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Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster

Overview
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

—the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 and the House of Commons. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

in the heart of the London borough
London borough
The administrative area of Greater London contains thirty-two London boroughs. Inner London comprises twelve of these boroughs plus the City of London. Outer London comprises the twenty remaining boroughs of Greater London.-Functions:...

 of the City of Westminster
City of Westminster
The City of Westminster is a London borough occupying much of the central area of London, England, including most of the West End. It is located to the west of and adjoining the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary...

, close to the historic Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 and the government buildings of Whitehall
Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

 and Downing Street
Downing Street
Downing Street in London, England has for over two hundred years housed the official residences of two of the most senior British cabinet ministers: the First Lord of the Treasury, an office now synonymous with that of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an...

. The name may refer to either of two structures: the Old Palace, a medieval building complex, most of which was destroyed in 1834, and its replacement New Palace that stands today.
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Encyclopedia
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

—the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 and the House of Commons. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

in the heart of the London borough
London borough
The administrative area of Greater London contains thirty-two London boroughs. Inner London comprises twelve of these boroughs plus the City of London. Outer London comprises the twenty remaining boroughs of Greater London.-Functions:...

 of the City of Westminster
City of Westminster
The City of Westminster is a London borough occupying much of the central area of London, England, including most of the West End. It is located to the west of and adjoining the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary...

, close to the historic Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 and the government buildings of Whitehall
Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

 and Downing Street
Downing Street
Downing Street in London, England has for over two hundred years housed the official residences of two of the most senior British cabinet ministers: the First Lord of the Treasury, an office now synonymous with that of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an...

. The name may refer to either of two structures: the Old Palace, a medieval building complex, most of which was destroyed in 1834, and its replacement New Palace that stands today. The palace retains its original style and status as a royal residence for ceremonial purposes.

The first royal palace was built on the site in the eleventh century, and Westminster was the primary London residence of the Kings of England until a fire destroyed much of the complex in 1512. After that, it served as the home of Parliament, which had been meeting there since the thirteenth century, and the seat of the Royal Courts of Justice, based in and around Westminster Hall. In 1834, an even greater fire ravaged the heavily rebuilt Houses of Parliament, and the only structures of significance to survive were Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen's, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft
St Stephen's Chapel
St Stephen's Chapel was a chapel in the old Palace of Westminster. It was largely lost in the fire of 1834, but the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the crypt survived...

 and the Jewel Tower
Jewel Tower
The Jewel Tower in London is one of only two surviving sections of the medieval royal Palace of Westminster, the other being Westminster Hall. It was built in 1365-1366 to house the private treasures of Edward III and its alternative name was the "King's Privy Wardrobe". In the early 17th-century...

.

The subsequent competition for the reconstruction of the Palace was won by architect Charles Barry
Charles Barry
Sir Charles Barry FRS was an English architect, best known for his role in the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster in London during the mid-19th century, but also responsible for numerous other buildings and gardens.- Background and training :Born on 23 May 1795 in Bridge Street, Westminster...

 and his design for a building in the Perpendicular Gothic style. The remains of the Old Palace (with the exception of the detached Jewel Tower) were incorporated in its much larger replacement, which contains over 1,100 rooms organised symmetrically around two series of courtyards. Part of the New Palace's area of 3.24 hectares (8 acre) was reclaimed from the Thames, which is the setting of its principal façade, the 266 metres (873 ft) river front. Barry was assisted by Augustus W. N. Pugin, a leading authority on Gothic architecture and style, who provided designs for the decoration and furnishings of the Palace. Construction started in 1840 and lasted for thirty years, suffering great delays and cost overruns, as well as the death of both leading architects; works for the interior decoration continued intermittently well into the twentieth century. Major conservation work has been carried out since, due to the effects of London's air pollution, and extensive repairs took place after the Second World War, including the reconstruction of the Commons Chamber following its bombing in 1941.

The Palace is one of the centres of political life in the United Kingdom; "Westminster" has become a metonym for the UK Parliament, and the Westminster system
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

 of government has taken its name after it. Its Clock Tower, in particular, which has become known as "Big Ben" after its main bell, is an iconic landmark of London and the United Kingdom in general, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and an emblem of parliamentary democracy. The Palace of Westminster has been a Grade I listed building since 1970 and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

Old Palace


The Palace of Westminster site was strategically important during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, as it was located on the banks of the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

. Known in medieval times as Thorney Island
Thorney Island (London)
Thorney Island was the eyot on the Thames, upstream of mediæval London, where Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster were built...

, the site may have been first-used for a royal residence by Cnut the Great during his reign from 1016 to 1035. St Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

, the penultimate Saxon monarch of England, built a royal palace on Thorney Island just west of the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

 at about the same time as he built Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 (1045–50). Thorney Island and the surrounding area soon became known as Westminster (a contraction of the words West Minster). Neither the buildings used by the Saxons nor those used by William I survive. The oldest existing part of the Palace (Westminster Hall) dates from the reign of William I's successor, King William II
William II of England
William II , the third son of William I of England, was King of England from 1087 until 1100, with powers over Normandy, and influence in Scotland. He was less successful in extending control into Wales...

.

The Palace of Westminster was the monarch's principal residence in the late Medieval period. The predecessor of Parliament, the Curia Regis
Curia Regis
Curia regis is a Latin term meaning "royal council" or "king's court."- England :The Curia Regis, in the Kingdom of England, was a council of tenants-in-chief and ecclesiastics that advised the king of England on legislative matters...

(Royal Council), met in Westminster Hall (although it followed the King when he moved to other palaces). The Model Parliament
Model Parliament
The Model Parliament is the term, attributed to Frederic William Maitland, used for the 1295 Parliament of England of King Edward I. This assembly included members of the clergy and the aristocracy, as well as representatives from the various counties and boroughs. Each county returned two knights,...

, the first official Parliament of England, met in the Palace in 1295; almost all subsequent Parliaments have met there.

In 1530, King Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 acquired York Place
Palace of Whitehall
The Palace of Whitehall was the main residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698 when all except Inigo Jones's 1622 Banqueting House was destroyed by fire...

 from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a powerful minister who had lost the King's favour. Renaming it the Palace of Whitehall, Henry used it as his principal residence. Although Westminster officially remained a royal palace, it was used by the two Houses of Parliament and by the various royal law courts.
Because it was originally a royal residence, the Palace included no purpose-built chambers for the two Houses. Important state ceremonies were held in the Painted Chamber
Painted Chamber
The Painted Chamber was part of the original Palace of Westminster. It was destroyed by fire in 1834.Because it was originally a royal residence, the Palace did not include any purpose-built chambers for the two Houses. Important state ceremonies, including the State Opening of Parliament, were...

. The House of Lords originally met in the Queen's Chamber, a modest Medieval hall at the south end of the complex. In 1801 the Upper House moved into the larger White Chamber, which had formerly housed the Court of Requests
Court of Requests
The Court of Requests was a minor equity court in England and Wales. Created at an unknown date, it first became a formal tribunal with some Privy Council elements under Henry VII, hearing cases from the poor and the servants of the King. It quickly became popular due to the low cost of bringing a...

; the expansion of the Peerage by King George III
George III of the United Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

 during the 18th century, along with the imminent Act of Union with Ireland, necessitated the move as the original chamber could not accommodate the increased number of peers.

The House of Commons, which did not have a chamber of its own, sometimes held its debates in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. The Commons acquired a permanent home at the Palace in the form of St Stephen's Chapel
St Stephen's Chapel
St Stephen's Chapel was a chapel in the old Palace of Westminster. It was largely lost in the fire of 1834, but the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the crypt survived...

, the former chapel of the royal palace, during the reign of Edward VI
Edward VI of England
Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch who was raised as a Protestant...

. In 1547 the building became available for the Commons' use following the disbanding of St Stephen's College. Alterations were made to St Stephen's Chapel over the following three centuries for the convenience of the lower House, gradually destroying its original mediaeval appearance.

The Palace of Westminster as a whole began to see significant alterations from the 18th century onwards, as Parliament struggled to carry out its business in the limited available space and ageing buildings. Calls for an entirely new palace went unheeded as instead more buildings were added. A new west façade facing onto St. Margaret's Street was built in the Palladian style between 1755 and 1770, providing more space for document storage and committee rooms. A new official residence for the Speaker of the House of Commons was built adjoining St. Stephen's Chapel and completed in 1795. The neo-Gothic architect James Wyatt
James Wyatt
James Wyatt RA , was an English architect, a rival of Robert Adam in the neoclassical style, who far outdid Adam in his work in the neo-Gothic style.-Early classical career:...

 also carried out works on both the House of Lords and Commons between 1799 and 1801.

The palace complex was substantially remodelled once again, this time by Sir John Soane, between 1824 and 1827. The mediaeval House of Lords chamber, which had been the target of the failed Gunpowder Plot
Gunpowder Plot
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.The plan was to blow up the House of...

 of 1605, was demolished as part of this work in order to create a new Royal Gallery and ceremonial entrance at the southern end of the palace. Soane's work at the palace also included new library facilities for both Houses of Parliament and new law courts for the Chancery
Court of Chancery
The Court of Chancery was a court of equity in England and Wales that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness of the common law. The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including trusts, land law, the administration of the estates of...

 and King's Bench
Court of King's Bench (England)
The Court of King's Bench , formally known as The Court of the King Before the King Himself, was an English court of common law in the English legal system...

. Soane's alterations caused controversy due to his use of neo-classical
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

 architectural styles, which conflicted with the Gothic style of the original buildings.

Fire and reconstruction


On 16 October 1834, a fire broke out in the Palace
Burning of Parliament
Burning of Parliament is the popular name for the fire which destroyed the Palace of Westminster, the home of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, on 16 October 1834...

 after an overheated stove used to destroy the Exchequer
Exchequer
The Exchequer is a government department of the United Kingdom responsible for the management and collection of taxation and other government revenues. The historical Exchequer developed judicial roles...

's stockpile of tally stick
Tally stick
A tally was an ancient memory aid device to record and document numbers, quantities, or even messages. Tally sticks first appear as notches carved on animal bones, in the Upper Paleolithic. A notable example is the Ishango Bone...

s set fire to the House of Lords Chamber. In the resulting conflagration both Houses of Parliament were destroyed, along with most of the other buildings in the palace complex. Westminster Hall was saved thanks to heroic fire-fighting efforts and a change in the direction of the wind. The Jewel Tower
Jewel Tower
The Jewel Tower in London is one of only two surviving sections of the medieval royal Palace of Westminster, the other being Westminster Hall. It was built in 1365-1366 to house the private treasures of Edward III and its alternative name was the "King's Privy Wardrobe". In the early 17th-century...

, the Undercroft Chapel and the Cloister
Cloister
A cloister is a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries, with open arcades on the inner side, running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth...

s and Chapter House of St. Stephen's were the only other parts of the Palace to survive.

Immediately after the fire, King William IV
William IV of the United Kingdom
William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death...

 offered the almost-completed Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, in London, is the principal residence and office of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality...

 to Parliament, hoping to dispose of a residence he disliked. The building was considered unsuitable for parliamentary use, however, and the gift was rejected. Proposals to move to Charing Cross or St James's Park had a similar fate; the allure of tradition and the historical and political associations of Westminster proved too strong for relocation, despite the deficiencies of that site. In the meantime, the immediate priority was to provide accommodation for the next Parliament, and so the Painted Chamber and White Chamber were hastily repaired for temporary use by the Houses of Lords and Commons respectively, under the direction of the only remaining architect of the Metropolitan Board of Works
Metropolitan Board of Works
The Metropolitan Board of Works was the principal instrument of London-wide government from 1855 until the establishment of the London County Council in 1889. Its principal responsibility was to provide infrastructure to cope with London's rapid growth, which it successfully accomplished. The MBW...

, Sir Robert Smirke
Robert Smirke (architect)
Sir Robert Smirke was an English architect, one of the leaders of Greek Revival architecture his best known building in that style is the British Museum, though he also designed using other architectural styles...

. Works proceeded quickly and the chambers were ready for use by February 1835.

A Royal Commission
Royal Commission
In Commonwealth realms and other monarchies a Royal Commission is a major ad-hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue. They have been held in various countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia...

 was appointed to study the rebuilding of the Palace and a heated public debate over the proposed styles ensued. The neo-Classical
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

 approach, similar to that of the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 and the federal Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

 in the United States, was popular at the time and had already been used by Soane in his additions to the old palace, but had connotations of revolution and republicanism
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

, whereas Gothic
Gothic Revival architecture
The Gothic Revival is an architectural movement that began in the 1740s in England...

 design embodied conservative values. The Commission announced in June 1835 that "the style of the buildings would be either Gothic or Elizabethan
Elizabethan architecture
Elizabethan architecture is the term given to early Renaissance architecture in England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Historically, the period corresponds to the Cinquecento in Italy, the Early Renaissance in France, and the Plateresque style in Spain...

". The Royal Commission decided to allow architects to submit proposals following these basic criteria.
In 1836, after studying 97 proposals, the Royal Commission chose Charles Barry's plan for a Gothic-style palace, awarding him. a prize - or “premium” - of £1300. Premiums of £500 each were given to Robert Hamilton, J.C. Buckler
John Chessell Buckler
John Chessell Buckler was a British architect, the eldest son of the architect John Buckler. J.C. Buckler initially worked with his father before working for himself. His work included restorations of country houses and at the University of Oxford.-Career:Buckler received art lessons from the...

 and William Railton
William Railton
William Railton was an English architect, best known as the designer of Nelson's Column. He was based in London with offices at 12 Regent Street for much of his career.He was a pupil of the London architect and surveyor William Inwood....

.
The Architectural Magazine summarised Barry’s winning plan as "a quadrangular pile, with the principal front facing the Thames, and a tower in the centre, 170ft. high".

The foundation stone was laid in 1840; the Lords Chamber was completed in 1847, and the Commons Chamber in 1852 (at which point Barry received a knighthood
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

). Although most of the work had been carried out by 1860, construction was not finished until a decade afterwards. Barry, whose own architectural style was more classical than Gothic, built the new palace upon the neo-classical principle of symmetry. He relied heavily on Augustus Pugin for the sumptuous and distinctive Gothic interiors, including wallpapers, carvings, stained glass, floor tiles, metalwork and furniture.

Recent history


In the course of the German bombing of London during the Second World War (see The Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

), the Palace of Westminster was hit by bombs on fourteen separate occasions. One bomb fell into Old Palace Yard on 26 September 1940 and severely damaged the south wall of St Stephen's Porch and the west front. The statue of Richard the Lionheart
Richard Coeur de Lion (statue)
thumb|right|upright|The statue of King Richard I outside the Houses of ParliamentRichard Coeur de Lion is an equestrian statue of Richard I of England, who was also known as Richard the Lionheart, created by Baron Carlo Marochetti. A clay model was displayed at The Great Exhibition in 1851, with...

 was lifted from its pedestal by the force of the blast, and its upheld sword bent, an image that was used as a symbol of the strength of democracy, "which would bend but not break under attack". Another bomb destroyed much of the Cloisters on 8 December.

The worst raid took place in the night of 10/11 May 1941, when the Palace took at least twelve hits and three people were killed. An incendiary bomb hit the chamber of the House of Commons and set it on fire; another set the roof of Westminster Hall alight. The firefighters could not save both, and a decision was taken to try to rescue the Hall. In this they were successful; the abandoned Commons Chamber, on the other hand, was completely destroyed, as was the Members' Lobby. A bomb also struck the Lords Chamber, but went through the floor without exploding. The Clock Tower took a hit by a small bomb or anti-aircraft shell at the eaves of the roof, suffering much damage there. All the glass on the south dial was blown out, but the hands and bells were not affected, and the Great Clock continued to keep time accurately.

Following the destruction of the Commons Chamber, the Lords offered their own debating chamber for the use of the Commons; for their own sittings the Queen's Robing Room was converted into a makeshift chamber. The Commons Chamber was rebuilt after the war under the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott
Giles Gilbert Scott
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, OM, FRIBA was an English architect known for his work on such buildings as Liverpool Cathedral and Battersea Power Station and designing the iconic red telephone box....

, in a simplified version of the old chamber's style. The work was completed in 1950, whereupon both Houses returned to their chambers.

As the need for office space in the Palace increased, Parliament acquired office space in the nearby Norman Shaw Building
Norman Shaw Building
The Norman Shaw Buildings are a pair of buildings in Westminster, London. Built by renowned architect Richard Norman Shaw between 1887–1906, they were originally the location of New Scotland Yard until 1967, but from 1979 have been used as Parliamentary offices and have been named Norman Shaw...

 in 1975, and more recently in the custom-built Portcullis House
Portcullis House
Portcullis House is an office building in Westminster, London, UK, that was commissioned in 1992 and opened in 2001 to provide offices for 213 Members of Parliament and their staff, augmenting limited space in the Palace of Westminster and surroundings....

, completed in 2000. This increase has now allowed all MPs to have their own office facilities.

In 2010, plans were announced that may see the palace or at least, some parts of the complex of venues, become available for hire as a wedding venue, banquet hall and so on. This was announced in a bid to curb spending and in particular, the large costs attributed to the provision of catering to the staff and visitors to the Palace of Westminster. Plans for the Palace of Westminster to become a wedding venue for hire As of June 2011, no official conformation of this has been declared though plans are likely to take a considerable amount of time to finalise due to the considerable amount of bureaucracy and legislation associated with the usage of such a historically important venue. There are also of course significant and viable security concerns which would need to be addressed.

Exterior


Sir Charles Barry's collaborative design for the Palace of Westminster uses the Perpendicular Gothic style, which was popular during the 15th century and returned during the Gothic revival
Gothic Revival architecture
The Gothic Revival is an architectural movement that began in the 1740s in England...

 of the 19th century. Barry was a classical architect
Classical architecture
Classical architecture is a mode of architecture employing vocabulary derived in part from the Greek and Roman architecture of classical antiquity, enriched by classicizing architectural practice in Europe since the Renaissance...

, but he was aided by the Gothic architect Augustus Pugin. Westminster Hall, which was built in the 11th century and survived the fire of 1834, was incorporated in Barry's design. Pugin was displeased with the result of the work, especially with the symmetrical layout designed by Barry; he famously remarked, "All Grecian, sir; Tudor details on a classic body".

Stonework


The stonework of the building was originally Anston, a sand-coloured magnesian limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 quarried in the village of Anston
Anston
The villages of North Anston and South Anston are the principal constituents of the civil parish of North and South Anston, in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, England...

 in South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire is a metropolitan county in the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England. It has a population of 1.29 million. It consists of four metropolitan boroughs: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and City of Sheffield...

. The stone, however, soon began to decay due to pollution and the poor quality of some of the stone used. Although such defects were clear as early as 1849, nothing was done for the remainder of the 19th century. During the 1910s, however, it became clear that some of the stonework had to be replaced.
In 1928 it was deemed necessary to use Clipsham Stone, a honey-coloured limestone from Rutland
Rutland
Rutland is a landlocked county in central England, bounded on the west and north by Leicestershire, northeast by Lincolnshire and southeast by Peterborough and Northamptonshire....

, to replace the decayed Anston. The project began in the 1930s but was halted due to the Second World War, and completed only during the 1950s. By the 1960s pollution had once again begun to take its toll. A stone conservation and restoration programme to the external elevations and towers began in 1981, and ended in 1994. The House Authorities have since been undertaking the external restoration of the many inner courtyards, a task due to continue until approximately 2011.

Towers


The Palace of Westminster features three main towers. Of these, the largest and tallest is the 98.5 metres (323.2 ft) Victoria Tower
Victoria Tower
The Victoria Tower is the square tower at the south-west end of the Palace of Westminster in London, facing south and west onto Black Rod's Garden and Old Palace Yard. At , it is slightly taller than the more famous Clock Tower at the north end of the Palace . It houses the Parliamentary Archives...

, which occupies the south-western corner of the Palace. Called "King's Tower" at the time, in honour of the then-reigning monarch, William IV
William IV of the United Kingdom
William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death...

, the tower was an integral part of Barry's original design, of which he intended it to be the most memorable element. The architect conceived the great square tower as the keep
Keep
A keep is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word keep, but usually consider it to refer to large towers in castles that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the...

 of a legislative "castle" (echoing his selection of the portcullis
Portcullis
A portcullis is a latticed grille made of wood, metal, fibreglass or a combination of the three. Portcullises fortified the entrances to many medieval castles, acting as a last line of defence during time of attack or siege...

 as his identifying mark in the planning competition), and used it as the royal entrance to the Palace and as a fireproof repository for the archives of Parliament. The Victoria Tower was re-designed several times, and its height increased progressively; upon its completion in 1858, it was the tallest secular building in the world.

At the base of the tower is the Sovereign's Entrance, used by the monarch whenever entering the Palace to open Parliament
State Opening of Parliament
In the United Kingdom, the State Opening of Parliament is an annual event that marks the commencement of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is held in the House of Lords Chamber, usually in November or December or, in a general election year, when the new Parliament first assembles...

 or for other state occasions. The 15 m (50 ft) high archway is richly decorated with sculptures, including statues of Saints George
Saint George
Saint George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic , Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox...

, Andrew
Saint Andrew
Saint Andrew , called in the Orthodox tradition Prōtoklētos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter. The name "Andrew" , like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews from the 3rd or 2nd century BC. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him...

 and Patrick
Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick was a Romano-Briton and Christian missionary, who is the most generally recognized patron saint of Ireland or the Apostle of Ireland, although Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille are also formally patron saints....

, as well as of Queen Victoria herself. The main body of the Victoria Tower houses the three million documents of the Parliamentary Archives
Parliamentary Archives
The Parliamentary Archives of the United Kingdom preserves and makes available to public the records of the House of Lords and House of Commons back to 1497, as well as some 200 other collections of Parliamentary interest...

 in 8.8 kilometres (5.5 mi) of steel shelves spread over 12 floors; these include the master copies of all Acts of Parliament
Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom
An Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom is a type of legislation called primary legislation. These Acts are passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster, or by the Scottish Parliament at Edinburgh....

 since 1497, and important manuscripts such as the original Bill of Rights
Bill of Rights 1689
The Bill of Rights or the Bill of Rights 1688 is an Act of the Parliament of England.The Bill of Rights was passed by Parliament on 16 December 1689. It was a re-statement in statutory form of the Declaration of Right presented by the Convention Parliament to William and Mary in March 1689 ,...

 and the death warrant of King Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

. At the top of the cast-iron pyramidal roof is a 22 m (73 ft) flagstaff, from which flies the Royal Standard (the monarch's personal flag) when the Sovereign is present in the Palace. On the days when either House of Parliament is sitting and on designated flag days, the Union Flag
Union Flag
The Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, is the flag of the United Kingdom. It retains an official or semi-official status in some Commonwealth Realms; for example, it is known as the Royal Union Flag in Canada. It is also used as an official flag in some of the smaller British overseas...

 flies from the mast.

At the north end of the Palace rises the most famous of the towers, the Clock Tower, commonly known as Big Ben. At 96 metres (316 ft), it is only slightly shorter than the Victoria Tower but much slimmer. It houses the Great Clock of Westminster, built by Edward John Dent
Edward John Dent
Edward John Dent was a famous English watchmaker noted for his highly accurate clocks and marine chronometers.He founded the Dent company.- Early years :...

 on designs by amateur horologist
Horology
Horology is the art or science of measuring time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, clepsydras, timers, time recorders and marine chronometers are all examples of instruments used to measure time.People interested in horology are called horologists...

 Edmund Beckett Denison
Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe
Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe, Q.C. , known previously as Sir Edmund Beckett, 5th Baronet and Edmund Beckett Denison was a lawyer, horologist, and architect...

. Striking the hour to within a second of the time, the Great Clock achieved standards of accuracy considered impossible by 19th-century clockmakers, and it has remained consistently reliable since it entered service in 1859. The time is shown on four dials 7 metres (23 ft) in diameter, which are made of milk glass
Milk glass
Milk glass is an opaque or translucent, milky white or colored glass, blown or pressed into a wide variety of shapes.First made in Venice in the 16th century, colors include blue, pink, yellow, brown, black, and the white that led to its popular name....

 and are lit from behind at night; the hour hand is 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) long and the minute hand 4.3 metres (14.1 ft).

Five bells hang in the belfry above the clock. The four quarter bells strike the Westminster Chimes every quarter hour. The largest bell strikes the hours; officially called The Great Bell of Westminster, it is generally referred to as Big Ben, a nickname of uncertain origins which, over time, has been colloquially applied to the whole tower. The first bell to bear this name cracked during testing and was recast; the present bell later developed a crack of its own, which gives it a distinctive sound. It is the third-heaviest bell in Britain, weighing 13.8 tonnes. In the lantern at the top of the Clock Tower is the Ayrton Light, which is lit when either House of Parliament is sitting after dark. It was installed in 1885 at the request of Queen Victoria—so that she could see from Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, in London, is the principal residence and office of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality...

 whether the members were "at work"—and named after Acton Smee Ayrton
Acton Smee Ayrton
Acton Smee Ayrton was a British barrister and Liberal Party politician. Considered a radical and champion of the working classes, he served as First Commissioner of Works under William Ewart Gladstone between 1869 and 1873...

, who was First Commissioner of Works
First Commissioner of Works
The First Commissioner of Works and Public Buildings was a position within the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It took over some of the functions of the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests in 1851 when the portfolio of Crown holdings was divided into the public...

 in the 1870s.
The shortest of the Palace's three principal towers (at 91 metres (298.6 ft)), the octagonal Central Tower stands over the middle of the building, immediately above the Central Lobby. It was added to the plans on the insistence of Dr. David Boswell Reid, who was in charge of the ventilation of the new Houses of Parliament: his plan called for a great central chimney through which what he called "vitiated air" would be drawn out of the building with the heat and smoke of about four hundred fires around the Palace. To accommodate the tower, Barry was forced to lower the lofty ceiling he had planned for the Central Lobby and reduce the height of its windows; however, the tower itself proved to be an opportunity to improve the Palace's exterior design, and Barry chose for it the form of a spire
Spire
A spire is a tapering conical or pyramidal structure on the top of a building, particularly a church tower. Etymologically, the word is derived from the Old English word spir, meaning a sprout, shoot, or stalk of grass....

 in order to balance the effect of the more massive lateral towers. In the end, the Central Tower failed completely to fulfill its stated purpose, but it is notable as "the first occasion when mechanical services had a real influence on architectural design".

Apart from the pinnacles which rise from between the window bays along the fronts of the Palace, numerous turret
Turret
In architecture, a turret is a small tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building such as a medieval castle. Turrets were used to provide a projecting defensive position allowing covering fire to the adjacent wall in the days of military fortification...

s enliven the building's skyline. Like the Central Tower, these have been added for practical reasons, and mask ventilation shafts.

There are some other features of the Palace of Westminster which are also known as towers. St. Stephen's Tower is positioned in the middle of the west front of the Palace, between Westminster Hall and Old Palace Yard, and houses the public entrance to the Houses of Parliament, known as St. Stephen's Entrance. The pavilions at the northern and southern ends of the river front are called Speaker's Tower and Chancellor's Tower respectively, after the presiding officers of the two Houses at the time of the Palace's reconstruction—the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

. The Speaker's Tower contains the Speaker's House, the official residence of the Speaker of the Commons.

Grounds


There are a number of small gardens surrounding the Palace of Westminster. Victoria Tower Gardens
Victoria Tower Gardens
Victoria Tower Gardens is a public park along the north bank of the River Thames in London. As its name suggests, it is adjacent to the Victoria Tower, the south-western corner of the Palace of Westminster...

 is open as a public park along the side of the river south of the palace. Black Rod's Garden (named after the office of Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod
Black Rod
The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, generally shortened to just Black Rod, is an official in the parliaments of several Commonwealth countries. The position originates in the House of Lords of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

) is closed to the public and is used as a private entrance. Old Palace Yard
Old Palace Yard
Old Palace Yard is immediately to the west of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, England, near the eastern end of Westminster Abbey. It provides pedestrian access to the Houses of Parliament via St Stephen's Entrance. A square of grass opposite is often used by television journalists...

, in front of the Palace, is paved over and covered in concrete security blocks (see security below). Cromwell Green (also on the frontage, and in 2006 enclosed by hoardings for the construction of a new visitor centre), New Palace Yard
New Palace Yard
New Palace Yard is to the northwest of the Houses of Parliament , in Westminster, London, England. It is to the east of Parliament Square, to the west of Big Ben, and to the north of Westminster Hall...

 (on the north side) and Speaker's Green (directly north of the Palace) are all private and closed to the public. College Green
College Green (London)
College Green in London is a small grass-covered public area diagonally opposite the Palace of Westminster at the corner of Millbank and Abingdon Street, and is a common place for TV reporters to interview Members of Parliament.-Location:...

, opposite the House of Lords, is a small triangular green commonly used for television interviews with politicians.

Interior


The Palace of Westminster contains over 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 4.8 kilometres (3 mi) of passageways, which are spread over four floors. The ground floor is occupied by offices, dining rooms and bars; the first floor (known as the principal floor) houses the main rooms of the Palace, including the debating chambers, the lobbies and the libraries. The top-two floors are used as committee rooms and offices.

Layout


Instead of one main entrance, the Palace features separate entrances for the different user groups of the building. The Sovereign's Entrance, at the base of the Victoria Tower, is located in the south-west corner of the Palace and is the starting point of the royal procession route, the suite of ceremonial rooms used by the monarch at State Openings of Parliament
State Opening of Parliament
In the United Kingdom, the State Opening of Parliament is an annual event that marks the commencement of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is held in the House of Lords Chamber, usually in November or December or, in a general election year, when the new Parliament first assembles...

. This consists of the Royal Staircase, the Norman Porch, the Robing Room, the Royal Gallery and the Prince's Chamber, and culminates in the Lords Chamber, where the ceremony takes place. Members of the House of Lords use the Peers' Entrance in the middle of the Old Palace Yard front, which is covered by a stone carriage porch and opens to an entrance hall. A staircase from there leads, through a corridor, to the Prince's Chamber.

Members of Parliament enter their part of the building from the Members' Entrance in the south side of New Palace Yard. Their route passes through a cloakroom in the lower level of the Cloisters and eventually reaches the Members' Lobby directly south of the Commons Chamber. From New Palace Yard, access can also be gained to the Speaker's Court and the main entrance of the Speaker's House, located in the pavilion at the north-east corner of the Palace.

St Stephen's Entrance, roughly in the middle of the building's western front, is the entrance for members of the public. From there, visitors walk through a series of hallways and flights of stairs which bring them to the level of the principal floor and to the octagonal Central Lobby, the hub of the Palace. This hall is flanked by symmetrical corridors decorated with fresco paintings, which lead to the ante-rooms and debating chambers of the two Houses: the Members' Lobby and Commons Chamber to the north, and the Peers' Lobby and Lords Chamber to the south. Another mural-lined corridor leads east to the Lower Waiting Hall and the staircase to the first floor, where the river front is occupied by a row of 16 committee rooms. Directly below them, the libraries of the two Houses overlook the Thames from the principal floor.

Norman Porch


The grandest entrance to the Palace of Westminster is the Sovereign's Entrance beneath the Victoria Tower. It was designed for the use of the monarch, who travels from Buckingham Palace by carriage every year for the State Opening of Parliament. The Imperial State Crown
Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown is one of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.- Design :The Crown is of a design similar to St Edward's Crown: it includes a base of four crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, above which are four half-arches surmounted by a cross. Inside is a velvet cap...

, which is worn by the sovereign for the ceremony, as well as the Cap of Maintenance
Cap of Maintenance
A Cap of Maintenance is a ceremonial cap of crimson velvet lined with ermine, which is worn or carried by certain persons as a sign of nobility or special honour. It is worn with the high part to the fore, the tapering tail behind...

 and the Sword of State
Sword of State
A sword of state is a sword, used as part of the regalia, symbolizing the power of a monarch to use the might of the state against its enemies, and their duty to preserve thus right and peace.It is known to be used in following monarchies:...

, which are symbols of royal authority and are borne before the monarch during the procession, also travel to the Palace by coach, accompanied by members of the Royal Household; the regalia, as they are collectively known, arrive some time before the monarch and are exhibited in the Royal Gallery until they are needed. The Sovereign's Entrance is also the formal entrance used by visiting dignitaries, as well as the starting point of public tours of the Palace.

From there, the Royal Staircase leads up to the principal floor with a broad, unbroken flight of 26 steps made of grey granite. It is lined on state occasions by sword-wielding troopers of the two regiments of the Household Cavalry, the Life Guards
Life Guards (British Army)
The Life Guards is the senior regiment of the British Army and with the Blues and Royals, they make up the Household Cavalry.They originated in the four troops of Horse Guards raised by Charles II around the time of his restoration, plus two troops of Horse Grenadier Guards which were raised some...

 and the Blues and Royals
Blues and Royals
The Blues and Royals is a cavalry regiment of the British Army, part of the Household Cavalry. The Colonel-in-Chief is Her Majesty The Queen and the Colonel is HRH The Princess Royal...

; these are the only troops allowed to bear arms inside the Palace of Westminster, which officially remains a royal residence.

The staircase is followed by the Norman Porch, a square landing distinguished by its central clustered column
Compound pier
Compound pier or Cluster pier is the architectural term given to a clustered column or pier which consists of a centre mass or newel, to which engaged or semi-detached shafts have been attached, in order to perform certain definite structural objects, such as to carry arches of additional orders,...

 and the intricate ceiling it supports, which is made up of four groin vault
Groin vault
A groin vault or groined vault is produced by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults. The word groin refers to the edge between the intersecting vaults; cf. ribbed vault. Sometimes the arches of groin vaults are pointed instead of round...

s with lierne ribs
Lierne (vault)
A Lierne in Gothic rib vaulting is an architectural term for a tertiary rib spanning between two other ribs, instead of from a springer, or to the central boss...

 and carved bosses
Boss (architecture)
In architecture, a boss is a knob or protrusion of stone or wood.Bosses can often be found in the ceilings of buildings, particularly at the intersection of a vault. In Gothic architecture, such roof bosses are often intricately carved with foliage, heraldic devices or other decorations...

. The Porch was named for its proposed decorative scheme, based on Norman history. In the event, neither the planned statues of Norman kings nor the frescoes were executed, and only the stained-glass window portraying William the Conqueror hints at this theme. Queen Victoria is depicted twice in the room: as a young woman in the other stained-glass window, and near the end of her life, sitting on the throne of the House of Lords, in a copy of a 1900 painting by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant which hangs on the eastern wall. The sixteen plinths intended for the statues now house busts of prime ministers who have sat in the House of Lords, such as the Earl Grey
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG, PC , known as Viscount Howick between 1806 and 1807, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 22 November 1830 to 16 July 1834. A member of the Whig Party, he backed significant reform of the British government and was among the...

 and the Marquess of Salisbury. A double door opposite the stairs leads to the Royal Gallery, and another to the right opens to the Robing Room.

Queen's Robing Room


The Queen's Robing Room lies at the southern end of the ceremonial axis of the Palace and occupies the centre of the building's south front, overlooking the Victoria Tower Gardens. As its name indicates, it is where the Sovereign prepares for the State Opening of Parliament by donning official robes and wearing the Imperial State Crown
Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown is one of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.- Design :The Crown is of a design similar to St Edward's Crown: it includes a base of four crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, above which are four half-arches surmounted by a cross. Inside is a velvet cap...

. The focus of this richly decorated room is the Chair of State used by the monarch; it sits on a dais of three steps, under a canopy adorned with the arms and floral emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland. A panel of purple velvet forms the backdrop to the chair, embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework
Royal School of Needlework
The Royal School of Needlework is a hand embroidery school in the United Kingdom, founded in 1872.It has an archive of over 30,000 images covering every period of British history...

 with the royal arms, surrounded by stars and VR monograms. Edward Barry designed both the chair—the cushion and back of which are also embroidered—and the ornate marble fireplace across the room, which features gilded statuettes of Saint George
Saint George
Saint George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic , Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox...

 and Saint Michael.

The decorative theme of the room is the legend of King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

, considered by many Victorians the source of their nationhood. Five frescos painted by William Dyce
William Dyce
William Dyce was a distinguished Scottish artist, who played a significant part in the formation of public art education in the UK, as perhaps the true parent of the South Kensington Schools system.Dyce began his career at the Royal Academy schools, and then traveled to Rome for the first time in...

 between 1848 and 1864 cover the walls, depicting allegorical scenes from the legend. Each scene represents a chivalric virtue; the largest, between the two doors, is entitled Admission of Sir Tristram to the Round Table and illustrates the virtue of Hospitality. Seven were originally commissioned but the remaining two paintings were not carried out due to the artist's death, and on the wallpapered panels flanking the Chair of State hang oil portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Other decorations in the room are also inspired by the Arthurian legend, namely a series of 18 bas-reliefs beneath the paintings, carved in oak by Henry Hugh Armstead
Henry Hugh Armstead
Henry Hugh Armstead was an English sculptor and illustrator, influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites.-Life:...

, and the frieze running below the ceiling, which displays the attributed coats of arms of the Knights of the Round Table. The ceiling itself is decorated with heraldic badges, as is the border of the wooden floor—which, as can be seen in the image to the right, is left exposed by the carpeting.

Royal Gallery


Immediately north of the Robing Room is the Royal Gallery. At 33.5 by, it is one of the largest rooms in the Palace. Its main purpose is to serve as the stage of the royal procession at State Openings of Parliament, which the audience watch from temporary tiered seating on both sides of the route. It has also been used on occasion by visiting statesmen from abroad when addressing both Houses of Parliament, as well as for receptions in honour of foreign dignitaries, and more regularly for the Lord Chancellor's Breakfast; in the past it was the theatre of several trials of peers by the House of Lords. Documents from the Parliamentary Archives are on display in the Royal Gallery (including a facsimile of Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

's death warrant), and the tables and seating offer a workspace for members of the Lords that is conveniently close to their debating chamber.
The decorative scheme of the Royal Gallery was meant to display important moments in British military history, and the walls are decorated by two large paintings by Daniel Maclise
Daniel Maclise
Daniel Maclise was an Irish history, literary and portrait painter, and illustrator, who worked for most of his life in London, England.-Early life:...

, each measuring 13.7 by: The Death of Nelson (depicting Lord Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of...

's demise at the Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

 in 1805) and The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher (showing the Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 meeting Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt , Graf , later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.He is...

 at the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 in 1815). The murals deteriorated rapidly after their completion due to a range of factors, most importantly atmospheric pollution, and today they are almost monochrome. The rest of the planned frescos were cancelled, and the walls are filled with portraits of kings and queens from George I onwards. Another decorative element with military undertones are the eight statues of gilded Caen stone that flank the three doorways and the bay window of the Gallery, sculpted by John Bernie Philip. Each depicts a monarch during whose reign a key battle or war took place. The panelled ceiling, 13.7 metres (44.9 ft) above the floor, features Tudor rose
Tudor rose
The Tudor Rose is the traditional floral heraldic emblem of England and takes its name and origins from the Tudor dynasty.-Origins:...

s and lions, and the stained-glass windows show the coats of arms of the Kings of England and Scotland.

Prince's Chamber


The Prince's Chamber is a small anteroom between the Royal Gallery and the Lords Chamber, named after the room adjoining the Parliament Chamber in the Old Palace of Westminster. Due to its location, it is a place where members of the Lords meet to discuss business of the House. Several doors lead out of the room, to the division
Division (vote)
In parliamentary procedure, a division of the assembly is a voting method in which the members of the assembly take a rising vote or go to different parts of the chamber, literally dividing into groups indicating a vote in favour of or in opposition to a motion on the floor...

 lobbies of the House of Lords and to a number of important offices.

The theme of the Prince's Chamber is Tudor history, and 28 oil portraits painted on panels around the room depict members of the Tudor dynasty
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

. They are the work of Richard Burchett
Richard Burchett
Richard Burchett was a British artist and educator on the fringes of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who was for over twenty years the Headmaster of what later became the Royal College of Art....

 and his pupils, and their creation entailed extensive research, which contributed to the founding of the National Portrait Gallery in 1856. 12 bronze bas-reliefs are set into the wall below the portraits, executed by William Theed
William Theed
William Theed, also known as William Theed, the younger was an English sculptor, the son of the sculptor and painter William Theed the elder . Although versatile and eclectic in his works, he specialised in portraiture, and his services were extensively used by the Royal Family.-Career:Theed was...

 in 1855–57. Scenes included are The Field of the Cloth of Gold
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The Field of Cloth of Gold is the name given to a place in Balinghem, between Guînes and Ardres, in France, near Calais. It was the site of a meeting that took place from 7 June to 24 June 1520, between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. The meeting was arranged to increase...

, The Escape of Mary, Queen of Scots and Raleigh
Walter Raleigh
Sir Walter Raleigh was an English aristocrat, writer, poet, soldier, courtier, spy, and explorer. He is also well known for popularising tobacco in England....

 Spreading His Cloak As a Carpet for the Queen
. Above the portraits, at window level, there are compartments intended for copies of six of the ten Armada tapestries, which hung in the chamber of the House of Lords until their destruction in the 1834 fire and depicted the defeat of the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada
This article refers to the Battle of Gravelines, for the modern navy of Spain, see Spanish NavyThe Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England to stop English...

 in 1588. The project was put on hold in 1861 (by which time only one painting had been completed), and was not revived until 2007; , all six paintings have been finished and are on display in the Royal Gallery. They are scheduled to be fixed in the Prince's Chamber in the following months.

The room also contains a statue of Queen Victoria, seated on a throne (itself placed on a pedestal) and holding a sceptre and a laurel crown, which show that she both governs and rules. This figure is flanked by allegorical statues of Justice and Clemency—the former with a bare sword and an inflexible expression and the latter showing sympathy and offering an olive branch. The sculptural ensemble, made of white marble and carved by John Gibson
John Gibson (sculptor)
John Gibson, was a Welsh sculptor.-Early life:He was born near Conwy, Wales, his father being a market gardener. To his mother, whom he described as ruling his father and all the family, he owed the energy and determination which carried him over every obstacle.When he was nine years old the...

 in 1855, reaches 2.44 metres (8 ft) in height; its size has long been considered out of proportion with the fittings of the Prince's Chamber, and the flanking statues ended up in storage between 1955 and 1976. However, the size and location of the group, in the archway opposite the doors to the Royal Gallery (which are removed before State Openings of Parliament to facilitate the royal procession), indicate that it was meant to be seen from a distance, and to symbolically remind the monarch of their royal duties as they would walk down the Royal Gallery on their way to deliver their speech.

Lords Chamber


The Chamber of the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 is located in the southern part of the Palace of Westminster. The lavishly decorated room measures 13.7 by. The benches in the Chamber, as well as other furnishings in the Lords' side of the Palace, are coloured red. The upper part of the Chamber is decorated by stained glass windows and by six allegorical frescoes representing religion, chivalry and law.

At the south end of the Chamber are the ornate gold Canopy and Throne; although the Sovereign may theoretically occupy the Throne during any sitting, he or she attends only the State Opening of Parliament. Other members of the Royal Family who attend the State Opening use Chairs of State next to the Throne, and peers' sons are always entitled to sit on the steps of the Throne. In front of the Throne is the Woolsack
Woolsack
The Woolsack is the seat of the Lord Speaker in the House of Lords, the Upper House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. From the Middle Ages until 2006, the presiding officer in the House of Lords was the Lord Chancellor and the Woolsack was usually mentioned in association with the office of...

, a backless and armless red cushion stuffed with wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

, representing the historical importance of the wool trade, and used by the officer presiding over the House (the Lord Speaker
Lord Speaker
The Lord Speaker is the speaker of the House of Lords in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The office is analogous to the Speaker of the House of Commons: the Lord Speaker is elected by the members of the House of Lords and is expected to be politically impartial.Until July 2006, the role of...

 since 2006, but historically the Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

 or a deputy). The House's mace
Ceremonial mace
The ceremonial mace is a highly ornamented staff of metal or wood, carried before a sovereign or other high official in civic ceremonies by a mace-bearer, intended to represent the official's authority. The mace, as used today, derives from the original mace used as a weapon...

, which represents royal authority, is placed on the back of the Woolsack. In front of the Woolsack is the Judges' Woolsack, a larger red cushion formerly occupied during the State Opening by the Law Lords (who were members of the House of Lords), and prospectively by the Supreme Court Justices and other Judges (whether or not members), to represent the Judicial Branch of Government. The Table of the House, at which the clerks sit, is in front.

Members of the House occupy red benches on three sides of the Chamber. The benches on the Lord Speaker's right form the Spiritual Side and those to his left form the Temporal Side. The Lords Spiritual
Lords Spiritual
The Lords Spiritual of the United Kingdom, also called Spiritual Peers, are the 26 bishops of the established Church of England who serve in the House of Lords along with the Lords Temporal. The Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian, is not represented by spiritual peers...

 (archbishops and bishops of the established Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

) all occupy the Spiritual Side. The Lords Temporal (nobles
Peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

) sit according to party affiliation: members of the Government party sit on the Spiritual Side, while those of the Opposition sit on the Temporal Side. Some peers, who have no party affiliation, sit on the benches in the middle of the House opposite the Woolsack; they are accordingly known as cross-benchers.

The Lords Chamber is the site of nationally televised ceremonies, the most important of which is the State Opening of Parliament
State Opening of Parliament
In the United Kingdom, the State Opening of Parliament is an annual event that marks the commencement of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is held in the House of Lords Chamber, usually in November or December or, in a general election year, when the new Parliament first assembles...

, which is held formally to open each annual parliamentary session, either after a General Election or in the autumn. At this occasion every constitutional element of the government is represented: the Crown (both literally, and figuratively in the person of the Sovereign), The Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and The Commons, (who together form the Legislature), the Judiciary (although no judges are members of either House of Parliament), and the Executive (both Government Ministers
Minister of the Crown
Minister of the Crown is the formal constitutional term used in the Commonwealth realms to describe a minister to the reigning sovereign. The term indicates that the minister serves at His/Her Majesty's pleasure, and advises the monarch, or viceroy, on how to exercise the Crown prerogatives...

, and ceremonial military units in attendance on the Sovereign); and a large number of guests are invited to attend in the large Royal Gallery immediately outside the Chamber. The Sovereign, seated on the Throne, delivers the Speech from the Throne
Speech from the Throne
A speech from the throne is an event in certain monarchies in which the reigning sovereign reads a prepared speech to a complete session of parliament, outlining the government's agenda for the coming session...

, outlining the Government's programme for the year and legislative agenda for the forthcoming parliamentary session. The Commons may not enter the Lords' debating floor; instead, they watch the proceedings from beyond the Bar of the House, just inside the door. A small purely formal ceremony is held to end each parliamentary session, when the Sovereign is merely represented by a group of Lords Commissioners
Lords Commissioners
The Lords Commissioners are Privy Counsellors appointed by the Monarch of the United Kingdom to exercise, on his or her behalf, certain functions relating to Parliament which would otherwise require the monarch's attendance at the Palace of Westminster...

.

Peers' Lobby


Directly north of the Lords Chamber lies the Peers' Lobby, an antechamber
Antechamber
An antechamber is a smaller room or vestibule serving as an entryway into a larger one. The word is formed of the Latin ante camera, meaning "room before"....

 where Lords can informally discuss or negotiate matters during sittings of the House, as well as collect messages from the doorkeepers, who control access to the Chamber. The Lobby is a square room measuring 12 metres (39.4 ft) on each side and 10 metres (32.8 ft) in height, and one of its main features is the floor centrepiece, a radiant Tudor rose made of Derbyshire marbles and set within an octagon of engraved brass plates. The rest of the floor is paved with encaustic tiles featuring heraldic designs and Latin mottoes. The walls are faced with white stone and each is pierced by a doorway; above the arches are displayed arms representing the six royal dynasties which ruled England until Queen Victoria's reign (Saxon
House of Wessex
The House of Wessex, also known as the House of Cerdic, refers to the family that ruled a kingdom in southwest England known as Wessex. This House was in power from the 6th century under Cerdic of Wessex to the unification of the Kingdoms of England....

, Norman
Norman dynasty
Norman dynasty is the usual designation for the family that were the Dukes of Normandy and the English monarchs which immediately followed the Norman conquest and lasted until the Plantagenet dynasty came to power in 1154. It included Rollo and his descendants, and from William the Conqueror and...

, Plantagenet
House of Plantagenet
The House of Plantagenet , a branch of the Angevins, was a royal house founded by Geoffrey V of Anjou, father of Henry II of England. Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Their paternal ancestors originated in the French province of Gâtinais and gained the...

, Tudor
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

, Stuart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

 and Hanoverian
House of Hanover
The House of Hanover is a deposed German royal dynasty which has ruled the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , the Kingdom of Hanover, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

), and between them there are windows stained with the arms of the early aristocratic families of England.

Of the doorways, the one to the south—which leads into the Lords Chamber—is the most magnificent, and sports much gilding and decoration, including the full royal arms. It is enclosed by the Brass Gates, a pair of elaborately pierced and studded doors together weighing 1.5 tonnes. The side doors, which feature clocks, open into corridors: to the east extends the Law Lords Corridor, which leads to the libraries, and nearby to the west lies the Moses Room, used for Grand Committees.

To the north is the vaulted Peers' Corridor, which is decorated with eight murals by Charles West Cope
Charles West Cope
Charles West Cope was an English Victorian era painter of genre and history scenes, and an etcher. He was responsible for painting several frescos in the House of Lords in London.-Early life and training:...

 depicting historical scenes from the period around the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

. The frescoes were executed between 1856 and 1866, and each scene was "specifically chosen to depict the struggles through which national liberties were won". Examples include Speaker Lenthall
William Lenthall
William Lenthall was an English politician of the Civil War period. He served as Speaker of the House of Commons.-Early life:...

 Asserting the Privileges of the Commons Against Charles I when the Attempt was Made to Seize the Five Members
, representing resistance against absolute rule, and The Embarkation of the Pilgrim Fathers for New England, which illustrates the principle of freedom of worship.

Central Lobby


Originally named "Octagon Hall" because of its shape, the Central Lobby is the heart of the Palace of Westminster. It lies directly below the Central Tower and forms a busy crossroads between the House of Lords to the south, the House of Commons to the north, St Stephen's Hall and the public entrance to the west, and the Lower Waiting Hall and the libraries to the east. Its location halfway between the two debating chambers has led constitutional theorist Erskine May
Erskine May, 1st Baron Farnborough
Sir Erskine May, 1st Baron Farnborough, KCB, PC, DCL was a British constitutional theorist. This derived from his career at the House of Commons.-Biography:...

 to describe the Lobby as "the political centre of the British Empire", and allows a person standing under the great chandelier to see both the Royal Throne and the Speaker's Chair, provided that all the intervening doors are open. Constituents may meet their Members of Parliament here, even without an appointment, and this practice is one of the possible origins of the term lobbying
Lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

. The hall is also the theatre of the Speaker's Procession, which passes from here on its way to the Commons Chamber before every sitting of the House.

The Central Lobby measures 18 metres (59.1 ft) across and 23 metres (75.5 ft) from the floor to the centre of the vaulted ceiling. The panels between the vault's ribs are covered with Venetian glass mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

 displaying floral emblems and heraldic badges, and the bosses in the intersections of the ribs are also carved into heraldic symbols. Each wall of the Lobby is contained in an arch ornamented with statues of English and Scottish monarchs; on four sides there are doorways, and the tympana
Tympanum (architecture)
In architecture, a tympanum is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element....

 above them are adorned with mosaics representing the patron saints of the United Kingdom's constituent nations: Saint George
Saint George
Saint George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic , Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox...

 for England, Saint Andrew
Saint Andrew
Saint Andrew , called in the Orthodox tradition Prōtoklētos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter. The name "Andrew" , like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews from the 3rd or 2nd century BC. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him...

 for Scotland, Saint David
Saint David
Saint David was a Welsh Bishop during the 6th century; he was later regarded as a saint and as the patron saint of Wales. David was a native of Wales, and a relatively large amount of information is known about his life. However, his birth date is still uncertain, as suggestions range from 462 to...

 for Wales and Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick was a Romano-Briton and Christian missionary, who is the most generally recognized patron saint of Ireland or the Apostle of Ireland, although Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille are also formally patron saints....

 for Ireland. The other four arches are occupied by high windows, under which there are stone screens—the hall's post office, one of two in the Palace, is located behind one of these screens. In front of them stand four bigger-than-life statues of 19th-century statesmen, including one of four-time Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

. The floor on which they stand is tiled with Minton encaustic tiles in intricate patterns and includes a passage from Psalm 127 written in Latin, which translates as follows: "Except the Lord build the House their labour is but lost that build it".

The East Corridor leads from the Central Lobby to the Lower Waiting Hall, and its six panels remained blank until 1910, when they were filled with scenes from Tudor history. They were all paid for by Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 peers and each was the work of a different artist, but uniformity was achieved between the frescoes thanks to a common colour palette of red, black and gold and a uniform height for the depicted characters. One of the scenes is probably not historical: Plucking the Red
Red Rose of Lancaster
The Red Rose of Lancaster is the county flower of Lancashire.The exact species or cultivar which the red rose relates to is uncertain, but it is thought to be Rosa gallica officinalis....

 and White Roses
White Rose of York
The White Rose of York , a white heraldic rose, is the symbol of the House of York and has since been adopted as a symbol of Yorkshire as a whole.-History:...

 in the Old Temple Gardens
, depicting the origin of these flowers as emblems of the Houses of Lancaster
House of Lancaster
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century...

 and York
House of York
The House of York was a branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet, three members of which became English kings in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the paternal line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented...

 respectively, was taken from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 1
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, Part 1 or The First Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare, and possibly Thomas Nashe, believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

.

Members' Lobby


Continuing north from the Central Lobby is the Commons' Corridor. It is of almost identical design to its southern counterpart and is decorated with scenes of 17th-century political history between the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

. They were painted by Edward Matthew Ward
Edward Matthew Ward
Edward Matthew Ward was an English Victorian narrative painter best known for his murals in the Palace of Westminster depicting episodes in British history from the English Civil War to the Glorious Revolution.-Early career:...

 and include subjects like Monk
George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle
George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle, KG was an English soldier and politician and a key figure in the restoration of Charles II.-Early life and career:...

 Declaring for a Free Parliament
and The Lords and Commons Presenting the Crown to William and Mary
William and Mary
The phrase William and Mary usually refers to the coregency over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, of King William III & II and Queen Mary II...

 in the Banqueting Hall
. Then, mirroring the arrangement at the Lords part of the Palace, is another antechamber, the Members' Lobby
Members' Lobby
The Members' Lobby is a hallway in the Palace of Westminster used by members of the House of Commons, the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

. In this room, Members of Parliament hold discussions or negotiations, and are often interviewed by accredited journalists, collectively known as "The Lobby
The Lobby
The Lobby is the term to collectively describe the political journalists in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament. The term is derived from the special access they are granted to the Members' Lobby...

".

The room is similar to the Peers' Lobby but plainer in design and slightly larger, forming a cube 13.7 metres (44.9 ft) on all sides. After the heavy damage it sustained in the 1941 bombing, it was rebuilt in a simplified style, something most evident in the floor, which is almost completely unadorned. The archway of the door leading into the Commons Chamber has been left unrepaired as a reminder of the evils of war, and is now known as the Rubble Arch or Churchill Arch. It is flanked by bronze statues of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 and David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

, the prime ministers who led Britain through the Second and First World War respectively; a foot of each is conspicuously shiny, a result of a long tradition of MPs rubbing them for good luck on their way in before their maiden speech
Maiden speech
A maiden speech is the first speech given by a newly elected or appointed member of a legislature or parliament.Traditions surrounding maiden speeches vary from country to country...

. The Lobby contains the busts and statues of most 20th-century prime ministers, as well as two large boards where MPs can receive letters and telephone messages, designed for the use of the House and installed in the early 1960s.

Commons Chamber


The Chamber of the House of Commons is at the northern end of the Palace of Westminster; it was opened in 1950 after the Victorian chamber had been destroyed in 1941 and re-built under the architect Giles Gilbert Scott
Giles Gilbert Scott
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, OM, FRIBA was an English architect known for his work on such buildings as Liverpool Cathedral and Battersea Power Station and designing the iconic red telephone box....

. The Chamber measures 14 by and is far more austere than the Lords Chamber; the benches, as well as other furnishings in the Commons side of the Palace, are coloured green. Members of the public are forbidden to sit on the red benches, which are reserved for members of the House of Lords. Other parliaments in Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 nations, including those of India
Parliament of India
The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body in India. Founded in 1919, the Parliament alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all political bodies in India. The Parliament of India comprises the President and the two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha...

, Canada
Parliament of Canada
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislative branch of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in the national capital, Ottawa. Formally, the body consists of the Canadian monarch—represented by her governor general—the Senate, and the House of Commons, each element having its own officers and...

, Australia
Parliament of Australia
The Parliament of Australia, also known as the Commonwealth Parliament or Federal Parliament, is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral, largely modelled in the Westminster tradition, but with some influences from the United States Congress...

 and New Zealand
Parliament of New Zealand
The Parliament of New Zealand consists of the Queen of New Zealand and the New Zealand House of Representatives and, until 1951, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The House of Representatives is often referred to as "Parliament".The House of Representatives usually consists of 120 Members of...

, have copied the colour scheme under which the Lower House is associated with green, and the Upper House with red.

At the north end of the Chamber is the Speaker
Speaker of the British House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Commons is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom's lower chamber of Parliament. The current Speaker is John Bercow, who was elected on 22 June 2009, following the resignation of Michael Martin...

's Chair, a present to Parliament from the Commonwealth of Australia. The current British Speaker's Chair is an exact copy of the Speaker's Chair given to Australia, by the House of Commons, on the celebration of Australia's Parliamentary opening. In front of the Speaker's Chair is the Table of the House, at which the clerks sit, and on which is placed the Commons' ceremonial mace. The dispatch boxes, which front-bench Members of Parliament (MPs) often lean on or rest notes on during Questions and speeches, are a gift from New Zealand. There are green benches on either side of the House; members of the Government party occupy benches on the Speaker's right, while those of the Opposition occupy benches on the Speaker's left. There are no cross-benches as in the House of Lords. The Chamber is relatively small, and can accommodate only 427 of the 650 Members of Parliament—during Prime Minister's Questions
Prime Minister's Questions
Prime minister's questions is a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom that takes place every Wednesday during which the prime minister spends half an hour answering questions from members of parliament...

 and in major debates MPs stand at either end of the House.

By tradition, the British Sovereign does not enter the Chamber of the House of Commons. The last monarch to do so was King Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, in 1642. The King sought to arrest five Members of Parliament on charges of high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

, but when he asked the Speaker, William Lenthall
William Lenthall
William Lenthall was an English politician of the Civil War period. He served as Speaker of the House of Commons.-Early life:...

, if he had any knowledge of the whereabouts of these individuals, Lenthall famously replied: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here." When repairs after the World War II bombing were completed, the rebuilt chamber was opened by King George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 on 26 October 1950 who was invited to an "unofficial" tour of the new structure by Commons leaders.

The two red lines on the floor of the House of Commons are 2.5 metre apart, which, by apocryphal tradition, is intended to be just over two sword-lengths. It is said that the original purpose of this was to prevent disputes in the House from devolving into duels. However, there is no record of a time when Members of Parliament were allowed to bring swords into the Chamber; historically, only the Serjeant at Arms has been allowed to carry a sword, as a symbol of their role in Parliament, and there are loops of pink ribbon in the Members' cloakroom for MPs to hang up their swords before entering the Chamber. In the days that gentlemen carried swords, there were not any lines in the Chamber. Protocol dictates that MPs may not cross these lines when speaking; a Member of Parliament who violates this convention will be lambasted by opposition Members. This is—incorrectly, given the relatively recent addition of the lines—regarded as a possible origin for the expression "to toe the line
Toe the line
"Toe the line" is an idiomatic expression meaning to conform to a rule or a standard.The expression has disputed origins. It is commonly thought that its origins lie in the British House of Commons where sword-strapped members were instructed to stand behind lines that were two sword-lengths apart...

".

Westminster Hall


Westminster Hall, the oldest existing part of the Palace of Westminster, was erected in 1097, at which point it was the largest hall in Europe. The roof was probably originally supported by pillars, giving three aisles, but during the reign of King Richard II
Richard II of England
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

, this was replaced by a hammerbeam roof
Hammerbeam roof
Hammerbeam roof, in architecture, is the name given to an open timber roof, typical of English Gothic architecture, using short beams projecting from the wall.- Design :...

 by the royal carpenter Hugh Herland
Hugh Herland
Hugh Herland was a 14th century medieval English carpenter. He was the chief carpenter to King Richard II.One of his best known pieces is the hammer-beam roof at Westminster Hall, regarded as one of the greatest carpentry achievements of the time...

, "the greatest creation of medieval timber architecture", which allowed the original three aisles to be replaced with a single huge open space, with a dais at the end. The new roof was commissioned in 1393. Richard's architect Henry Yevele
Henry Yevele
Henry Yevele was the most prolific and successful master mason active in late medieval England. The first document relating to him is dated 3 December 1353, when he purchased the freedom of London...

 left the original dimensions, refacing the walls, with fifteen life-size statues of kings placed in niches. The rebuilding had been begun by King Henry III
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

 in 1245, but had by Richard's time been dormant for over a century.

Westminster Hall has the largest clearspan medieval roof in England, measuring 20.7 by. Oak timbers for the roof came from royal woods in Hampshire and from parks in Hertfordshire and Surrey, among other sources; they were assembled near Farnham
Farnham
Farnham is a town in Surrey, England, within the Borough of Waverley. The town is situated some 42 miles southwest of London in the extreme west of Surrey, adjacent to the border with Hampshire...

, Surrey, 56 kilometres (34.8 mi) away. Accounts record the large number of wagons and barges which delivered the jointed timbers
Timber framing
Timber framing , or half-timbering, also called in North America "post-and-beam" construction, is the method of creating structures using heavy squared off and carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints secured by large wooden pegs . It is commonplace in large barns...

 to Westminster for assembly.

Westminster Hall has served numerous functions. It was primarily used for judicial purposes, housing three of the most important courts in the land: the Court of King's Bench
Court of King's Bench (England)
The Court of King's Bench , formally known as The Court of the King Before the King Himself, was an English court of common law in the English legal system...

, the Court of Common Pleas
Court of Common Pleas (England)
The Court of Common Pleas, or Common Bench, was a common law court in the English legal system that covered "common pleas"; actions between subject and subject, which did not concern the king. Created in the late 12th to early 13th century after splitting from the Exchequer of Pleas, the Common...

 and the Court of Chancery
Court of Chancery
The Court of Chancery was a court of equity in England and Wales that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness of the common law. The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including trusts, land law, the administration of the estates of...

. In 1875, these courts were amalgamated into the High Court of Justice
High Court of Justice
The High Court of Justice is, together with the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales...

, which continued to meet in Westminster Hall until it moved to the Royal Courts of Justice
Royal Courts of Justice
The Royal Courts of Justice, commonly called the Law Courts, is the building in London which houses the Court of Appeal of England and Wales and the High Court of Justice of England and Wales...

 in 1882. In addition to regular courts, Westminster Hall also housed important trials, including impeachment
Impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

 trials and the state trials of King Charles I at the end of the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

, Sir William Wallace
William Wallace
Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight and landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence....

, Sir Thomas More
Thomas More
Sir Thomas More , also known by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and, for three years toward the end of his life, Lord Chancellor...

, Cardinal John Fisher
John Fisher
Saint John Fisher was an English Roman Catholic scholastic, bishop, cardinal and martyr. He shares his feast day with Saint Thomas More on 22 June in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints and 6 July on the Church of England calendar of saints...

, Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes
Guy Fawkes , also known as Guido Fawkes, the name he adopted while fighting for the Spanish in the Low Countries, belonged to a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.Fawkes was born and educated in York...

, the Earl of Strafford
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford was an English statesman and a major figure in the period leading up to the English Civil War. He served in Parliament and was a supporter of King Charles I. From 1632 to 1639 he instituted a harsh rule as Lord Deputy of Ireland...

, the rebel Scottish Lords of the 1715 and 1745 uprisings and Warren Hastings
Impeachment of Warren Hastings
The Impeachment of Warren Hastings was a failed attempt to impeach the former Governor-General of India Warren Hastings in the Parliament of Great Britain between 1788 and 1795. Hastings was accused of misconduct during his time in Calcutta particularly relating to mismanagement and personal...

.

Westminster Hall has also served ceremonial functions. From the twelfth century to the nineteenth, coronation banquets honouring new monarchs were held here. The last coronation banquet was that of King George IV
George IV of the United Kingdom
George IV was the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and also of Hanover from the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820 until his own death ten years later...

, held in 1821; his successor, William IV
William IV of the United Kingdom
William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death...

, abandoned the idea because he deemed it too expensive. The Hall has been used for lyings-in-state
Lying in state
Lying in state is a term used to describe the tradition in which a coffin is placed on view to allow the public at large to pay their respects to the deceased. It traditionally takes place in the principal government building of a country or city...

 during state
State funeral
A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

 and ceremonial funerals. Such an honour is usually reserved for the Sovereign and for their consorts; the only non-royals to receive it in the twentieth century were Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts (1914) and Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 (1965). The most recent lying-in-state was that of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002.

The two Houses have presented ceremonial Addresses to the Crown in Westminster Hall on important public occasions. For example, Addresses were presented at Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

's Silver Jubilee
Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II
The Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II marked the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth realms...

 (1977) and Golden Jubilee
Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II
The Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II was the international celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the accession of Elizabeth II to the thrones of seven countries, upon the death of her father, George VI, on 6 February 1952, and was intended by the Queen to be both a commemoration of her 50...

 (2002), the 300th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

 (1988), and the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War (1995).

It is considered a rare privilege for a foreign leader to be allowed to address both houses in Westminster Hall. Since the Second World War the only leaders to have done so have been French president Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 in 1960, South African president Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 in 1996, Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

 in 2010, and U.S. president Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 in 2011. President Obama was the first ever US President to be allowed to use the Hall for an address to Parliament.

Under reforms made in 1999, the House of Commons uses the Grand Committee Room next to Westminster Hall as an additional debating chamber. (Although it is not part of the main hall, the room is usually spoken of as such.) The seating is laid out in a U-shape, in contrast with the main Chamber in which the benches are placed opposite each other. This pattern is meant to reflect the non-partisan nature of the debates held in Westminster Hall. Westminster Hall sittings occur thrice each week.

Other rooms


There are two suites of libraries on the Principal Floor, overlooking the river, for the House of Lords Library
House of Lords Library
The House of Lords Library is the library and information resource of the House of Lords, the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

 and House of Commons Library
House of Commons Library
The House of Commons Library is the library and information resource of the lower house of the British Parliament. It has adopted the phrase "Contributing to a well-informed democracy" as a summary of its mission statement.- History :...

.

The Palace of Westminster also includes state apartments for the presiding officers of the two Houses. The official residence of the Speaker stands at the northern end of the Palace; the Lord Chancellor's apartments are at the southern end. Each day, the Speaker and Lord Speaker take part in formal processions from their apartments to their respective Chambers.

There are numerous bars, cafeterias and restaurants in the Palace of Westminster, with differing rules regarding who is allowed to use their facilities; many of them never close while the House is sitting. There is also a gymnasium, and even a hair salon; the rifle range closed in the 1990s. Parliament also has a souvenirs shop, where items on sale range from House of Commons key-rings and china to House of Commons Champagne.

Security


The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod oversees security for the House of Lords, and the Serjeant at Arms does the same for the House of Commons. These officers, however, have primarily ceremonial roles outside the actual chambers of their respective Houses. Security is the responsibility of the Palace of Westminster Division
Palace of Westminster Division
The Palace of Westminster Division is a branch of the Specialist Operations Directorate, within London's Metropolitan Police Service. SO17 is responsible for security at the Palace of Westminster, along with surrounding buildings which house administrative functions...

 of the Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police Service
The Metropolitan Police Service is the territorial police force responsible for Greater London, excluding the "square mile" of the City of London which is the responsibility of the City of London Police...

, the police force for the Greater London
Greater London
Greater London is the top-level administrative division of England covering London. It was created in 1965 and spans the City of London, including Middle Temple and Inner Temple, and the 32 London boroughs. This territory is coterminate with the London Government Office Region and the London...

 area. Tradition still dictates that only the Serjeant at Arms may enter the Commons chamber armed.

With rising concern about the possibility that a lorry full of explosives could be driven into the building, a series of concrete blocks was placed in the roadway in 2003. On the river, an exclusion zone extending 70 metres (76.6 yd) from the bank exists, which no vessels are allowed to enter.

Despite recent security breaches, members of the public continue to have access to the Strangers' Gallery in the House of Commons. Visitors pass through metal detector
Metal detector
A metal detector is a device which responds to metal that may not be readily apparent.The simplest form of a metal detector consists of an oscillator producing an alternating current that passes through a coil producing an alternating magnetic field...

s and their possessions are scanned. Police from the Palace of Westminster Division of the Metropolitan Police, supported by some armed police from the Diplomatic Protection Group
Diplomatic Protection Group
The Diplomatic Protection Group is a Specialist Operations branch of London's Metropolitan Police Service. The unit's main purpose is to provide specialist protection for diplomatic residencies in London, such as embassies, high commissions and consular sections...

, are always on duty in and around the Palace.

Under a provision of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005
The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom aimed primarily at creating the Serious Organised Crime Agency, it also significantly extended and simplified the powers of arrest of a constable and introduced restrictions on protests in the...

, it has been illegal since 1 August 2005 to hold a protest, without the prior permission of the Metropolitan Police, within a designated area extending approximately 1 kilometre (0.621372736649807 mi) around the Palace.

Incidents


A famous attempt to breach the security of the Palace of Westminster was the failed Gunpowder Plot
Gunpowder Plot
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.The plan was to blow up the House of...

 of 1605. The plot was a conspiracy among a group of Roman Catholic gentry to re-establish Catholicism in England by assassinating the Protestant King James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 and replacing him with a Catholic monarch. To this end, they placed large quantities of gunpowder beneath the House of Lords, which one of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, would detonate during the State Opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605. If successful, the explosion would have destroyed the Palace, killing the King, his family and most of the aristocracy. However, the plot was discovered and most of the conspirators were either arrested or killed while trying to evade capture. The survivors were tried for high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

 in Westminster Hall, convicted and gruesomely executed by hanging, drawing and quartering. Since then, the cellars of the Palace have been searched by the Yeomen of the Guard
Yeomen of the Guard
The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are a bodyguard of the British Monarch. The oldest British military corps still in existence, it was created by Henry VII in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field. As a token of this venerability, the Yeomen still wear red and gold uniforms of Tudor...

 before every State Opening of Parliament, a traditional precaution against any similar attempts against the Sovereign.

The previous Palace of Westminster was also the site of a prime-ministerial assassination in 1812. While in the lobby of the House of Commons, on his way to a parliamentary inquiry, Spencer Perceval
Spencer Perceval
Spencer Perceval, KC was a British statesman and First Lord of the Treasury, making him de facto Prime Minister. He is the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated...

 was shot and killed by a Liverpool merchant adventurer, John Bellingham
John Bellingham
John Bellingham was the assassin of British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval. This murder was the only successful attempt on the life of a British Prime Minister...

. Perceval remains the only British Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 to have been assassinated.

The New Palace became the target of Fenian
Fenian
The Fenians , both the Fenian Brotherhood and Irish Republican Brotherhood , were fraternal organisations dedicated to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic in the 19th and early 20th century. The name "Fenians" was first applied by John O'Mahony to the members of the Irish republican...

 bombs on 24 January 1885, along with the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

. The first bomb, a black bag containing dynamite, was discovered by a visitor on the steps towards the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. Police Constable (PC) William Cole attempted to carry it to New Palace Yard, but the bag became so hot that Cole dropped it and it exploded. The blast opened a crater in the floor 1 metres (3 ft) in diameter, damaged the roof of the Chapel and shattered all the windows in the Hall, including the stained-glass South Window at St Stephen's Porch. Both Cole and PC Cox, a colleague who had joined him to offer assistance, were seriously injured. A second explosion followed almost immediately in the Commons Chamber, causing great damage—especially to its south end—but no injuries, as it was empty at the time. The incident resulted in the closure of Westminster Hall to visitors for several years; when visitors were re-admitted in 1889, it was under certain restrictions and never while the two Houses were sitting.

On 17 June 1974, a 9 kilograms (19.8 lb) bomb planted by the Provisional IRA
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

 exploded in Westminster Hall. No one was killed or seriously injured, although extensive damage was caused, mostly from a fire caused by a gas line which had been cracked in the bombing. Another attack took place on 30 March 1979, when Airey Neave
Airey Neave
Airey Middleton Sheffield Neave DSO, OBE, MC was a British soldier, barrister and politician.During World War II, Neave was one of the few servicemen to escape from the German prisoner-of-war camp Oflag IV-C at Colditz Castle...

, a prominent Conservative politician, was killed by a car bomb
Car bomb
A car bomb, or truck bomb also known as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device , is an improvised explosive device placed in a car or other vehicle and then detonated. It is commonly used as a weapon of assassination, terrorism, or guerrilla warfare, to kill the occupants of the vehicle,...

 as he drove out of the Palace's new car park. Both the Irish National Liberation Army
Irish National Liberation Army
The Irish National Liberation Army or INLA is an Irish republican socialist paramilitary group that was formed on 8 December 1974. Its goal is to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a socialist united Ireland....

 and the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for the murder; security forces believe the former was responsible.

The Palace has also been the site of a number of acts of politically motivated "direct action
Direct action
Direct action is activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political, economic, or social goals outside of normal social/political channels. This can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action...

". In July 1970, a canister of tear gas
CS gas
2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile is the defining component of a "tear gas" commonly referred to as CS gas, which is used as a riot control agent...

 was thrown into the Chamber of the House of Commons to protest against conditions in Northern Ireland. In 1978, activist Yana Mintoff
Yana Mintoff
Yana Mintoff is a political activist, economist and educator. Joan Mintoff was born on 21 August 1951, the daughter of the former Prime Minister of Malta, Dom Mintoff and Moyra De Vere Bentinck, by whom she is descended from both Dutch and British nobility.In 1968, at the age of 17, Yana Mintoff,...

 and another dissident threw bags of horse manure, and in June 1996 demonstrators dropped leaflets. Concern about such attacks and a possible chemical or biological attack led to the construction of a glass screen across the Strangers' Gallery in early 2004.

The new barrier does not cover the gallery in front of the Strangers' Gallery, which is reserved for ambassadors, members of the House of Lords, guests of MPs and other dignitaries, and in May 2004 protesters from Fathers 4 Justice attacked Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 with flour bombs from this part, after obtaining admission by bidding for a place in the visitors' gallery in a charity auction. Subsequently, rules on admission to the visitors' galleries were changed, and now individuals wishing to sit in the galleries must first obtain a written pass from a Member certifying that that individual is personally known to them. In September of the same year, five protesters opposed to the proposed ban on fox hunting
Fox hunting
Fox hunting is an activity involving the tracking, chase, and sometimes killing of a fox, traditionally a red fox, by trained foxhounds or other scent hounds, and a group of followers led by a master of foxhounds, who follow the hounds on foot or on horseback.Fox hunting originated in its current...

 disrupted the proceedings of the House of Commons by running into the Chamber.

Although the House of Lords has mostly avoided such incidents, it became a target in 1988. During the debate for the controversial Clause 28
Section 28
Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 caused the controversial addition of Section 2A to the Local Government Act 1986 , enacted on 24 May 1988 and repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland, and on 18 November 2003 in the rest of Great Britain by section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003...

, which was a proposal to ban the promotion of homosexuality in schools, three lesbian demonstrators disrupted the proceedings by abseiling
Abseiling
Abseiling , rappelling in American English, is the controlled descent down a rock face using a rope; climbers use this technique when a cliff or slope is too steep and/or dangerous to descend without protection.- Slang terms :...

 into the Chamber from the public gallery.

The protests have not been limited to the interior of the Palace. Early in the morning of 20 March 2004, two Greenpeace
Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

 members climbed the Clock Tower to demonstrate against the Iraq War, raising questions about the security around such a high-profile target. In March 2007, another four members of Greenpeace made their way to the Palace's roof by means of a nearby crane, which was used for repairs to Westminster Bridge. Once up, they unfurled a 15 metres (49.2 ft) banner protesting against the British government's plans to update the Trident nuclear weapons programme
UK Trident programme
The UK Trident programme is the United Kingdom's Trident missile-based nuclear weapons programme. Under the programme, the Royal Navy operates 58 nuclear-armed Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and around 200 nuclear warheads on 4 Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines from...

. In February 2008, five campaigners from the Plane Stupid
Plane Stupid
Plane Stupid is a UK-focused group of environmental protesters who state their aim as wanting to see an end to airport expansion for what it sees as "unnecessary and unsustainable" flights. The organisation has no formal hierarchy, leader, or media figurehead. It is a loose association of...

 group climbed to the roof of the building to demonstrate against the expansion of Heathrow Airport. MPs and security experts found it worrying that the protesters made it to the roof despite the tightened security measures, and the police believe they may have had inside help. In October 2009, 45 Greenpeace activists climbed to the roof of Westminster Hall to call for a number of environmental measures. After almost five hours, twenty of them climbed down, while the rest spent the night on the roof.

Eating, drinking and smoking


The Palace has accumulated many rules and traditions over the centuries. Smoking has not been allowed in the chamber of the House of Commons since the 17th century. As a result, Members may take snuff
Snuff
Snuff is a product made from ground or pulverised tobacco leaves. It is an example of smokeless tobacco. It originated in the Americas and was in common use in Europe by the 17th century...

 instead and the doorkeepers still keep a snuff-box for this purpose. Despite persistent media rumours, it has not been possible to smoke anywhere inside the Palace since 2005. Members may not eat or drink in the chamber; the exception to this rule is the Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

, who may have an alcoholic drink while delivering the Budget
United Kingdom budget
The United Kingdom budget deals with HM Treasury budgeting the revenues gathered by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and expenditures of public sector departments, in compliance with government policy.Adjustment is achieved with the GDP deflator....

 statement.

Dress code


Hats must not be worn (although they formerly were when a point of order
Point of order
A point of order is a matter raised during consideration of a motion concerning the rules of parliamentary procedure.-Explanation and uses:A point of order may be raised if the rules appear to have been broken. This may interrupt a speaker during debate, or anything else if the breach of the rules...

 was being raised), and Members may not wear military decorations or insignia. Members are not allowed to have their hands in their pockets – Andrew Robathan
Andrew Robathan
Andrew Robert George Robathan is a British Conservative politician, and Member of Parliament for South Leicestershire in Leicestershire...

 was heckled by opposing MPs for doing this on 19 December 1994.

Other traditions


No animals may enter the Palace of Westminster, with the exception of guide dog
Guide dog
Guide dogs are assistance dogs trained to lead blind and visually impaired people around obstacles.Although the dogs can be trained to navigate various obstacles, they are partially color blind and are not capable of interpreting street signs...

s for the blind; sniffer dogs
Police dog
A police dog, often referred to as a "K-9 dog" in some areas , is a dog that is trained specifically to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in their work...

, police horses
Mounted police
Mounted police are police who patrol on horseback or camelback. They continue to serve in remote areas and in metropolitan areas where their day-to-day function may be picturesque or ceremonial, but they are also employed in crowd control because of their mobile mass and height advantage and...

, and horses from the Royal stables.

Speeches may not be read out during debate in the House of Commons, although notes may be referred to. Similarly, the reading of newspapers is not allowed. Visual aids are discouraged in the chamber. Applause
Applause
Applause is primarily the expression of approval by the act of clapping, or striking the palms of the hands together, in order to create noise. Audiences are usually expected to applaud after a performance, such as a musical concert, speech, or play...

 is also not normally allowed in the Commons. Some notable exceptions to this were when Robin Cook
Robin Cook
Robert Finlayson Cook was a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Livingston from 1983 until his death, and notably served in the Cabinet as Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 2001....

 gave his resignation speech in 2003, when Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 appeared for the last time at Prime Minister's Questions
Prime Minister's Questions
Prime minister's questions is a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom that takes place every Wednesday during which the prime minister spends half an hour answering questions from members of parliament...

 and when Speaker Michael Martin gave his leaving speech on 17 June 2009. The status of the Palace as a royal palace raises legal questions – according to Halsbury's Laws of England
Halsbury's Laws of England
Halsbury's Laws of England is a uniquely comprehensive and authoritative encyclopaedia of law, and provides the only complete narrative statement of law in England and Wales. It has an alphabetised title scheme covering all areas of law, drawing on authorities including Acts of the United Kingdom,...

, it is not possible to arrest a person within the "verges" of the Palace (the Palace itself and its immediate surroundings). However, according to a memorandum by the Clerk of the House of Commons
Clerk of the House of Commons
The Clerk of the House of Commons is the chief executive of the House of Commons in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and before 1707 of the House of Commons of England...

, there is no prohibition on arrest within the Palace and such arrests have been effected in the past.

Culture and tourism


The exterior of the Palace of Westminster—especially the Clock Tower—is recognised worldwide, and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in London. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) classifies the Palace of Westminster, along with neighbouring Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 and St Margaret's, as a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

. It is also a Grade I listed building.

Although there is no casual access to the interior of the Palace, there are several ways to gain admittance. UK residents may obtain tickets from their local MP for a place in the viewing gallery of the House of Commons, or from a Lord for a seat in the gallery of the House of Lords. It is also possible for both UK residents and overseas visitors to queue for admission on the day, but capacity is limited and there is no guarantee of admission. Either House may exclude "strangers" if it desires to sit in private. Members of the public can also queue for a seat in a committee session, where admission is free and places cannot be booked, or they may visit the Parliamentary Archives for research purposes. Proof of identity is necessary in the latter case, but there is no requirement to contact a Parliamentarian in advance.

Free guided tours of the Palace are held throughout the parliamentary session for UK residents, who can apply through their MP or a member of the House of Lords. The tours last about 75 minutes and include the state rooms, the chambers of the two Houses and Westminster Hall. Paid-for tours (led by London Blue Badge Tourist Guides) are available to both UK and overseas visitors during the summer recess. UK residents may also tour the Clock Tower, by applying through their local Member of Parliament; overseas visitors and small children are not allowed.
Architectural historian Dan Cruickshank
Dan Cruickshank
Dan Cruickshank is an art historian and BBC television presenter.-Early life:As a young child he lived for some years in Poland...

 selected the Palace as one of his five choices for the 2006 BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 television documentary series Britain's Best Buildings
Britain's Best Buildings
Britain's Best Buildings is a BBC documentary series in which the TV presenter and architectural historian Dan Cruickshank discusses his selection of the finest examples of British architecture...

.
The nearest London Underground station is Westminster
Westminster tube station
Westminster is a London Underground station in the City of Westminster. It is served by the Circle, District and Jubilee lines. On the Circle and District lines, the station is between St. James's Park and Embankment and, on the Jubilee line it is between Green Park and Waterloo. It is in...

, on the District
District Line
The District line is a line of the London Underground, coloured green on the Tube map. It is a "sub-surface" line, running through the central area in shallow cut-and-cover tunnels. It is the busiest of the sub-surface lines. Out of the 60 stations served, 25 are underground...

, Circle and Jubilee Line
Jubilee Line
The Jubilee line is a line on the London Underground , in the United Kingdom. It was built in two major sections—initially to Charing Cross, in central London, and later extended, in 1999, to Stratford, in east London. The later stations are larger and have special safety features, both aspects...

s.

External links