The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses
of Parliament or Westminster Palace, in London, England is where the two
Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the
House of Commons) meet to conduct their business.
The Palace lies on the
north bank of the River Thames.
The oldest part of the Palace still in existence,
Westminster Hall, dates from 1097. The palace originally served as a royal
residence but no monarch has lived in it since the 16th century. Most of
the present structure dates from the 19th century, when the Palace was
rebuilt after it was almost entirely destroyed by a fire in 1834. The
architect responsible for rebuilding the Palace was Sir Charles Barry with
Augustus Welby Pugin. The building is an example of Gothic revival.
The Palace contains over 1,000 rooms, the most
important of which are the Chambers of the House of Lords and of the House
of Commons. The Palace also includes committee rooms, libraries, lobbies,
dining-rooms, bars and gymnasiums. It is the site of important state
ceremonies, most notably the State Opening of Parliament. The Palace is
very closely associated with the two Houses, as shown by the use of the
word "Westminster" to refer to "Parliament".
The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster,
which is almost always referred to as Westminster Abbey, is a mainly
Gothic church, on the scale of a cathedral, just to the west of the Palace
of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site
for English monarchs.
Aristocrats were buried in side chapels and monks and people associated
with the Abbey were buried in the Cloisters and other areas. One of these
was Geoffrey Chaucer, who was buried here as he had apartments in the
Abbey where he was employed as master of the Kings Works. Other poets were
buried around Chaucer in what became known as Poets' Corner. Abbey
musicians such as Henry Purcell were also buried in their place of work.
Subsequently it became an honour to be buried or memorialised here. The
practice spread from aristocrats and poets to generals, admirals,
politicians, scientists and doctors.
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north-western end of the Palace is the most famous of the towers, St
Stephen's Tower, the Clock Tower (often referred to as Big Ben) which is
96 m (316 ft) tall. The Clock Tower houses a large clock known as the
Great Clock of Westminster. On each of the four sides of the tower is a
large clock face. The tower also houses five bells, which strike the
Westminster Chimes every quarter hour. The largest and most famous of the
bells is Big Ben (officially, the Great Bell of Westminster), which
strikes the hour. This is the third heaviest bell in England, weighing 13
tons 10 cwt 99 lb (about 13.8 t). Although the term "Big Ben" properly
refers only to the bell, it is often colloquially applied to the whole