Visiting Westminster Palace

Standing stoic on the banks of the River Thames Westminster Palace is the largest government building in the all of the United Kingdom. Between its elaborate walls two houses of English Parliament meet annually to discuss the political landscape of the Britain. The original building was used as the Royal residence during the reign of Canute the Great(1016 to 1035). Not until the 1295 did Parliament begin meeting the historical building. Almost all sessions of Parliament have met since then with a few intermittent closures. Westminster Palace has also changed names several times, its original name was Westminster Hall then King Henry VIII renamed it Palace of Whitehall due to its painted white interior. Other names stuck for only a few years until its final name in the eighteen hundreds when Parliament started outgrowing the current grounds and began adding on, did it become Westminster Palace or Palace of Westminster. This is also when it opened its doors to the flocks of people who wanted to explore the gorgeous building on the River Thames. At this point only Westminster hall and Central Lobby were open to visitors, today these rooms are still open and considered the most glamourous of the buildings rooms.

After years of being renovated and expanded a horrible fire engulfed the structure in 1834, therefore causing a rebuild a few years later. It was also hit during the London Air Raids of the second World War causing significant damage. They never gave up on the building only 10 years later the building had been completely repaired and was back up and running at full capacity.

The magnificent building was designed by Sir Charles Barry who had envisioned a beautiful merging of classical and gothic architecture. Although his partner disagreed with his choices, his building still stands today with the same structural elements. It’s famous stonework was done completely in Anston during the rebuild but due to London’s horrible air pollution the stone began to deteriorate. In 1928, the palace’s stone was deemed structurally unsafe which started the replacement of the Anston with Clipsham Stone during the 1930s.

Today the whole building is Clipsham Stone including the famous clock tower Big Ben(referring to its biggest, heaviest, and loudest bell). The historic time piece is the most prominent structure on the London skyline. Directly across from the clock tower stands Victoria Tower. The four turret structure at the time of its completion was the tallest circular structure in the world, to this day is still stands as one of the tallest stone structures in the world.

Today almost all the rooms are open for viewing as long as Parliament is not in session. One of the most impressive rooms is the Queens Robing Room. Before every address to Parliament her Majesty prepares in the room for hours in order to look her best in front of the legislation and the world.

Another grand room is the Royal Gallery, the large hall is used as a procession room for State Parliament Openings. The walls are adorned with two incredible paintings by Daniel Maclise, each measuring 13.7 by 3.7 metres). The first is The Death of Nelson,depicting Lord Nelson’s defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805,and the second is The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher, showing the Duke of Wellington meeting Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Other great rooms include the Princes Chamber, Lords Chamber, Peers Lobby, Members Lobby, and House of Commons Library. The last and most important is the Common Chambers where Parliament meets every year. All visitors are encourage to check with their hotels or the information desk before going to the Palace because days of Royal visits are random and therefore impossible to predict months in advance. If a Royal procession is made it is very difficult to see the entire grounds and experience the grandeur of the Palace

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Flickr/** Maurice **