Friday, August 29, 2008

houses of parliament

One of the August "palace" tours could technically include the Houses of Parliament since the originaly structure was built as a palace by Edward the Confessor in 1065. Parliament officially remains a royal palace and is still referred to as the ‘Palace of Westminster’. The site was used as a royal residence until Henry VIII moved the royal family out in 1512 following a fire.

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Westminster Hall is the oldest part of Parliament. The walls were built in 1097 and the hall is one Europe’s largest medieval halls with an unsupported roof. It was extensively rebuilt during the 14th century. Once used as a law court, the hall has held several notable trials, including that of Sir William Wallace (1305), the Gunpowder Plot conspirators (1606) and King Charles I (1649).

Today the hall is often used for important State occasions such as the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the lying-in-State of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, both in 2002.

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The Palace almost completely burnt down in a fire on 16 October 1834, which destroyed everything except Westminster Hall, the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel and the Jewel Tower.

The Houses of Parliament, as we know them today, were rebuilt after the fire. The process, which incorporated Westminster Hall and the remains of St Stephen’s Chapel, took just over 30 years. The rebuilding was completely finished by 1870. During the Second World War, on 10 May 1941, a bombing raid destroyed the House of Commons chamber with must renovation work being required.

Sadly, no photo opps were allowed but all in all an entertaining hour and half. Put on your running shoes if you take the tour because our tour guide moved at break-neck speeed, though.

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