The Houses of Parliament is the popular name for The Palace of Westminster. The current gothic revival building stands on the North bank of the Thames River and was known as Thorney Island on the first half of 11th Century, when Edward the Confessor and penultimate Saxon monarch of England, had a royal palace built.
The Palace of Westminster is worldwide recognized because of its fine design and rich history. The exterior of the palace presents a Clock Tower well know as the Big Ben (actually the name of one of its bells) which is one of the major tourist attractions in London.
In the late medieval times, this palace was the monarch's main residence until the times of Henry VIII. It has also housed the Parliament all along its history. The Curia Regis (predecessor of Parliament) met in Westminster Hall and the first official Parliament of England met here also in 1295. From then on, almost all subsequent Parliaments have met in Westminster Palace. It was also used as England's highest court of law until the nineteenth century.
The night of 22nd October 1834 a fire broke out destroying the majority of old palace, consequently only the Chapel crypt, The Jewel Tower and Westminster Hall remained from the original. The reconstruction work was carried out by Charles Barry and his assistant Augustus Plugin, and took from 1840 to 1870.
During the Blitz in the Second World War, the Palace of Westminster was hit fourteen times by bombs and as a result, the Commons’ Chamber was destroyed. The architect Giles Gilbert Scott re built the Chamber and finished it in 1950.
Nowadays it is the seat of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) and it has been a site of important events along Britain’s history such as Guy Fawkes trial for attempting to blow up the House of Lords on 5th November 1605, and the recognition of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector in 1653.
The Westminster Palace was declared by United Nations (UNESCO) a World Heritage Site, and it is also declared a Grade I listing building. There are many tours available to visit this wonderful humanity’s relic.
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