Web links: Chapter 06

The Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster is a UNESCO World Heritage recognised site. Its set of buildings have undergone considerable change over time and embed significant history. This link provides detailed information about the development of the building.

Considerable detail is given here about the Palace’s architecture, and its history. The oldest part of the parliamentary estate is Westminster Hall. You can read about its history and development here. Portcullis is one of the newest parts of the parliamentary estate, and one of the most used for networking and offices. You can read about its architecture and purpose here.

Watch this video shot by Tony Benn in 1995, in which he takes us on a tour of the Palace of Westminster. It discusses the space and design of the Palace, as well as those working within this space, the history of Parliament, together with some reflections about our democracy.

Information on how to visit the Palace of Westminster can be found here.

The re-building and restoration of the Palace

Over the centuries, Parliament has been characterised by different buildings in the Westminster site. The current Victorian style building is a direct result of the 1834 fire, which destroyed both Houses of Parliament, as explained by Caroline Shenton in this lecture.

The Palace of Westminster has undergone several re-builds in the past. One of these followed the bombing of the House of Commons’ Chamber during the Second World War. Read the famous speech by Winston Churchill where the then-PM explains why the Chamber should be re-built as an exact replica of how it had been before; this speech includes his statement “We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

More recently, the Restoration and Renewal programme has been developed to support considerable and necessary renovation of the Palace, as explained in this video. An Independent Options Appraisal report on the scale of the work needed was produced in 2014. The Joint Committee on the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster produced its first report in 2016. You can watch a Westminster Hall debate on the 25th January 2017 on the Restoration and Renewal programme here. This library briefing gives a summary of the different stages the Restoration and Renewal programme has been through.