Westminster Abbey The Collegiate Church of St Peter…

Westminster Abbey, located near the Houses of Parliament, is more a historical site than a religious site. Since 1066 every royal coronation, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII has taken place in this church.

Burial Ground

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey
The abbey also serves as the burial ground for numerous politicians, sovereigns and artists. The abbey is stuffed with tombs, statues and monuments. Many coffins even stand upright due to the lack of space. In total approximately 3300 people are buried in the church and cloisters. Some of the most famous are Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton and David Livingstone.

 

History

A church stood here already in the eight century but the history of the current abbey starts in 1050, when King Edward The Confessor decided to build a monastery. Only a small part of this Norman monastery, consecrated in 1065, survived. The only representation of this original building is shown on the Bayeux Tapestry.Most of the present building dates from 1245 to 1272 when Henry III decided to rebuild the abbey in the Gothic style. The building was later significantly expanded: the Chapel of Henry VII was added between 1503 and 1512, while the two West Front Towers date from 1745. The youngest part of the abbey is the North entrance, completed in the nineteenth century.

Westminster Abbey Plan

Nave

The Church

The abbey’s nave 1 is England’s highest. In the nave you find the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, a World War I soldier who died on the battlefields in France and was buried here in French(!) soil. Nearby is a marble memorial stone for Winston Churchill. His body is not, like many fellow prime ministers, buried in the abbey, but in Bladon.

The Cloister

The Cloister 2 was originally built in the thirteenth century. It was completely rebuilt after it was destroyed by a fire in 1298. The cloister was used by the Benedictine monks for meditation and exercise.

Chapter House

The beautiful octagonal Chapter House 3 is one of the largest of its kind in England. It has an original tile floor dating from 1250 and its walls are decorated with fourteenth-century murals.

Henry VII Chapel

The Henry VII Chapel 4 (aka Lady Chapel), built 1503-1512, is one of the most outstanding chapels of its time, with a magnificent vault. The chapel has a large stained glass window, the Battle of Britain memorial window. The window, which dates from 1947 and replaces an original window that was damaged during World War II, commemorates fighter pilots and crew who died during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Hyde Park…

Hyde Park, which opened to the public in 1637, is the largest of several royal parks in London that are connected to each other, forming one large green lung in the center of the city. The park is famous for its Speakers’ Corner.
Hyde Park

Hyde Park
The other parks are the neighboringKensington Gardens, Green Park and St. James’s Park. Hyde Park covers more than 360 acres (142 hectares) and hosts many large events, including celebrations and concerts. It is also a popular place for jogging, swimming, rowing, picnicking and even horse riding.

 

History

In 1536 King Henry VIII confiscated Hyde Park from the monks ofWestminster Abbey. It was used primarily for hunting. King Charles I opened the park to the public in 1637. The current park layout was planned by architect Decimus Burton in 1825.

 

Sights

Hyde Park boasts plenty of monuments, memorials and other sights, and you can easily spend several hours exploring the park.

 

Serpentine

Serpentine, Hyde Park

The Serpentine
The Serpentine, a large artificial lake, is located at the south end of the park and extends northwards into the neighboringKensington Gardens, where it is called Long Water. Queen Caroline, wife of King George II had the lake constructed in 1730. It is popular for boating and swimming.

 

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain

Diana Memorial Fountain
Just southwest of the Serpentine is a memorial installed in honor of princess Diana. The modern fountain, which more resembles an artificial stream rather than a fountain, was inaugurated in 2004 by Queen Elizabeth II.The memorial was designed by the American landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson, using computer modeling techniques. The circular fountain consists of 545 pieces of Cornish granite. Water flows from two sides at the top into a small pool at the bottom.

 

Rotten Row

Rotten Row, Hyde Park

Rotten Row
At the south end of Hyde park is Rotten Row, a famous bridle path. The road is almost four miles long (6,4 km) and is now used as a horse riding and jogging route.In the seventeenth century the road was often used by William III. The king found the walk from Kensington Palace to St. James’s Palace too dangerous, so he had oil lamps installed along the route, thus creating the first lit public road in England. The term ‘Rotten Row’ is derived from the French ‘route du roi’ or King’s road.

 

Speakers’ Corner

Speakers' Corner

Speakers’ Corner
In the nineteenth century Hyde Park had become a popular place for meetings. In 1872, in response to riots that erupted after police tried to disband a political meeting, Speakers’ Corner was established to create a venue where people would be allowed to speak freely. Here, every Sunday people stand on a soap box and proclaim their views on political, religious or other items, sometimes interrupted and challenged by their audience.

 

Marble Arch

Marble Arch

Marble Arch
Near Speakers’ Corner, in the north-east corner of Hyde Park stands the Marble Arch. It was originally built in 1827 as a gateway to Buckingham Palace, but it was moved to its present location in 1851. The design by John Nash was based on the Arch of Constantine inRome. The upper part of the arch was once in use as a tiny police station.

 

Still Water and Genghis Khan

Still water and Genghis Khan, Hyde Park

Genghis Khan (left)
and Still Water (right)
East of the Marble arch is a series of fountains, installed here in 1961. Between the fountains and the arch are two large modern statues. One, called Still Water, shows a huge head of a horse, over ten meters tall (about 35 ft). The bronze statue, created by the British sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green, was unveiled here in 2009. Right near the horse’s head is another modern bronze statue erected in 2012. The equestrian statue honors Genghis Khan, a legendary Mongolian warrior, and is a creation of the Russian sculptor Dashi Namdakov.

 

Achilles Statue

Achilles Statue, Hyde Park

Achilles Statue
The largest statue in Hyde Park is the Achilles Statue, installed here in 1822 to honor the Duke of Wellington, the victor over Napoleon’s army at Waterloo. The bronze statue was cast from cannons that were captured from the French at Vittoria, Salamanca, Waterloo and Toulouse. The statue was created by Richard Westmacott, who based its design on the statues of Castor and Pollux at the Piazza del Quirinale in Rome. The statue was nude but true to their reputation, the prudish Londoners were shocked and Westmacott was force to add a fig leaf, hence the quite ridiculous appearance of the statue.

 

More Statues and Monuments

There are several more memorials and statues in Hyde Park. One of the most notable is the 7/7 Memorial, which commemorates the victims of the terrorist attack of July 7, 2005. The monument consists of fifty-two stainless steel columns;

Reformers' Tree, Hyde Park

Reformers’ Tree

each one represents one of the victims of the bombings.

A very different memorial is the Reformers’ Tree, a circular black and white mosaic laid out in 2001. The mosaic marks the spot of an oak that was burned down during the riots of 1866. The charred stump was used as a notice board for political manifestations organized by the Reform League. The manifestations would lead to the creation of the nearby Speakers’ Corner.

Isis, Hyde Park

Isis

A more conventional memorial honors William Henry Hudson, a writer and naturalist. The monument, a relief created by Jacob Epstein, was quite controversial when it was unveiled in 1925, but today it’s hard to see why.

Yet another Memorial, featuring St. George and a dragon, was unveiled in 1924 and commemorates the Cavalry regiments that served in the World Wars.

A more modern monument is ‘Isis’, a three meter tall statue of an ibis created by British sculptor Simon Gudgeon. The statue was installed in 2009 near the Serpentine. It is named after the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and patroness of nature and magic.

 

The Rose Garden

The boy and dolphin fountain, Hyde Park

The Boy and Dolphin
Fountain
There’s more than just statues and memorials in Hyde Park though. Most of the park consists of open grassy areas dotted with large trees. There are very few flowerbeds or shrubs, but an exception is the beautiful rose garden in the southeast corner of Hyde Park.Here you find plenty of flowers, a long winding pergola and two fine fountains. The oldest of the two is the Artemis Fountain, which shows the greek goddess of the Hunt Artemis (who is better known by her Roman name Diana). The fountain was created in 1822 by Richard Westmacott, the sculptor of the nearby Achilles Statue. The other fountain is known as the Boy and Dolphin Fountain. It was created in 1862 by Alexander Munro and was originally placed in a sunken Victorian garden. In 1995 the statue was moved to its current location.

 

Joy of Life Fountain

Joy of Life Fountain, Hyde Park

Joy of Life Fountain
Another fountain in Hyde Park is the Joy of Life Fountain. The fountain is decorated with bronze sculptures that float over a large circular basin. At the center are two adults, seemingly dancing and holding each others’ arms. Around them are four statues of children who seem to hover over the water. The fountain, a work of sculptor Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones, was created in 1963. It is sometimes also called the Four Winds Fountain.

Buckingham Palace…

Buckingham Palace, one of several palaces owned by the British Royal family, is one of the major tourist attractions in London. The Changing of the Guard in front of the palace always attracts plenty of spectators.

History

Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace
The original building was constructed as a countryhouse in 1705 by the duke of Buckingham, John Sheffield. King George III bought the house in 1761 for his wife and had it altered by William Chambers.In 1826, King George IV asked famed architect John Nash to expand the house – then known as Buckingham House – into a palace. Meanwhile St. James’s Palace was still the principal palace used by the royals for ceremonies and receptions.

Buckingham Palace from St James's Park

The palace seen from
St. James’s Park

King George IV as well as his younger brother and successor King William IV both died before the palace was completed. Queen Victoria was the first to reside in the palace. In July 1837, three weeks after her accession to the throne, she moved from Kensington Palace, where she grew up, to the new Buckingham Palace.

The palace was expanded in 1850 with a new east wing. The wing added a large number of rooms to the palace, including an expansive forty meter (131 ft) long ballroom. The monumental facade of the east wing was built in 1913 by Aston Webb. It is this facade, facing the Mall and St James’s Park, which is now known by most people.

 

Royal Family

A part of the palace is still used by the Royal family. A flag is hoisted each time the Queen is in the Palace. The palace is not only home to the royal family, there are also a number of staff members living here. The palace has about six hundred rooms, including a throne room, a ballroom, picture gallery and even a swimming pool.Some of these rooms can be visited during a couple of months in the summer – when the Royal Family is not in the palace – including the lavishly decorated State Rooms: the Throne Room, Green Drawing Room, Silk Tapestry Rooms, Picture Gallery, State Dining Room, Blue Drawing Room, Music Room and White Drawing Room are all part of the tour around the Buckingham Palace.

Another interesting part of the palace that is open to visitors is the Queen’s Gallery, where works of art from the royal collection are on display. The palace’s stables, the Royal Mews, can also be visited. Here you’ll find a number of royal horse-drawn carriages.

 

Queen Victoria Memorial

Right in front of the building is the Queen Victoria Memorial,

Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard

designed by Sir Aston Webb and built in 1911 in honor of Queen Victoria, who reigned for almost sixty-four years.

 

Changing of the Guard

The changing of the guard takes place daily at eleven o’clock in front of Buckingham Palace.
A colorfully dressed detachment, known as the New Guard, parades along the Mall towards Buckingham Palace and during a ceremony replaces the existing, Old Guard. The ceremony, which is accompanied by music played by a military band, always attracts throngs of onlookers.

 

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, the largest square in London, is often considered the heart of the city. Ever since the Middle Ages, this area has been a central meeting place. In the middle of the square stands a tall column honoring admiral Nelson.
Trafalgar Square, London

Trafalgar Square
The square was originally called Charing. Later it became known as Charing Cross, after a memorial cross on the square. The nearby underground station (the ‘tube’) is still named Charing Cross.

 

History

From the thirteenth century on the area was the site of the King’s Royal Hawks and later the Royal Mews. In 1812 the Prince Regent – who would later become King George IV – asked architect John Nash to redevelop the area. After much delay work finally started in 1830. Nash had the terrain cleared but he died before his plans were realized and works were halted.

Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London

Nelson’s Column

The completion of the National Gallery in 1838 on the north side of the square reignited interest in its redevelopment. A new design by architect Charles Barry (best known for his Houses of Parliament), which consisted of two levels separated by a monumental flight of stairs was approved and construction started in 1840. Five years later the square was finally completed.

 

Nelson’s Column

The name of the square commemorates the victory of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson over the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, a naval battle that took place on the 21st of October 1805 near Cape Trafalgar, just off the Spanish coast.Initially there were no plans for a statue in honor of the admiral, who lost his life during the battle. Instead, a statue of King William IV was planned. Eventually, in 1838, it was decided that Trafalgar Square was the ideal place for a monument to Britain’s most famous admiral and a competition was organized to select a design for the ‘Nelson Testimonial’.

Landseer Lion, Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London

Landseer Lion

The winner of the competition was William Railton, who proposed a fifty-two meter tall (170ft) Corinthian column and statue. The column was built between 1841 and 1843. On top of the column stands a five and a halve (18ft) tall statue of Lord Nelson, created by Edward Hodges. At the base of the column are four huge lions modeled by Sir Edwin Landseer. They were added later, in 1868.

 

Statues

Statue of King George IV, Trafalgar Square, London

King George IV

Statue of James Napier, Trafalgar Square, London

James Napier

Statue of King Charles I, Trafalgar Square, London

King Charles I
In the four corners of the lower level of Trafalgar Square stand four plinths. The plinth in the north-east carries the equestrian statue of George IV, installed here in 1843. The statue of the king was created by Francis Chantrey for the Marble Archbut was instead placed here.In the south-west corner stands a statue of Charles Napier, a military leader best known for his time as commander-in-chief in India. The statue, by George Gamon Adams, was installed in 1856. On the western side is the statue of Henry Havelock, another military leader who spent much of his career in India. His statue was created in 1861 by William Behnes.

For over 150 years the plinth in the north-west corner of Trafalgar Square, commonly known as the ‘Fourth Plinth’, remained empty. It was intended to hold an equestrian statue of King William IV. A failure to gather sufficient funds for its construction meant it was never realized. In 1999 it was decided to use the plinth for the temporary display of modern sculpture.

There are several more statues in and around Trafalgar Square. The most interesting is the equestrian statue of King Charles I, which occupies the middle of a small traffic circle just south of Nelson’s Column.

It is the oldest equestrian statue in London, created in 1633 by the French sculptor Hubert Le Sueur. After the execution of Charles I in 1649 the Parliament ordered the statue to be melted down. The brazier assigned with this task instead hid the statue and sold it back to King Charles II after the English monarchy was restored.

 

Fountains

Fountain at Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square Fountain
The first fountains at Trafalgar Square were installed as part of its development in the nineteenth century. They were replaced by the two current fountains, created in 1939 as a memorial to David Beatty and John Rushworth Jellicoe, admirals of the Royal Navy. The fountains were designed by architect Edwin Lutyens and are decorated with sculptures of dolphins, mermaids and small sharks.

 

National Gallery

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

National Gallery
On the north side the neoclassicalNational Gallery, built between 1834 and 1838, overlooks Trafalgar Square from its elevated position.The museum is home to an impressive collection of paintings, spanning six centuries. You can admire works from some of the world’s most famous painters, including Rubens, Vermeer, van Gogh, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Renoir and Claude Monet.

 

St. Martin-in-the-Fields

St Martin-in-the fields, Trafalgar Square

St. Martin-in-the-Fields
At the north-east corner of Trafalgar Square is the St. Martin-in-the-Fields parish church. It is one of the most famous churches in London, partly thanks to its prominent location at one of the busiest areas in the city.The church, with a large white steeple and neoclassical portico, was built in 1721 by James Gibbs and was used as a model for many churches, particularly in the United States. It is the fourth church at this site; the first was built in the thirteenth century. At the time this area was still rural, hence its name.

 

Tower of London…

The Tower of London was built at the beginning of the eleventh century by William the conqueror. The tower was expanded during the thirteenth century into the fortified complex that we know today. The Tower’s most popular attraction is its famous collection of Crown Jewels.
Tower of London

Tower of London
Construction of the Tower of London was initiated in 1070 by William the Conqueror, shortly after his victory at Hastings in 1066. The Tower was built to enforce the power of the Norman king over the newly conquered land.The fortress, strategically located at the Thames, was originally not more than a temporary wooden building which was replaced later by the White Tower. Over time the complex was expanded into a stronghold with about twenty towers.

Today the Tower of London is best known for its Crown Jewels, but it used to be notorious for the many political opponents of the kings that were locked, tortured and killed in the Tower. The Tower was also a royal residence: several kings lived here, especially during turbulent times when the donjon seemed a lot safer than the palace in Westminster.

 

White Tower

The White Tower, Tower of London

The White Tower
The oldest part of the fortress is the so-called White Tower, which was completed in 1097. This keep was long the tallest building in London at 27.4 meters (90ft). Its walls are 4.6 meter wide.The tower was whitewashed during the reign of Henry III, which gave the tower’s facade its white appearance. Ever since the tower has been known as White Tower. The building has four domed turrets at each corner. Three of them have a square shape, the other is round, due to its spiral staircase. The round turret was long used as an observatory.

 

Other Towers

The Tower of London was significantly expanded in the thirteenth century, during the reign of Henry III, when two defensive walls were built around the White Tower. The inner wall had thirteen towers and the outer wall another six. The towers were mostly used to imprison political opponents.

Traitors' Gate, Tower of London

Traitors’ Gate

Some of the most famous prisoners locked in the Tower were two princes, the sons of king Edward IV. After Edward’s dead in 1483 the children were locked in the Bloody Tower by their uncle, who would later ascend the throne as king Richard III. The princes were never seen again and were probably killed by guards.
The St. Thomas Tower is located close to the Bloody Tower. Here, prisoners were brought into the fortress by boat through the Traitor’s gate.

Important prisoners were often locked in the Beauchamp Tower, sometimes with their servants. An inscription on the wall of the tower is believed to refer to Lady Jane Grey, who, nine days after she was crowned Queen, was executed on Tower Green, an open terrain in the Tower of London.

Byward Tower, Tower of London

Byward Tower

Thomas More was imprisoned in the Bell Tower until his execution after he refused to accept king Henry VIII as head of the Anglican church. Even Queen Elisabeth I was confined here for some time.

 

Yeoman Warders

The main entrance of the Tower of London is at the Byward Tower, where you’ll find the so-called Beefeaters or Yeoman Warders.
Dressed in historic clothes, they not only guard the tower, but also give guided tours of the fortress. One of the about forty Yeoman Warders is known as the Ravenmaster, responsible for the ravens that have been living here for centuries.

Yeoman Warder, Tower of London

Yeoman Warder

Legend has it that the Tower and the kingdom will fall if the ravens leave. Hence King Charles II placed the birds under royal protection and the wings of the ravens are clipped to prevent them from flying away.

 

Crown Jewels

The most famous tourist attraction in the Tower of London is the collection of Crown Jewels that has been on display here since the seventeenth century, during the reign of Charles II. Most of the jewels were created around the year 1660, when the monarchy was reinstalled. The majority of the older crown jewels were destroyed by Oliver Cromwell.The jewels can be found in the Jewel House, which is part of the Waterloo Barracks just north of the White Tower. Some of the highlights of the collection are the 530 carat First Star of Africa, which is set in the

Imperial State Crown, Tower of London

Imperial State Crown

Scepter of the Cross; the Imperial State Crown with more than 2800 diamonds and the famous Koh-I-Noor, a 105 carat diamond.

 

More Sights

There’s plenty more to see in the Tower of London, such as the Royal Armories, which includes the personal armory of King Henry VIII, one of the world’s largest.The medieval palace in the Tower of London is also open to visitors and there are often reenactments of historic events in the fortress. For more information on the highlights of the Tower of London, check out their excellent and exhaustive website.

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral….

The majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by Christopher Wren between 1675 and 1711. It is one of Europe’s largest cathedrals and its dome is only exceeded in size by that of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

History

St. Paul's Cathedral, London

St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral has had an eventful history. Five different churches were built at this site. The first church, dedicated to the apostle Paul, dates back to 604 AD, when King Ethelbert of Kent built a wooden church on the summit of one of London’s hills for Mellitus, Bishop of the East Saxons. At the end of the seventh century, the church was built in stone by Erkenwald, Bishop of London.In 962 and again in 1087, the cathedral was destroyed by fire, but each time it was rebuilt and expanded. By that time, it had become one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. Renovations and extensions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries enlarged the cathedral even more.

 

The Great Fire

Scale model of the Old St. Paul's Cathedral in the Museum of London

Scale model of the
old St. Paul’s Cathedral
In 1665 Christopher Wren designed a plan for the renovation of the St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was starting to fall into decay. But disaster struck again on the night of September 2, 1666, when the Great Fire of London destroyed four fifth of all of London, wiping 13,200 houses and 89 churches, including the St. Paul’s Cathedral off the map.

 

Christopher Wren’s Masterpiece

In 1669, three years after the fire, Christopher Wren was appointed ‘Surveyor of Works’ and was tasked with the construction of a new church to replace the destroyed Gothic cathedral.

South Facade of the St. Paul's Cathedral in London

South facade

His first design was deemed too modest. In his second design, known as the ‘Great Model’, the cathedral was shaped like a Greek cross, with a portico, Corinthian columns and a striking large dome, which would be the world’s largest after Michelangelo’s dome at theSt. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This design was rejected as well; the Bishop considered it unsuitable for large processions.

Wren suggested a third design, this time with a larger nave and smaller dome, which was accepted in 1675. After the approval however Wren enlarged the dome and made several other adjustments so that the built cathedral now resembles the ‘Great Model’ and not the approved design.

The cathedral was built in a relative short time span: its first stone was laid on June 21, 1675 and the building was completed in 1711.

 

The Church

The Dome

The dome of the St. Paul's Cathedral in London

Cathedral dome
The dome reaches a height of 111 meters (366 ft) and weights about 66,000 ton. Eight arches support the dome. On top of the dome is a large lantern with a weight of 850 ton.560 steps lead visitors along three galleries all the way to the top of the dome. The first gallery, the Whispering Gallery, just inside the dome, is renowned for its acoustics. The second gallery, the Stone Gallery, is situated at a height of 53 meters (174 ft) on the outside of the dome, right above the colonnade. On top of the dome, at a height of 85 meters (279 ft), is the narrow Golden Gallery, which encircles the lantern’s base. From here you have a magnificent view over the City.

 

Interior

The Baroque interior is just as imposing as the exterior of the church. The mosaics on the ceiling were added in 1890 by William Richmond after Queen Victoria complained that there was not enough color in the cathedral. The baldachin above the altar was rebuilt in 1958 after it was damaged by bombardments during World War II. The design is based on a sketch created by Wren. The only monument in the church that survived the fire of 1666 is the tomb of John Donne, from 1631.Several famous people are entombed in the cathedral’s crypt. Most notable are the tomb of the Duke of Wellington – who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo – and the tomb of Admiral Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar.

West Facade of the St. Paul's Cathedral in London

The west facade

There is also a tomb of Christopher Wren himself and a number of important artists are buried here as well.

 

The West Facade

The impressive facade at the west side of the church consists of a large portico and pediment. A relief on the tympanum depicts the conversion of Paul and was created in 1706. The portico is flanked by two towers which weren’t part of the original plan. Wren added them at the last minute, in 1707.

 

Important Events

The church was the site of a number of important historic events such as the funeral of Admiral Nelson in 1806 and the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965. Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer married here in 1981.

 

Houses of Parliament…

The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, is the seat of the two parliamentary houses of the United Kingdom: the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The most famous feature of the Houses of Parliament is its clock tower, known as Big Ben.

 

The Seat of Government

Houses of Parliament, London

Houses of Parliament
In the middle of the eleventh century, King Edward the Confessor had moved his court to the Palace of Westminster, situated on a central site near the river Thames. In 1265 a parliament was created with two houses: the Lords and the Commons. The House of Lords met at the Palace of Westminster while the House of Commons did not have a permanent location.After King Henry VIII moved his court to Whitehall Palace in 1530, the House of Lords continued to meet in Westminster. In 1547 the House of Commons also moved here, confirming Westminster as the central seat of government, a position it still holds today.

 

Houses of Parliament seen from London Eye

View from the London Eye

The new Palace of Westminster

In 1834 a fire destroyed the Palace of Westminster, leaving only the Jewel Tower, the crypt and cloister of St. Stephens and Westminster Hall intact. After the fire, a competition was organized to create a new building for the two houses of parliament.A design by Sir Charles Barry and his assistant Augustus Welby Pugin was chosen from ninety-seven entries. They created a large but balanced complex in neo-Gothic style and incorporated the buildings that survived the fire. The whole complex was finished in 1870, more than thirty years after construction started. It includes the Clock Tower, Victoria Tower, House of Commons, House of Lords, Westminster Hall and the Lobbies.

 

Big Ben

Big Ben

Big Ben
The most famous part of Charles Barry’s design is the elegant clock tower. Originally called St. Stephen’s Tower, it was soon named after the tower’s largest bell, the Big Ben. A light at the top of the tower is illuminated when Parliament is sitting at night.

 

Commons Chamber & Lords Chamber

The Commons Chamber, where the House of Commons meets, was destroyed during the Second World War but rebuilt in 1950 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the same neo-Gothic style. The Commons Chamber’s interior (with green colored benches) is rather austere compared to the lavishly decorated Lords Chamber (with red colored benches).Over the centuries the balance of power has moved from the elitist House of Lords to the more agitated House of Commons, where the governing party and the opposition are seated opposite each other with exactly two sword lengths and one foot separating the two parties.

 

Central Lobby

One of several lobbies in the Houses of Parliament is the Central Lobby where people can meet the Members of Parliament and persuade them to

Victoria Tower, Houses of Parliament, London

Victoria Tower

defend their interests. Hence the verb ‘to lobby’.

 

Victoria Tower

The tower opposite the Big Ben is the Victoria Tower, built in 1860. The tower contains the records of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons since 1497. During the parliamentary year the Union Flag is hoisted on top of the 98 meter-tall tower.

 

Westminster Hall

The oldest hall of the Houses of Parliament is Westminster Hall, dating back to 1097. The large hammer beam roof was built in the fourteenth century and replaced the original roof which was supported by two rows of pillars. The hall is one of Europe’s largest unsupported medieval halls.The Houses of Parliament are open to the public, for more info seethe official site of the parliament.