Palace of Westminster

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Palace of Westminster with Victoria Tower (left) and Elizabeth Tower (right)
Palace of Westminster at the blue hour

The Palace of Westminster (also Westminster Palace ), German  Westminsterpalast , is the seat of the British Parliament in London , which consists of the House of Commons (lower house) and the House of Lords (upper house). The monumental building complex, built between 1840 and 1870 mainly in the neo-Gothic style, is also known as the Houses of Parliament or New Houses of Parliament .

The palace is located in the City of Westminster on Parliament Square in close proximity to the government buildings in Whitehall . He was together with the Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church by the UNESCO for World Heritage declared. Its oldest surviving parts are Westminster Hall from 1097 and the Jewel Tower , which was built around 1365. Originally it served as the residence of the English kings, but no monarch has lived there since 1529. Little remains of the original building, as it was almost completely destroyed in a devastating fire on October 16, 1834. The architects responsible for the reconstruction were Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin .

The most famous part of the palace is the clock tower, officially called Elizabeth Tower , with the Big Ben bell since 2012 . The main rooms are the plenary chambers of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. There are also around 1,100 other rooms, including meeting rooms, libraries, lobbies, dining rooms, bars and sports halls. In British usage, the term Westminster is often synonymous with parliamentary operations, so it is a metonym for parliament.

The building is in poor structural condition; it was last extensively renovated in the 1950s. The upcoming renovation and modernization work is expected to cost between £ 3.5 billion and £ 6 billion.


Original palace

Reconstruction of the state in the 16th century (Brewer, 1884)

The site on which the Palace of Westminster stands was known as Thorney Island during the Middle Ages . The area was swampy, the Thames much shallower and wider than it is today. Two streams flowed into the river there, a little upstream was a ford that could be crossed at low tide (the tides of the North Sea are still clearly noticeable in London). The first king to have a small residence built in this strategically favorable location was Canute the Great , who ruled from 1016 to 1035.

A palace was built under the rule of the penultimate Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor . This happened during the same period when he had Westminster Abbey built in the immediate vicinity (1045 to 1050). Thorney Island and the surrounding area were soon called Westminster, a combination of west and monastery , as it was west of the City of London . After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, William I first settled in the Tower of London , but later moved to Westminster. Neither the Anglo-Saxon nor the first Norman buildings have survived. In 1097, under Wilhelm II , Westminster Hall was built, at that time the largest hall in all of Europe.

Westminster Hall, view from the south
Detail from a city map from 1746

During the late Middle Ages, the palace was the main residence of the English kings. For this reason, over time, the main government institutions were concentrated in the Westminster area. The Regis Curia , the royal council, met in Westminster Hall, as did the Model Parliament , England's first official parliament, which first met here in 1295. Since then, with a few exceptions, the palace has served as a meeting place for all parliaments.

To the east and south of Westminster Hall were the living quarters of the king. This attended the service in St Stephen's Chapel (built 1292-1297), the courtiers in the chapel below the crypt . Often it was not possible for the entire parliament to meet in the palace. The opening of parliament therefore occasionally took place in the king's private apartments, in the Painted Chamber . The Lords then retired to the White Chamber for discussion. The House of Commons had no permanent meeting place and often relied on the chapter house or the refectory of Westminster Abbey.

A fire destroyed part of the building in 1529, after which King Henry VIII decided to move out of the palace. A year later he confiscated the neighboring York Palace of the overthrown Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of York, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and renamed it the Palace of Whitehall . Although Westminster is officially a royal residence to this day, from then on it was used exclusively by the two chambers of parliament and the high courts. The Chantries Act , enacted in the course of the Reformation in 1547 , led to the dissolution of all religious orders. This also included the Order of Canons of St Stephen, which until then had carried out the services in St Stephen's Chapel. In 1550 the chapel became the permanent meeting place of the lower house, which involved some renovation work. In the next three centuries the building remained almost unchanged.

John Soane carried out extensive renovations in the 1820s. The chamber of the House of Lords, the site of the failed Gunpowder Plot in 1605 , was demolished to create a new royal entrance to the Painted Chamber and White Chamber. The vaulted cellar, where Guy Fawkes was discovered after the attempted assassination, also had to give way . Soane's work also included new courtrooms just off Westminster Hall and a new entrance for MPs to St Stephen's Chapel.

Fire and new building

William Turner watched the palace fire and made several paintings on the subject, including The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835).
The Palace of Westminster during construction. Drawing from 1842.

On October 16, 1834, a devastating fire destroyed most of the palace. The Ministry of Finance had negligently decided to burn the notch wood in the courtyard of the palace , which had become superfluous after a tax reform . By carelessness, the paneling in the Lords Chamber caught fire. Only Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower , the crypt of St Stephen's Chapel and the cloister escaped destruction.

King William IV proposed that Buckingham Palace , which was then being renovated, be made available to Parliament. Instead, a royal commission was set up to initiate reconstruction. A heated debate broke out over the question of the architectural style. Followers of classicism argued Gothic was too "raw" and therefore inappropriate for a parliament. The proponents of the Gothic , however, held that it was the "true" Christian architectural style; they brought classicism into connection with ancient paganism . They also considered Gothic to be “British”, while Classicism was associated with “French”. The commission decided in June 1835 that the palace should be rebuilt on the same site; either Gothic style or Tudor style .

After examining 97 competition proposals, the commission selected Charles Barry's plan in 1836 , which included a reconstruction in the Gothic style. The foundation stone was laid on April 27, 1840. The Lords Chamber was completed in 1847, the Commons Chamber in 1852 (in that year Barry was knighted). By the time Barry died in 1860, most of the work had been completed, and some detail improvements had been made by 1870. The Jewel Tower could not be integrated into the new building complex and is therefore on the other side of Abingdon Street, which was built after the fire.

The building was hit twice during the bombing by the German Air Force in World War II (see The Blitz ). On September 6, 1940, an explosive bomb caused massive damage to the south facade. On May 10, 1941, a total of twelve bombs hit the building, killing three people. The Commons Chamber, the hall of the lower house, fell victim to the flames. The fire spread to the adjacent Members' Lobby , causing the ceiling to collapse. Fire damaged the roof of Westminster Hall. A small bomb hit the clock tower, breaking the glass of the dial on the south side; the bells were not affected. Another bomb fell in the Lords Chamber without exploding. In addition, numerous offices were completely destroyed. In January 1945 parliament commissioned architect Giles Gilbert Scott to rebuild. He decided to keep the main features of Charles Barry's design and only make minimal modernizations (including the installation of an air conditioning system). After the work was completed, the Commons Chamber was inaugurated on October 26, 1950.

As the demand for office space in the palace continued to grow, in 1975 Parliament acquired several floors in the nearby Norman Shaw Building (named after its architect Richard Norman Shaw ), the former headquarters of the Metropolitan Police . In 1992 the newly built Portcullis House was added, which means that all MPs now have their own offices.

In 2020, a previously undocumented door to a room that was bricked up in the 1950s was discovered. A personal inscription from 1851 , left there by bricklayers commissioned by Charles Barry , was first discovered in this room .

The exterior of the palace

Strike announcement by the stonemasons during the reconstruction of the palace (1841)
View from the 1950s

Charles Barry used the Gothic style (more precisely Perpendicular Style ) for the new building , which had been very popular in England during the 15th century and came back into fashion in the 19th century as Neo-Gothic . Although Barry himself built exclusively in the classical style, he was assisted by the architect Augustus Pugin, who specializes in Gothic . Westminster Hall, which survived the fire of 1834, was incorporated into Barry's plans. However, Pugin was dissatisfied with the result, especially with the symmetrical floor plan designed by Barry. He commented: “All Greek, sir; Tudor decorations on a classical building ”.


The facade of the building was originally made of Anston , a sand-colored limestone interspersed with magnesium that came from a quarry at Anston, a village near Rotherham in South Yorkshire . Due to the air pollution caused by increasing industrialization and the poor quality, the rock soon began to gradually deteriorate. Although the damage was already clearly visible in 1849, no countermeasures were taken until 1913. By 1926, the facade was removed piece by piece, which made the building increasingly less decorative. In 1928 the decision was made to clad the facade with Clipsham Stone , a honey-colored limestone from County Rutland . Work began in the early 1930s, had to be interrupted during World War II, and could not be completed until the early 1950s. But only a few years later, the facade was again affected by the sharp rise in air pollution. In 1981 restoration began in several stages, which lasted until 1994.


Elizabeth Tower with Big Ben
Victoria Tower

The Palace of Westminster, newly built by Charles Barry, has several towers. The tallest is the 98.45 meters or 323 feet high Victoria Tower (Viktoriaturm), a square tower on the southwest corner. It is named after the ruling monarch during the reconstruction period, Queen Victoria , and now houses the Parliamentary Archives. There is a flagpole on the top of the tower: if the monarch is in the building, the Royal Standard is hoisted, otherwise the Union Flag flies . At the foot of the tower is the Sovereign's Entrance ; the monarch uses this entrance to enter the building before the opening of parliament or other ceremonies.

The Central Tower rises above the middle part of the palace . It is 91.44 meters (or exactly 300 feet) high, making it the lowest of the three main towers. Unlike the other towers located on the top of the Central Towers, which was designed as a duct, a spire .

On the northwest corner is the most famous of the three towers, the 96.32 meter or 316 foot high clock tower. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the throne of Queen Elizabeth II , the British Parliament approved the renaming of the previously simply Clock Tower (also known as the “clock tower”) to Elizabeth Tower . The tower facade is dominated by a large tower clock, the Great Clock of Westminster , with a dial on each of the four sides of the tower. Five bells, the Westminster Chimes , strike every quarter of an hour. The largest and by far the most famous bell is Big Ben (officially the Great Bell of Westminster ). With a weight of 13.8 tons it is the third heaviest bell in England and strikes every hour. Although the name Big Ben correctly only refers to the bell, colloquially it refers to the whole tower.

A smaller tower, St Stephen's Tower , rises above the front of the palace, between Westminster Hall and the Old Palace Yard . Below is the main entrance to the House of Commons, also known as St Stephen's Entrance . Other towers are the Speaker's Tower and the Chancellor's Tower , at the northern and southern ends of the facade facing the river. They got their name from the official titles of the chairmen of both chambers of parliament, the speaker of the lower house and the lord chancellor .

The Jewel Tower was once part of the palace and remained intact during the fire of 1834. But since then it has been separated from the rest of the building by the then newly built Abingdon Street. The tower was built in 1365/1366 to house the jewels and robes of King Edward III. to keep. From 1621 to 1864 the tower served as the office building and archive of the House of Lords. The Office for Weights and Measures was housed here from 1869 to 1938. Today the tower houses a museum about the history of the palace.


A number of small gardens are grouped around the Palace of Westminster. The Victoria Tower Gardens south of the palace on the banks of the Thames are open to the public. It houses the Buxton Memorial Fountain , which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834. The Black Rod's Garden , named after the gentleman Usher of the Black Rod , must not be entered and serves as a side entrance. The Old Palace Yard in front of the main facade is over-tarred and covered with numerous concrete safety blocks. Cromwell Green (in front of the main facade), New Palace Yard (on the north side) and Speaker's Green (also on the north side) are fenced and not accessible. The triangular College Green across from the House of Lords is commonly used for television interviews with politicians.

The interior of the palace

General plan of the palace. For the legend please click on the picture.
The Peers Library around 1910
The Commons Library around 1910
The Royal Gallery around 1910

The five-story Palace of Westminster has approximately 1,100 rooms (the exact number is not officially announced), 100 stairs and hallways with a total length of 3 miles. Offices, dining rooms and bars are located on the ground floor. The first floor (referred to as the principal floor ) contains the most important rooms of the palace, including the halls of the two chambers of parliament, lobbies and several libraries. In a straight line from south to north are the Robing Room , Royal Gallery , Prince's Chamber , Lords Chamber , Central Lobby , Members' Lobby and Commons Chamber . The Westminster Hall is somewhat offset next to the Commons Chamber. The meeting rooms for the parliamentary committees are on the third and fourth floors.

Originally, the palace was formally administered by the Lord Great Chamberlain , the chief royal chamberlain, as it was a royal residence (in theory it still is today as ownership has never been relinquished). In 1965, however, Parliament decided that both chambers of parliament should take responsibility for their respective premises. Since then, these have been administered by the Speaker and the Lord Chancellor . The Lord Great Chamberlain is still responsible for some ceremonial rooms.

Lords Chamber

The Lords Chamber in 1811
The Lords Chamber (recorded between 1870 and 1885)

The Lords Chamber , the council chamber of the House of Lords , is located in the southern part of the Palace of Westminster. The lavishly decorated room is 80 feet (24.38 m) long and 45 feet (13.72) m wide. The benches as well as all other furniture on the Lords side of the building are kept in red tones. The upper part of the room is decorated with stained glass windows and six allegorical frescoes symbolizing religion, chivalry and law.

At the southern end of the room there is a gold-adorned throne with a canopy. Although the monarch can theoretically attend any session, he or she only stays here during the ceremonial opening of parliament . Other members of the royal family watching the opening of parliament sit in the chairs of state next to them. In front of the throne is the woolsack , a large red pillow stuffed with wool without a back or armrest, which symbolizes the historically important importance of the wool industry. The council chairman (the Lord Speaker since 2006, historically the Lord Chancellor or his deputy) sits on the Woolsack . The ceremonial mace , which represents royal authority, is placed on the back of the wool bag. Are located in front of the Woolsack Judges' Woolsacks on which during the opening of parliament, the twelve Lord Justice ( Law Lords ) sit and the table of the house ( table of the house ), which is occupied by the log leaders.

The members of the House of Lords sit on rows of red benches on three sides of the room. The pews right of Woolsacks be "spiritual side" ( spiritual side called), those left of Woolsacks "secular side" ( temporal side ) on the Spiritual Side sit the bishops and archbishops of the Church of England ( Lords Spiritual ). The secular lords ( Lords Temporal ) sit according to their party affiliation. Members of the ruling party take their seats on the Spiritual Side, members of the opposition on the Temporal Side. The numerous peers , who are politically independent, sit on the benches across from the Woolsack and are called cross-benchers .

The most important ceremony that takes place in the Lords Chamber is the solemn opening of parliament at the beginning of a new parliamentary session or at the constituent session after each general election . The monarch sitting on the throne gives the speech from the throne and reads out the government program for the coming year. The members of the House of Commons do not enter the Lords Chamber at this ceremony, but rather gather at the bar of the house at the entrance to the room. Another ceremony is held at the end of a parliamentary session, with the monarch usually not participating, but being represented by several Lord Commissioners .

Commons Chamber

The Commons Chamber in 1811

The Commons Chamber , where the House of Commons meets, is at the north end of the building. The room is 68 feet (20.73 m) long, 46 feet (14.02 m) wide, and is much more sober than the Lords Chamber. The benches as well as all other furniture on the commons side of the palace are kept in shades of green. Parliaments of other Commonwealth countries such as Canada or Australia have also adopted this color scheme: green is associated with the lower house, red with the upper house or senate.

At the north end of the room is the speaker's chair , a gift from the Australian government to the British Parliament. In front of this speaker's chair is the table of the house , the workplace of the recorder. The staff of the House of Commons is placed on this. The lecterns (dispatch boxes) are a gift from New Zealand . Five rows of bench seats are arranged on each of the long walls. The ruling party deputies sit to the right of the speaker, those of the opposition on the left. In contrast to the upper house, there are no transverse benches. The hall is relatively small and only offers space for 427 of the 646 lower house representatives. However, by far not all MPs are present at routine meetings. During the question hour of the Prime Minister (the so-called prime minister's questions ) and major shops are MPs who have no place more found at both ends of the hall.

Traditionally, the monarch never enters the Commons Chamber. The last monarch to do so was King Charles I when, on January 4, 1642, he applied for five MPs to be arrested for high treason . William Lenthall , the speaker at the time, however, rejected the request. This event is considered to be one of the triggers of the English Civil War .

Westminster Hall

Interior of Westminster Hall, an artist impression from the early 19th century

The Westminster Hall is the oldest cropping of the Palace of Westminster. It was built in 1097 as a three-aisled hall and was the largest hall in Europe at the time. Only at the beginning of the 14th century was it surpassed by a hall in the Conciergerie in Paris . Originally, two rows of columns supported the roof structure. During the reign of King Richard II , the building was converted into a single-nave Gothic hall using Norman masonry. The previous roof structure was replaced by the royal carpenter Hugh Herland with an open, column-free roof structure in the form of a hammer-beam vault . In Westminster Hall strong sideshift was of the lower region Pfettendachstuhls anchorless first time by means of a, and herein lies the particularity with known previous designs, far into the space projecting horizontal Fußholzes that of to a on the wall perpendicular to folding arm and three Bügen is supported , transferred to the top of the wall and the supporting buttresses and pillars. The horizontal wooden feet are designed as an angel figure bearing a coat of arms on the head on the room side, the trusses above their inner line have been provided with a structure made of tracery, among other things, which appears delicate compared to the load-bearing timber. The architect Henry Yevele re-paneled the walls at the same time and placed 15 life-size statues of kings in the niches, only 6 of which have survived.

Westminster Hall is one of the largest halls in Europe with an unsupported roof; it is 73.2 meters (240 feet) long and 20.7 meters (68 feet) wide. Legend has it that the oak came from a forest in Thundersley, Essex . 1395, however, the wooden parts were completely replaced, wherein the wood from Farnham in the County of Surrey originates. Contemporary sources report a large number of carts and barges that carried the framework to Westminster where it was assembled.

The hall has served various purposes over the centuries. It was mainly a place of jurisdiction. Three of the most important courts in the country, the Court of King's Bench , the Court of Common Pleas and the Court of Chancery, met here . In 1875, these three courts were combined to form the High Court of Justice , which moved to the Royal Courts of Justice in 1882 . In addition to the ordinary courts, important state trials took place in Westminster Hall, including those against William Wallace (1305), Thomas Moore (1535), the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot (1606), the Earl of Strafford (1641), King Charles I. (1649) and Warren Hastings (1788).

From the 12th to the 19th centuries, coronation banquets were held at Westminster Hall in honor of the new monarchs. The last was the legendary coronation banquet of George IV in 1821 , during which rioting and fights broke out among the drunk dandies from Georg's circle of friends, with George IV himself passing out from the throne. His successor Wilhelm IV broke with tradition, also because he thought the banquets were too expensive. In the hall, the laying out before state funerals also take place. Such an honor is usually reserved for the monarch and his immediate family. Only a few non-members of the royal family were laid out here; in the 20th century these were Field Marshal General Frederick Roberts (1914) and Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1965). The most recent laying out took place in 2002 in honor of Queen Mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon .

On important official occasions, both chambers of parliament deliver their greetings to the crown here. Examples of this are the silver , gold and diamond jubilees to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II (1977, 2002, 2012), the 300th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution (1988) and the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II (1995).

Since 1999 the House of Commons has been using a specially converted room next to Westminster Hall as an additional meeting place. This elongated horseshoe-shaped room is considered part of Westminster Hall. Informal meetings take place here three times a week. Neither important nor controversial topics are discussed. A relaxed seating arrangement underlines the non-partisan and informal character of these discussions.

other rooms

There are other important rooms on the first floor. At the very south end is the Robing Room . Here the monarch prepares for the ceremonial opening of parliament by putting on the official royal robes and the Imperial State Crown . Various paintings by William Dyce in the Robing Room show scenes from the Arthurian legend . Immediately next to the Robing Room is the Royal Gallery , which is sometimes used by foreign dignitaries who want to speak in front of a Chamber of Parliament. The longitudinal walls are decorated with two oversized paintings by Daniel Maclise : The Death of Nelson shows the passing of Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar , The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher the meeting of Arthur Wellesley with Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo .

The Prince's Chamber around 1910
The Peers Dining Room around 1910

The Prince's Chamber is a small vestibule immediately south of the Lords Chamber. Portraits of various members of the Tudor dynasty by Richard Burchett and his students hang on the walls . There is also a marble statue of Queen Victoria . To the north of the Lords Chamber is the Peers' Lobby , where the members of the House of Lords meet for informal discussions during parliamentary sessions.

The middle part of the palace consists of the octagonal Central Lobby next to the Peers' Lobby and directly below the Central Tower. The room is adorned with statues of statesmen and a mosaic depicting the patron saints of the United Kingdom: Saint George for England, Apostle Andrew for Scotland, David of Menevia for Wales and Saint Patrick for Northern Ireland. In the Central Lobby, voters can meet with the MP from their constituency. Beyond the Central Lobby, next to the Commons Chamber, is the Members' Lobby , where Members of the House of Commons can discuss or negotiate. Statues from various former Prime Ministers, including David Lloyd George , Winston Churchill , Clement Attlee, and Margaret Thatcher, stand in the Members' Lobby .

In the palace there is also an apartment for the chairmen of the chambers of parliament. The Speaker lives at the north end of the palace, while the Lord Chancellor's apartment is at the south end. Every day the Speaker and the Lord Chancellor take part in a formal procession on their way to the respective chambers of parliament.


The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod oversees the security of the House of Lords, the Serjeant-at-Arms that of the House of Commons. These offices are, however, only of a ceremonial nature. The necessary security measures are now the responsibility of the Palace of Westminster Division (special unit SO17) of the Metropolitan Police , the police department of Greater London . Growing concerns about the possibility of a vehicle loaded with explosives crashing into the building led to the placement of concrete blocks on the access road in 2003. On the river there is an exclusion zone of 70 meters from the bank, which no watercraft is allowed to enter.

The public still has access to the Strangers Gallery in the Commons Chamber, from where the debates can be followed. Visitors have to pass metal detectors , officials from the Palace of Westminster Division and the Diplomatic Protection Group of the Metropolitan Police patrol in and around the building. Since August 1, 2005, the Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005 has prohibited demonstrating within one kilometer of the Palace of Westminster without prior authorization from the Metropolitan Police.


The most famous attempt to endanger the security of the palace was the Gunpowder Plot on November 5, 1605. Catholic nobles planned to detonate a few tons of gunpowder during the opening of parliament . The Protestant King James I , his family and a large part of the aristocracy were to be killed. The conspiracy, however, was exposed when the Catholic peer William Parker received an anonymous letter. In it, the conspirators warned him not to attend the opening of parliament. The authorities ordered a search of the palace and discovered the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes , one of the conspirators , in the basement . Those responsible were later tried in Westminster Hall for high treason; they were sentenced to death by quartering . Every year since 1605, the royal bodyguard has conducted a ceremonial search of the cellar before the opening of parliament.

Assassination attempt on Spencer Perceval, on the far right the assassin John Bellingham

On May 11, 1812, the only successful assassination attempt to date was committed on a prime minister. On his way to a parliamentary commission to investigate the Luddite uprising, John Bellingham shot Prime Minister Spencer Perceval to the heart with a pistol.

On June 17, 1974, a 9 kg bomb of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) detonated in Westminster Hall . On March 30, 1979, Airey Neave , a prominent Conservative politician and candidate for the post of Northern Ireland Minister, was killed in a car bomb driving out of the palace's parking garage. Both the Irish National Liberation Army and the PIRA assumed responsibility for the attack. Security forces assume that the former committed the attack.

The palace was also the scene of some noticeable protests. In 1970 a canister of tear gas was thrown into the Commons Chamber to protest against the conditions in Northern Ireland. In 1978 other people, including the daughter of the Maltese Prime Minister Dom Mintoff , threw buckets full of dung. Concerns that biological or chemical warfare agents could also be used in such incidents led to the erection of a glass partition in the visitors' gallery, the Strangers Gallery , in early 2004 .

However, the new partition wall did not encompass the front three rows of the visitor gallery (the so-called Distinguished Strangers Gallery ). In May 2004 activists from Fathers 4 Justice (an organization that campaigns for the rights of divorced fathers) pelted Prime Minister Tony Blair with flour bombs from here. In September 2004, loudly protesting supporters of the now banned fox hunt disrupted the session of the House of Commons. Despite these disruptions, access to the visitor gallery remains open.

In an attack on March 22, 2017 , the presumably Islamist assassin Khalid Masood ran over several passers-by on Westminster Bridge in a rented SUV . He then drove his vehicle into a barrier at Westminster Palace, where Parliament was currently in session. He stabbed a police officer while trying to break into the building. The perpetrator was then shot dead by the forces present. A total of five people were killed and around 40 people were injured, some seriously.


Palace of Westminster seen from the opposite bank of the Thames

The exterior of the Palace of Westminster, particularly the Elizabeth Tower with the Big Ben bell , is one of London's major tourist attractions. The UNESCO took over the building in 1987 in the List of World Heritage in, along with the Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church , located nearby. The monument protection organization English Heritage classifies the palace as a "building of exceptional interest" (a so-called Grade I building ). The interior of the building is not freely accessible, but there are several options for viewing:

UK residents can reserve tickets to the public galleries with their constituency to attend debates in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Both UK residents and residents of other countries can line up at the visitor entrance the morning before parliamentary debates start, but tickets are limited and admission is not guaranteed. Only a small part of the palace can be visited at all. If the MPs wish to keep to themselves, the visitor galleries will be closed.

UK residents can request a ticket from their constituency or a peer for one of the few guided tours during parliamentary sessions. Educational institutions can also have a tour organized by a member of parliament. This option is not available to residents of other countries.

During the two-month break in summer (usually August and September) there are regular tours of the Palace of Westminster, open to residents of the UK as well as non-residents. We recommend that you register in advance for the 75-minute tour. The Elizabeth Tower is only open to residents of Great Britain who have registered with their MPs.

The Palace of Westminster is easily accessible by public transport. Westminster Station of the London Underground is located below Parliament Square and the neighboring Portcullis House . Several bus lines run across the square itself. Waterloo station is accessible via Westminster Bridge .


  • Simon Bradley, Nikolaus Pevsner : The Buildings London. Volume 6: Westminster (= The buildings of England ). Yale University Press, New Haven CT 2003, ISBN 0-300-09595-3 (architectural guide to London's Westminster).
  • Bryan H. Fell, Kenneth R. MacKenzie: The Houses of Parliament. A Guide to the Palace of Westminster. 15th edition, revised by DL Natzler. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London 1994, ISBN 0-11-701579-2 (detailed description of the building and parliament).
  • Christopher Jones: The Great Palace. The Story of Parliament. British Broadcasting Corporation, London 1983, ISBN 0-88186-150-2 (History of the Palace of Westminster).
  • Factsheet G12 - Restoration of the Palace of Westminster 1981–94 (description of the renovation work; PDF; 82 kB)

Web links

Commons : Palace of Westminster  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Chris McKay: Big Ben: the Great Clock and the Bells at the Palace of Westminster , OUP Oxford, London 2010, ISBN 0199585695 , pages 1, 4 & 32–34.
  2. Markus M. Haefliger: The British Parliament: Bursting pipes and crumbling facades In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of February 18, 2017
  3. a b c A brief chronology of the House of Commons (PDF; 240 kB), House of Commons Information Office, November 2006.
  4. ^ History of the Palace of Westminster
  5. Phillip Ziegler: King William IV. HarperCollins, London 1971, ISBN 0-00-211934-X , p. 280.
  6. David Watkin: An Eloquent Sermon in Stone , City Journal, 1998.
  7. Christine Riding: Westminster: A New Palace for a New Age , BBC, February 7, 2005.
  8. ^ The Norman Shaw Building (PDF; 401 kB), House of Commons Information Service, April 2007.
  9. DER SPIEGEL: Secret passage from the 17th century discovered in the British Parliament - DER SPIEGEL - Panorama. Retrieved February 26, 2020 .
  10. ^ Brian Wheeler: Lost doorway reveals historic secrets in Parliament . In: BBC News . February 26, 2020 ( [accessed February 26, 2020]).
  11. Peter Devey: Commons Sense ( Memento from July 8, 2012 in the web archive ), The Architectural Review, February 2001.
  12. a b c d e f g h The Palace of Westminster (PDF; 704 kB), House of Commons Information Office, March 2008.
  13. a b Restoration of the Palace of Westminster 1981–94 (PDF; 175 kB), House of Commons Information Service, August 2003.
  14. Kayte Rath: Big Ben's tower renamed Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen. BBC News, June 26, 2012, accessed June 27, 2012.
  15. ^ Department of the Serjeant at Arms Annual Report 2001-02 , Section St Stephen's Tower.
  16. ^ Jewel Tower , English Heritage.
  17. Margaret Baker: London Statues and Monuments. 3rd revised edition. Shire Publications Ltd., Princes Risborough 1992, ISBN 0-7478-0162-2 .
  18. ^ House of Commons Chamber , UK Parliament.
  19. Andrew Sparrow, Some predecessors kept their nerve, others lost their heads , The Daily Telegraph, June 19, 2001.
  20. Friedrich Ostendorf : The history of the roof structure explains a large number of exemplary old constructions . Leipzig 1908, page 108 ff.
  21. Jonathan Alexander, Paul Binski (Ed.): Age of Chivalry. Species in Plantagenet England 1200–1400. Royal Academy of Arts et al., London et al. 1987, ISBN 0-297-79182-6 , p. 506 ff.
  22. Dana Bentley-Cranch: Roof Angels of the East Anglican Churches ( Memento of the original from May 28, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 201 kB), 2005. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  23. ^ LF Salzman: Building in England down to 1540. A documentary History. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1952 (Reprinted edition. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1992, ISBN 0-19-817158-7 ).
  24. Visitors Guide ( Memento of the original from July 24, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Royal Courts of Justice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  25. History of Westminster Hall ( Memento of the original from October 17, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , UK Parliament  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  26. ^ Speaker's procession , BBC News, Jan. 26, 2006.
  27. ^ Companion to the Standing Orders and guide to the Proceedings of the House of Lords , UK Parliament, 19 February 2007.
  28. ^ Security tightens at Parliament , BBC News, May 23, 2003.
  29. Notice to Mariners P12 ( Memento of the original from June 15, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Port of London Authority.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  30. Attend debates ( Memento of the original from June 15, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , UK Parliament.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  31. ^ The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005 , Office of Public Sector Information, 2005.
  32. The Gunpowder Plot (PDF; 472 kB), House of Commons Information Service, September 2006.
  33. British Politics: Prime Ministers and Politics Timeline , BBC.
  34. On This Day 17 June - 1974: IRA bombs parliament , BBC.
  35. ^ Ten Years Later: Coping and Hoping , Time Magazine, July 17, 1978.
  36. ^ Blair hit during Commons protest , BBC News, May 19, 2004.
  37. ^ Pro-hunt protesters storm Commons , BBC News, Sept. 15, 2004.
  38. IS is committed to the London attack. The assassin had a criminal record . In: FAZ (Ed.): Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . March 23, 2017, ISSN  0174-4909 ( ). IS commits itself to the London attack. The assassin had a criminal record . In: FAZ (Ed.): Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . March 23, 2017, ISSN 0174-4909 ( ). 
  39. Attack in London: identity of the assassin - Khalid Masood - WELT. Retrieved March 24, 2017 .
  40. ^ Jörg Diehl and Christoph Sydow: Attack in London: Minimal effort, maximal terror. In: SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved March 24, 2017 .
  41. ^ Second German television (ZDF): Mayor on double attack: "Londoners will never be intimidated" - today news. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on March 22, 2017 ; accessed on March 23, 2017 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  42. Attack in London: 75-year-old dies from his injuries. In: SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved March 23, 2017 .
  43. ^ Arrange a tour , UK Parliament.
  44. ^ Summer opening , UK Parliament.
  45. Clock Tower tour (Big Ben) , UK Parliament.

Coordinates: 51 ° 29 ′ 58 "  N , 0 ° 7 ′ 27"  W.

This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 4, 2005 in this version .