Sunday, June 21, 2009

Houses of Parliament

The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is a complex of buildings on the north bank of the river Thames in London. It was used as a royal residence from 1065 until Henry VIII moved out following a fire in 1512. Although it is the seat of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (House of Lords and House of Commons), it maintains its status as a royal palace. The structure contains around 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 2 miles of corridors. Although the building mainly dates from the 19th century, remaining elements of the original historic buildings include Westminster Hall (used today for major public ceremonial events such as lyings in state), and the Jewel Tower across the street, now a museum for relics of the old palace and an exhibition of Parliament's history with a video. After a disastrous fire in 1834, the present Houses of Parliament complex was built in neo-late-Gothic style over a 30-year period. The House of Lords chamber contains the sovereign's throne (shown in photo):

Big Ben is the name of the great 14-ton cast bell that sits inside the four-faced tower clock situated beside the Houses of Parliament. But these days the term "Big Ben" is used to refer to the clock, the 320-ft. tall tower and the bell collectively. Note: When Parliament is in session, there is a light above the clock.

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