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The correct name for the Houses of Parliament is the Palace of Westminster. Big Ben is nickname given to the great bell, the largest of the 5 bells in the clock tower and the one that chimes the hour.
The palace of Westmister used to be the King's of England residence untill 1512 when it was partially destroyed by fire.
On rebuilding it become the venue for Parliamnt.
Again mostly destoyed by fire in 1834 the current Perpendicular Gothic style building complex was erected designed by architect Charles Barry
Remaing Old Parts
Information Westminster Hall below
The Jewel tower, over the road from the current building is the only section of theoriginal Palace 2 building that remains intact
The popular name for the Palace of Westminster is The Houses of Parliament where members of parliament meet to discuss, amend and introduce new laws for England and gradually to a lessor extent the United Kingdom.
Parliament consists of 2 Houses
The Palace of Westminster is the largest Gothic building in the world, contains 1100 rooms & 2 miles of corridors all built around 7 internal courtyards.
- The Commons has 646 elected Members of Parliament from the United Kingdom, the majority, 529, are from England. Elections take place every 5 years or earlier
- The Monarch is NOT allowed to enter the House of Commons
- The colour scheme in the House of Commons is Green
- There are not enough seats for all MPs, late commers must stand just inside the entrance to the House of Commons.
- On entering the House of Commons the Government is Seated on the Left
- The opposition on the Right.
- Government Ministers and the oppositions counterparts sit on the front row of seats and are called Font Benchers
- Ordinary Members of Parliament (MP's) who do not sit on the front row are called Back Benchers
The Speaker Sits in a green leather arm chair with an high carved wooden back and Canopy, and located centrally at the head of the chamber on a raised Diaz.
- The Title Speaker dates back to 1377
- Traditionally the speaker used to wear wears traditional robes of knee breeches, silk stockings and a full-bottomed wig and wears a sword. This now is only worn at ceremonial occasions and a lounge suit and a teachers style black robe at other times.
- The Speaker is an ordinary Elected Member of Parliament who is elected by all the other members of Parliament.
- He is the chief official & has the most authority of the House of Commons.
- The Speaker's duties include:
- Acts as a politically impartial Chairman
- Maintaining order within the house and to ensure debates run smoothly
- Calls upon MP's to Speak
- Represents the Commons to the monarch, the Lords and other authorities.
- Chairs the House of Commons Commission
- The speaker in 2011 is John Bercow
- Throughout the period of 1399 to 1535, seven Speakers have been beheaded
Two dispatch boxes stand on the table between the government & opposition and act as a lectern for papers or notes.
Two red lines are painted on the carpet run down the chamber.
- The lines are to separate Members of the government & Members of The Opposition.
- Traditionally members must not cross these lines during a debate
- Going back to the days when members carried swords, The lines are 2.5 sword lengths apart.
- At the State Opening of Parliament the Queen arrives at the House of Lords and sends Black Rod to the House of Commons to Summon the MP's to the House of Lords.
- As part of the ceremony the door to the House of Commons is slammed into the face of Black Rod
- Black Rod has then to hammer on the door with his Rod of Office
- The Lords also called The Upper House is the Second chamber
- The Lords scrutinise the elected government and the laws, Acts of Parliament passed by the House of commons.
- The Lords can delay the passing of laws, allowing for a rethink of aspects of the law. But they can only delay for a set time.
- Slowly the powers of the Lords are being eroded.
- The colour scheme in the House of Lords is Red
- The Queen at the State Opening of Parliament
Westminster Hall with Cromwell's statue in Cromwell Green. Visitors entrance on the right of Westminster Hall
Photo by Ozeye
Was built in 1097 and at that time was the largest hall in Europe.
Originally the roof was supported by 2 rows of pillars forming 2 side isles and a wider central isle - similar to many churches & catedrals.
Famous events in this Hall;
- Trials of
- The Trial of King Charles I by the Parliamentarians under Oliver Crommwell.
- Trial of Sir William Wallace a Scottish nobleman who led the Wars of Scottish Independence. Wallace was defeated in 1305 at the Battle of Falkirk
- Trial of Sir Thomas More tried for Treason by Henry VIII for his opposition the Henrys marriage to Catherine of Aragon
- Trial of Cardinal John Fisher
- Trial of Guy Fawkes a paticipent in the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in 1605.and remembered today on November 5 th - Bonfire Night.
- Trial of The Earl of Strafford
- Trial of The rebel Scottish Lords of the 1715 and 1745 uprisings
- Trial of Warren Hastings.
- Coronation Banquet of George IV in 1821 was the last of Soverign's Banquests in the Hall
- The Hall has been used for Soverign lyings-in-state prior to Ceremonial funerals. The last one was for Queen Elizabeth II Mother in 2002.. One of the few non royals to receive this honour was Sir Winston Churchill in 1965
- President Barack Obama addressed both house of Parliament in in Westminster Hall in 2011
Central Ogtagonal Hall
© Jorge Royan
The hall is octagonal in Shape
The Visitors entrace to the Houses of Parliament is located at the right end of Cromwell Green in front of Westminster Hall
Beyond the Entrance is St Stephens Porch with steps to the first floor - the main floor & St Stephens Hall followed by the Central Ogtagonal Hall.
The palace has 2 main towers, 1 Spire and some smaller towers:
- Clock Tower
- Octagonal Central Spire
- Victoria Tower
- Smaller towers
- St Stephens Towers - 2 small towers above the St Stephens Visitors entrance.
- The Clock Tower is the most famous of the towers but at 316 feet (96 metres) is slightly shorter than Victoria Tower
- The clock &/or the clock tower are often, wrongly, called Big Ben but the term is used very often that the term is accepted.
- The Palace of Westminster. Clock Tower is
- The most famous in the World
- The largest four-faced chiming clock in the World
- The third tallest free standing clock tower in the world
- Within the Clock Tower is a prison
- Built originally as a ventilation shaft to expel stale air
- The Tower Octagonal Central Spire is located above the Central Hall
- Named after Queen Victoria and it is the tallest tower at 325 feet almost 99 metres & located at the south west corner of the palace.
- For many years it was the largest & tallest stone tower in the World.
- The Sovereign's Entrance to the Lords is the archway located at the foot of the tower and is wide enough to allow the Royal Carriage through
The Lords enter the house via the entrance 50 yards to the left of the Queens Entrance
Big Ben Description
Whitechapel Bell Foundry
Photo by Ewan M
Where Big Ben was Cast in 1858
- Big Ben is the nickname for the 'Great Bell' housed in the Clock Tower on the north side of the Palace of Westminster that chimes the hours.
- The Chime has been heard by the largest number of people in the World thanks to the BBC's (British Broadcasting Corporation) overseas News programs.
- The characteristic slightly off key note of Big Bens chime is due to the bell being cracked
- The remedy for the crack:
- The bell was given a quarter turn
- The hammer was reduced to 4cwt (200 kg) after the bell cracked
- A hole was drilled at the end of the crack to stop it spreading
- The bell was cast in Whitechapel bell Foundry in 1858, weighed almost 14 tons, has a 9 foot (2.74 metres) diameter, the bell was the largest that was cast by the foundry.
- The clock is the most accurate public clock in the world.
- The clocks time is adjusted by adding or removing coins (money) to or from the pendulum. Adding an old 1 pence coin speeds up the clock by the minute amount of 2/5 second (0.4 second) in 24 hours.
- The clock is maintained to within an accuracy of + - 2 seconds.
- The time accuracy is checked & the clock wound up 3 times a week on Mon. Weds & Fri.
- The Clock faces are 23 feet (7 metres) in diameter.
- Each of the 4 clock faces have a 7 metres diameter face and the design is neo-Gothic. Made from cast iron and 312 separate pieces of opaque glass.
- Under the faces is the latin inscription that translates to "O Lord, save our Queen Victoria the First"
- The faces are cleaned & repaired every 5 years by an abseiling team.
Black Rods Garden a small garden that lies immediatley to the side of Victoria Tower, between the palace & Victoria Gardens
The garden is gated with security guards at the gate. An entrance leads from the garden into the palace. This entrance is used by visitors to the palace Archives which are kept in Victoria Tower
The Members Entrace is located in the New Palace Garden.
New Palace Garden description
The New Palace Garden are within the Palaces Security Area and not open to the public. They are located in front of The Clock Tower and to the side of Westminster Hall & acrooss the road is Parliament Square
A pillory used to stand in the gardens and criminals were locked in it. One of these was Titus Oates in the Reign of James II. The area was then open to the public.
A 5 level car park is below the gardens
Buxton Memoria Fountain in Victoria Gardens
Photo by ell brown
Burghers of Calais Statue in Victoria Gardens
Photo by ell brown
Victoria Gardens are a public Park and .located 20 metres to the south of the Victoria Tower and run alongside the River Thames
Some of the features within the park are:
Buxton Memoria Fountain
The Buxton Memoria Fountain is dedicated to the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834.
The fountain was designed by Samuel Sanders Teulon in 1865 for Charles Buxton MP
Burghers of Calais Statue
The beautiful Burghers of Calais Statue is a reproduction, one of 12, by Auguste Rodin
The bronze statue shows 6 of Calais town citizens who offered themselves as hostages to Edward III in 1347 during the English French 100 years war.
The original statue is located in Calais and completed in 1889
Rodin's best known statue is 'The Thinker'
Emmeline Pankhurst Statue
Emmeline Pankhurst was a leading suffragette.
On the north bank (west bank at this location) of the River Thames immediately up river of Westminster Bridge.
At the southern end of Whitehall.
At the eastern end of Great George Street which is a continuation of Birdcage Walk from Buckingham Palace
Note Parking is scarce & expensive - Public transport advised
Nearest Tube Station: Westminster
Nearest Bus Routes:
Along Millbank 3, 87
Along Whitehall 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88, 159, 453
Along Victoria Street 11, 24, 148, 211
Over Westminster Bridge 12, 53, 148, 159, 211, 453
Over Lambeth Bridge 3, 507, C10
See Location of Palace of Westminster and Big Ben on our London West End Attraction Map
A private terrace where Members of Parliament (MP's) and Lords, can lunch and dine during the summer.
Visitors with permits or tickets can
- Attend a debate
- Watch a committee
- Arrange a tour
- Visit the Parliamentary Archives
Uk Residents only can also
- Climb the Clock Tower Due to demand (3 to 6 months notice is normally required)
UK residents can obtain a permit to visit the Houses of Parliament by contacting their Member of Parliament of their constituency requesting a permit. More Information
Overseas visitors can purchase a ticket, but the periods when they can visit is seriously restricted. More Information
Security Information for Visitors
Visitors should check out the following Security Information which has advise on Mobile phones, taking photographs, weapons & defence equipment & bags