. The top-two floors are used for committee rooms and offices.