Point of Interest

Palace of Westminster

England / Europe

The Houses of Parliament are in the Palace of Westminster, originally created as a royal residence for Edward the Confessor. It remained the principal residence of the Sovereign until Henry VIII moved to Whitehall Palace in 1512. The oldest surviving part is Westminster Hall, built by William Rufus (son of William the Conqueror) between 1097 and 1099. Until 1882 Westminster Hall housed the Courts of Justice which saw the trials of Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes (who attempted to blow the Palace up with gunpowder in 1605 and is now commemorated on Bonfire Night, an annual British festival held on the 5 November) amongst others. Coronation banquets were held here, and monarchs and their wives have lain in state.A fire destroyed much of the Palace in 1834. Charles Barry was appointed to rebuild it with interiors by Pugin. The Palace suffered considerable bomb damage in 1940 and 1941 and much was rebuilt by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The House of Commons (into which no Sovereign has gone since 1642) is at the Westminster Bridge end, and the seats, carpet and decor are generally green. The House of Lords is at the other end, with decor largely red. Victoria Tower is the ceremonial entrance through which the Sovereign arrives in a carriage procession for the State Opening of Parliament. The clock tower contains Big Ben, the famous bell cast in 1858 and named after Benjamin Hall, the portly Commissioner of Works at that time. 

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