The Palace of Westminster, and especially its clock tower Big Ben, can be called a symbol of Great Britain. After the Tower fortress became too small for English monarchs, the Palace of Westminster became the residence of English kings from the 11th century. Today, it still remains the center of the country`s political life, but now it houses the Parliament.
The Palace of Westminster became the Royal residence in 1016 under king Edward the Confessor. At that time it was quite small and was part of the Westminster Abbey complex. In addition to the residence of the monarchs, since 1265, sessions of the Parliament have been held here. The Palace gradually expanded and by the 19th century was a complex of various buildings.
In 1834, the Palace of Westminster burned down and the Royal residence was moved first to Whitehall Palace and then to Buckingham Palace. Only Westminster hall survived the fire, and Parliament continued to sit for some time in this part of the burned Palace.
In 1834, construction began on the new Palace of Westminster, designed by the architect Charles Berry. He built it in the neo-Gothic style in the form of a quadrangle with 2 towers (Big Ben, Tower of Victoria and Central tower).
The House of Lords Chamber was built by 1840, and the House of Commons Chamber was built in 1852. In General, the new Palace of Westminster has more than 1,100 rooms, more than 100 staircases and more than 5 kilometers of corridors. This is one of the largest buildings in the world.
Nowadays, the building of the Palace of Westminster is often called as the Parliament. It can be visited with a tour. Westminster Hall is most interesting to see. It was built in 1099 and was preserved during the fire of 1834.
Westminster Hall is a very large hall with a size 88x21 meters. The ceiling height is 28 meters. There are no columns at all in this large hall, which could support the ceiling. Many dramatic events related to the political life of the country took place in Westminster hall.
Also during the tour you have to see the Royal Gallery, the House of Lords Chamber and the Lobby, the House of Commons Chamber and the Lobby, the Central hall. The interiors of all these rooms are very solemn. There are many sculptures, heraldic shields, frescoes, paintings related to the history of the English state.