Westminster



On the banks of the Thames and to the west of London lies Westminster, probably best known for such icons as Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Map - Westminster 1

The best to place start exploring Westminster is the Westminster tube station. Westminster tube station lies on the Circle ( Yellow ) and District ( Green ) tube lines, between Embankment and St James's Park stations. When you exit the station you should by on or near Bridge street that runs across the Westminster Bridge one way and into the heart  on Westminster in the other. 


Big Ben

Almost directly across from your now will be Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. For those that don't realise Big Ben actually refers to the 13.5 ton bell that was hung in 1858 in the tower. It is contained is St Stephen's or the Clock Tower rising 98 metres or 320 feet.


Proceed away from Westminster Bridge and towards Parliament Square. Pausing near the north east corner of the square ( Map location 1 ) should provide you with a good close up shot of Big Ben. If you cross into Parliament Square you will find statues of many of England's most famous Prime Ministers, such as Winston Churchill.

 

Houses of Parliament


When you are ready proceed south past the Houses of Parliament on the left hand side. As you pass the Houses of Parliament spend some time actually looking at the architecture in rich gothic style . The existing structure was designed by Sir Charles Barry, after the original Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834. All that now remains of the original structure is Westminster Hall. The Houses were built between 1840 and 1860. All the buildings that comprise the Houses or Parliament cover an area greater than 3 hectares or 8 acres. Apart from the Clock Tower that houses Big Ben two other towers dominate the skyline structure. The Middle Tower is 91 metres or 300 feet and at the south of the structure is Victoria Tower, rising 102 metres or 336 feet. Since the 16th century it has been the seat of the two houses that constitute the British parliament. These are the house of Lords and house of Commons. Inside you will also find St Stephen's Hall on the site of St Stephen's Chapel, the residence of the Speaker of the House, libraries, committee rooms and lobbies that connect both Houses of Parliament together. These buildings have seen much history also having been subjected to attacks during World War II and more recently by the IRA.


It is possible to gain entry into the visitors gallery of Parliament, however you will probably need to apply through your embassy to make a booking.

Statue of King Richard I

As you proceed further down you will come across the statue of King Richard I. He was killed in battle back in 1199. ( Map location 2 )

The Jewel Tower has surviving fragments from the original Palace of Westminster dating back to the Fourteenth century. It obtained its name from once being a safe for Edward III's jewels, clothes and furs. Presently it is home to a collection of objects discovered during the excavation of the site.

Map - Westminster 2



Moving further south will take you into Victoria Tower Gardens ( Map location 3 ) that borders the Thames River. In the centre of the park you will find the Burghers of Calais which is a copy of the original of Rodin's work. This park will give you some wonderful views of Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament as well as the Thames River.


Moving further south through the park will bring you a roundabout at Lambert bridge ( Map location 4 ) that leads back over the Thames. Lambeth Bridge was originally the only place where a coach and horse could cross the Thames. The first Lambeth Bridge was built in 1861 and was replaced with the structure you see today in 1929. As you reach Lambeth bridge and look across the round about, before turning to your right and proceeding down Horeseferry road. Note the non-descript government building on the other side of the road from you ( see picture above ). This building is the headquarters of MI5, Britain's internal intelligence service, similar to the US FBI.

Across Lambeth Bridge, on the other side of the Thames is Lambeth Palace. This is the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury since 1197. There are restricted tours of the Thirteenth crypt, chapel and Tudor house. 

Do not head over the bridge but turn to your right and continue along HorseFerry Road. As you proceed west along Horse ferry road you should pass Westminster hospital and St Johns Gardens on the other side of the road.

After you pass the hospital you should come across Marsham street, that runs north - south. Turn right and head north, back towards the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. As you continue to head north you will cross Great Peter Street and pass Dean's Yard.

Upon reaching Broad Sanctuary, turn right ( east ) and head towards Westminster Abbey.


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