When you think of iconic London buildings the House of Parliament will no doubt spring to mind. The buildings have been part of the capital’s skyline in some form since the 11th century, although multiple fires have meant they’ve been rebuilt over the centuries, with the current design being completed in the late 1800s. The Houses of Parliament might be on your list of London sights to see but do you know the history of the buildings?
Being the centre of UK politics for so long means that the Houses of Parliament has more than its fair share of stories filled with scandal and intrigue. Located on the banks of the River Thames, the Houses of Parliament are easily accessible via the tube from the Park Grand London Kensington Hotel, you just need to get on the District line.
The first royal palace was built on the site of the current Houses of Parliament during the 11th century, acting as the main residence for the Kings of England until a fire tore through it in 1512. After the fire, the spot became the home of the Parliament of England with Westminster Hall taking centre stage. However, another fire occurred in 1834, leaving just a few medieval buildings remaining. The current design was selected following a competition, drawing inspiration from the gothic style, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
But what other historical information should you know about the Houses of Parliament?
Remember, remember the 5th of November
The failed gunpowder plot of 1605 is one of the most popular stories told about the Houses of Parliament and it’s still celebrated across the UK today. Intent on assassinating King James I and replacing him with a Catholic, a group of men plotted a daring plan. They stockpiled gunpowder directly under the Houses of Parliament with Guy Fawkes left in charge to light the fatal match. The plot was foiled and Guy, along with the other conspirators, were tortured, tried for treason, and then gruesomely hung, drawn, and quartered.
A medieval glimpse
Despite fires leading to numerous construction projects taking place over the years at Westminster, there are still some surviving medieval structures you can take in. Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen’s, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, and the Jewel Tower are all still standing today. All four of these areas have their own stories to tell. The aptly named Jewel Tower is where royals of a bygone era used to store their finest jewels and personal possessions, while suffragette Emily Davidson hid in a cupboard in the Chapel of St Mary overnight in 1911 to ensure she could deliver her equality address.
If the Houses of Parliament have intrigued you and you want to explore more of this historical building, you can head on a tour. Hotels near Hogarth Road put you in a great position to spend a day uncovering the secrets at Westminster.
At the centre of London and British politics, as well as royal events, the Houses of Parliament are a must visit for any London tourist keen to embrace history.