The history of Westminster Palace

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The Palace of Westminster, now most commonly known as the UK’s seat of government, has a long and tumultuous history. While it’s now the site of the House of Parliament and the House of Lords, this was not always the case. Here’s our brief guide to this palace’s intriguing heritage…

The first Palace of Westminster

For those visiting the Park Grand London Hyde Park, a trip to Westminster can feel a little like stepping back in time, combined with the daily hustle and bustle of government. Before the structure we know today, the first royal palace was built here some time in the 11th century. Westminster was at this time the royal monarch’s primary residence, and Henry VII undertook various amendments to the existing structure, including establishing a Lady Chapel at the eastern end of Westminster Abbey, intended for the burial of a saint. No other records exist detailing amends to the original design, likely due to the length of time which has passed.

In 1512, shortly after Henry VIIIs ascension to the throne, the palace suffered a horrific fire which destroyed the royal residential areas. By 1529 Henry VIII had decided to relocate entirely from Westminster to York Palace, better known as Whitehall. What remained of the initial palace royal residence was demolished, leaving the building now devoted to law and governance.

The rise of Parliament

big ben tower

In Henry’s absence, the dominance of parliament began to grow, including the enacting of parliamentary acts which dealt with matters such as the line of succession and Henry’s own marriage situation, particularly after the country broke its ties to Rome. Economics and politics became even more intertwined, with acts such as the Dissolution of the Monasteries increasing the King’s wealth, but also giving parliament far more strength to enact his will. Future monarchs would find themselves increasingly at odds with parliamentary democracy, with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 demonstrating just how significant this building had become as a symbol of power. Later the death of Charles I, represented this new balance of power and the growth of ‘people power’ in its various forms.

Growth of the Commons and House of Lords

During your stay at a Hyde Park Hotel, you might be interested to get closer to Westminster, which is easily viewed from various points around the city as well as up close. The Commons Chamber developed in the 16th and 17th century and is largely responsible for the UK’s two-party system of government. Adapted in a classical style by architect Christopher Wren, every part of the building was considered from the perspective of the needs of parliament. Further transformations took place with the influence of the House of Lords throughout the 1800s, though Parliament was again damaged by fire in a blaze in 1834 which quickly spread through many of it’s buildings. The historic records preserved in the Jewel Tower were miraculously saved despite the blaze.

Westminster Palace today

Today almost anyone can get a peek at the interior of Westminster Palace, whether they’re enjoying a tour or simply tuning in to watch Prime Minister’s Questions. The palace is as relevant today as it ever was as the location where laws are made which influence how the entire country is governed.

FAQs

  • What is the oldest part of Palace of Westminster?

The oldest part of Westminster Palace is the Westminster Hall and the only part of Westminster Palace survived in its original form.

  • Why is it called the Palace of Westminster?

Originally named “The King’s Tower” because the fire of 1834 which destroyed the old Palace of Westminster occurred during the reign of King William IV, the tower was an integral part of Barry’s original design, of which he intended it to be the most memorable element. Read More

  • What year were the Houses of Parliament built?

The houses of Parliament was built in 1016.

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