Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, London

The seat of British power for a thousand years. Originally this site was home to King Canute, the legendary king so prideful he believed his command alone could hold back the waves. It continued as a Royal Residence, under its official name the Palace of Westminster, until King Henry VIII vacated it for York Place. The Parliament had been meeting in the palace for some centuries already, but now the building was solely for the use of the two Houses of Parliament: the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Guy Fawkes and his Catholic co-conspirators famously attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament on the 5th November 1605 – a date no English child is allowed to forget. Two centuries later it was destroyed anyway by an accidental fire. Its replacement, the building we see today, with its Gothic style representing a conservative legacy, has become an icon for democracy and London all over the world, especially its later adjunct, Big Ben.

Never in the afternoon

Don’t worry; it is not my intention to explain, once more, that Big Ben is not the name of the tower but that of the bell, etc., etc.

I just want to inform you that the afternoon is not the good moment to take a photo of the Parliaments’ façade on the river. Look at my miserable pic. A terrible contre-jour! Btw I was glad to read in my dictionary that the English use the French word contre-jour (a heritage from the French speaking Richard Coeur de Lion ?).
Get up early, best on a sunny morning, if you want to see something on your photo.

If like me you spent your morning looking (with some delight) at the torture chambers of the Tower of London and reached the Parliament in the late afternoon you will not regret your late arrival if you walk to Parliament Square and St Margaret St. especially if the August sun is shining.

What is a pleasure for the visitor and his camera is that honey-coloured stone used all over the building and that makes such beautiful effect on photos. Actually when the Parliament, after the nearly complete destruction by fire in 1834, was rebuild between 1840 and 1860 in a Gothic style on a neo-classical principle of symmetry, the stonework of the building was a sand-coloured magnesian limestone from Anston (South Yorkshire).
This stone decayed due to pollution and was progressively replaced by Clipsham Stone, a honey-coloured limestone from the county of Rutland between 1930 and 1994. And that’s what we see now in the late sun.

Of course, if it is raining you can go on any time of the day. Your photos will be … neutral wet.

 Icon of the Capital.

This is London. Thames TV, the now defunct London television station, had as its logo the major landmarks of London – Tower Bridge, the Post Office Tower, St. Paul’s Cathedral… But of all the icons of the capital Big Ben says London the loudest, with each chime of the great bell, the Big Ben the clock tower is named after. It’s now more famous than the building it was adjoined to: Westminster Palace – the Houses of Parliament.

The chiming of Big Ben has become ingrained in the British psyche. The bells ring in the New Year on televisions across the country. They announce the News at Ten every night. During World War 2 the bells of Big Ben rang out on radio stations around the planet on BBC World Service, to British soldiers fighting in every part of the globe, announcing night after night that Britain had not fallen. It’s probably why Big Ben was voted Britain’s most popular landmark.

Victoria Tower

The Victoria Tower is the square tower at the south-west end of the Palace of Westminster in London facing south and west onto Black Rod’s Garden and Old Palace Yard. At 98.5 metres it is slightly taller than the more famous Elizabeth Tower – Big Ben.
The tower was originally named “The King’s Tower” because the fire of 1834 which destroyed the old Palace of Westminster occurred during the reign of King William IV.

Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben

The Elizabeth Tower’s fame has surpassed that of the Palace itself. The structure has largely become synonymous with Big Ben the heaviest of the five bells it houses. The tower was completed in 1858. The Elizabeth Tower (previously called the Clock Tower) named in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.
Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and often extended to refer to the clock and the clock tower.
The tower has become one of the most prominent symbols of both London and England.

Parliament House with the Big Ben

This is so far one of the most impressive and magnificent gothic designed Masterpiece Work of Art in the History of England. Located in the heart of London, England, UK. It took them more than 32 years to build and rebuilt this colossal building architecture after most part of it was destroyed by fire and some parts demolished as a result after the bombing during the second World War.
Sir Charles Barry with his assistant, Augustus Welby Pugin were the architect designers responsible for these English Gothic styles and decorations mostly seen on the Palace walls. The Parliament House which is also known as the Westminster Palace had unfortunately undergone many reconstructions and rebuilding to restore its original historical beauty and since it became one of the most protected UNESCO architectural heritage Site the Londoners are trying their best to preserve and keep it safe from dreadful air pollution and from threatening rapid Urban infrastructural developments.

The Parliament House and the Big Ben which here refers to the Clock Tower, although in reality the name Big Ben is the Big Bell inside the Clock Tower, are popular subject of photographic interest especially when you are taking a morning river cruise or viewing from the giant Ferris Well ( London Eye)a ride on a clear sunny afternoon, you will have a wonderful Panorama with the Parliament and the Big Ben! Or just walking round and about the building to gather some architectural impressions. Also guided Tours inside the Parliament is possible to have an idea about England´s ways of politics and the building´s 1,000 years history. Tours of Parliament take place on Saturdays throughout the year, and daily during the summer opening.

Richard I Coeur-de-Lion statue.

This is a wonderful statue in the wonderful architectural surrounding of Westminster Palace.Richard I of England (1157 – 1199) Coeur de Lion – the Lionheart was King of England, Duke of Normandy, and Count of Anjou. This heroic and iconic king of England did speak only French and during his ten years reign spent only a few months in England. He lived in his Duchy of Aquitaine, in the southwest of France, when he was not fighting somewhere in France or being one of the leaders of the third Crusade. The bronze equestrian statue (which underwent a renovation in 2009) is from Marochetti a favourite sculptor of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and was installed in 1860 on the granite pedestal in front of the House of Lords with the name Coeur de Lion written in French.
The cost of erecting the statue was paid by public subscription.
The bas-relief panels for the sides of the pedestal are also from Marochetti. They show Richard’s victory over the Saracens at Ascalon and the dying Richard pardoning Bertram de Gourdon who had shot at him with a crossbow causing a fatal injury.

Corridors of power

Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. And “Palace of Westminster” is the official name for the building which is home to the Houses of Parliament. This is because until 1512 the royal family lived where Parliament is now situated.

Parliament is open to all members of the UK public and overseas visitors. You can watch laws being made, attend debates and committees, tour the buildings, and if you’re a resident of the UK, climb the clock tower. I’ve never been to a debate or on a tour, but I’m lucky that my job has led to me being invited to receptions here on several occasions. There is an incredible sense of history in this building – echoes of the weighty decisions that have been made here, the great statesmen and women who’ve walked these corridors, the major events witnessed here. If you get the opportunity to go inside I would certainly recommend it if you have any interest in history or in politics.

To attend a debate you simply need to join the queue outside St Stephen’s entrance, although you may need to wait an hour or more. Make sure you check that the House is sitting though – details are available on the website below, including recess dates. Security these days of course is very tight, so come prepared for your bags, and your body, to be searched.

Overseas visitors can only tour Parliament during the Summer Opening, when paid-for tickets are available, but if you’re a UK resident you can arrange a place on a free tour through your MP.

The “Mother of Parliaments”

It’s surely hard to not be impressed by the gothic Palace of Westminster, home to Britain’s parliamentary democracy.

You can arrange a visit to parliament in a number of different ways. On Saturdays or during recess (when parliament is not sitting) you can buy tickets (in advance) for a tour. Otherwise you can arrange a tour through a member of either house (Lords or Commons), but these tours are fairly limited in numbers and so in great demand. I was lucky enough to have a tour arranged by my friend and local MP, Stephen Lloyd.

You can also attend parliament to watch debates in either house, or at committee meetings. Again, some of these need to be booked in advance (particularly Prime Ministerial and Ministerial question times). It’s best to see the website of Parliament for up to date details.

Tours start from Westminster Hall, which is the oldest part of the palace dating from 1097. It is said that King William II (son of William the Conqueror) had slightly high expectations when he stated that this vast hall (the largest in Europe at the time) would “do as a parlour”. King William had to make do with this being his great hall, and it remains so to this day. At the time the roof would have been supported by pillars, but in 1393 during the reign of Richard II it was decided to remove the pillars and install a new hammerbeam roof instead, which opens up the space as we see it today. Westminster Hall is the only place inside the palace where you are allowed to take photographs and they really do mean this. If you try to take photos elsewhere they will remove your camera (or mobile phone) and you will not get it back!

A tour should also take you to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Do not attempt to sit down in either house as this is a criminal offence if you are not a legitimate member of that house! Again, this rule is strictly enforced. What you will notice is that both chambers are suprisingly small. Apparently this is by design as having such a small cramped space (there are not enough seats for all the members in either House) makes for more fiery debates. This might make it more exciting for the politicans concerned but I’m sure that opinions may vary as to whether or not this is really that constructive an idea.

Other highlights are the Norman gate, Queens Robing room, Princes Chamber, the Royal Gallery and, of course, Central lobby, between the two chambers.

A guided tour means that you will have a well informed guide who can explain all the strange customs and quirks of the place (such as the little notes left on a board for technophobic members of the Lords and the concept of “toeing the line”).

A visit to parliament is well worth it but the gift shop is overpriced as they know everyone wants to take something home with that famous portcullis logo. The cafeteria next to Westminster Hall which is open to visitors is pretty dreadful. The coffee is ok, but not the food. If you are getting a tour arranged by a member then also get them to meet you afterwards and take you for lunch at one of the restaurants in Portcullis house which are great. You must be accompanied by a member to be able to go here.

When you enter the Palace of Westminster you have to pass through a security check. It’s just like going through an airport and the rules about what you can take are much the same. It is now the seat of House of Lords (since 1265) and House of Common (since 1547). In 1834 the palace was destroyed in fire leaving only a small part of it intact, including Westminster Hall – it was then rebuilt to connect the remaining parts and finished in 1870.
Big Ben (1859) is one of three towers of The Houses of Parliament also called Clock Tower – the bell in the tower is actually called Big Ben. It is one of London’s most famous landmarks – 96 meters high. You can set your clock by it as it is said to be extremely prompt.

Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster may still be considered a Royal Palace, but in practice it is the seat of the legislative body of government, and is also referred to as the Palace of Parliament. While a Palace has stood on this site since the 11th century, prior to the Norman Conquest, the current building dates from the first half of the 19th century, after the initial palace was destroyed by a fire. Although various other locations for the new buildings of Parliament were considered, it was ultimately decided that the new Parliament should be built on the old site, given its historical significance. The new structure was designed in the neo-Gothic style, as it was believed to be conservative and more representative of the values of parliamentary monarchy than the competing neo-Classical style, associated with, among other buildings, the American White House. Apart from the iconic Clock Tower, which houses Big Ben, the complex is marked by two other towers: the Victoria Tower, named after Queen Victoria and constructed to look like a castle keep; and the Central Tower, which was meant to provide proper ventilation for the building, but failed to do so. A number of turrets can be seen all along the building, and indeed the King had expressed his desire for the Parliament to remind viewers of a castle or fortress, in order to strengthen the metaphorical implications of the building’s design. The interior of the structure has a number of different components that represent the division of British government and politics. There are the various chambers intended for Royals (Queen’s Room, Princes Chambers), the Aristocracy (the Lords’ Chamber and Peers’ Lobby), the Masses (Members’ Lobby and Commons Chamber). In order to complete the trifecta of Parliamentary Democracy, Westminster Hall, the oldest section of the building, was used as the seat of the High Court of Justice, but only until the 1880s. Again, only UK residents may visit the Palace, and this only through contact with their MPs. For those of us without the honour of being resident in the UK, there is ample opportunity to photography this venerable institution of British democracy from the sidewalk, provided it’s not crowded with supplicants and protestors. I’m not sure that there is any landmark more iconic of London than Big Ben. Even the 2012 Olympics and the monumental architecture they implied could not create something more intricately linked to the image of London abroad than this massive clock. Erected in 1858, it is also known as the Elizabeth Tower, and is attached to the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament. The name Elizabeth was given to the tower for Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee (2012); previously, it was simply the Clock Tower. Built in neo-Gothic style, the Clock Tower was considered to be an integral part of the plan for the new Palace of Westminster, the old one having burnt down in the 1830s. The clock is famous for its accuracy, despite the fact that two of the faces of the clock were damaged by bombardments in the Blitz. The bell of the tower is what is truly known as Big Ben, which chimes the hours. Unfortunately, those of us who are not residents of the UK cannot visit the Tower. If you are a resident, you can only visit it by contacting your Member of Parliament in order to schedule a tour.

Houses of Parliament

The two Houses of Parliament are the House of Commons and the House of Lords and it might be of some interest that the Queen may not enter the House of Commons as she is not a commoner, but the whole complex is actually the Palace of Westminster. The original palace was built in the 11th century but was destroyed by fire in 1512 and again in 1834. It is a ‘MUST SEE’ if you are in London even if you cannot book a guided tour. Throngs of people crowd around it everyday even though there is increased barriers and security.
Smoking is not allowed in the House of Commons since the 17th century so there is a snuff box as you enter. And another interesting fact that the phrase ‘IN THE BAG’ originates from people putting petitions in a velvet bag on the back of the Speaker’s Chair as they were too embarrassed to raise the point in public. No animals are allowed in the Building except guide dogs, but a few cats would not go astray as the building is infested with mice.

Big Ben and New Year in London

BIG BEN, I have heard it ring many times heralding in the New Year in London on Television. Now, on a cold and wet day, I was in London standing right beside it.
Did you know its correct name is Saint Stephen’s Tower, Big Ben is the common name and it refers to the clock’s hour bell, the largest of the clock’s five bells.
The clock was the largest in the world and is still the largest in Great-Britain. What is wonderful about Big Ben, is its remarkable accuracy.
The 96 metre high Clock tower was constructed between 1843 and 1858 as the clock tower for the Houses of Parliament. On a wet day, I didn’t get much of a look at the Houses of Parliament, too busy trying to keep dry!
Big Ben can only be viewed from the outside.

Look up to famous statesmen in Parliament Square

Parliament Square in Westminster is one of the favourite spots in London for ‘sculpture spotting’. If you are immortalised in Parliament Square, then you really know that you’ve ascended to the rarified ranks of the Great and the Good – the only snag is that you usually have to be dead to do so! The current roll call includes British heavyweights from yesteryear such as Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Benjamin Disraeli, Viscount Palmerston and Sir Robert Peel as well as a few statesmen from the Former Colonies, including Abraham Lincoln. Surprisingly there are also two South Africans: Nelson Mandela –
I was particularly intrigued by Smuts’ presence, as I believe that he is one of the most influential world statesmen of the early 20th century. He was one of the primary architects of the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations) and was one of Britain’s staunchest allies before he was voted out of office after World War II and replaced by the Nationalist government that would eventually morph into the apartheid regime. Above all, Smuts was a dedicated Anglophile who would have been chuffed to know that his statue stands outside the Mother of Parliaments!

Would-be photographers and those who’d like to get a good look at these statues from all angles may be frustrated to discover that the grassed section of Parliament Square around which the statues are displayed has been cordoned off it was only possible to walk along the pavement. This is to prevent the protestors who have been camped out opposite Parliament (protesting Britain’s involvement in various armed conflicts) from migrating onto the grass, and as they’ve been there for several years already, they’re unlikely to be going away anytime soon.

Barry’s and Pugin’s Neogothic masterpiece

When I searched the internet for detailed information about Palace of Westminster’s façade, I found a most fascinating article called An Eloquent Sermon in Stone by David John Watkin (Professor of History of Architecture, Cambridge). His introductory words are so perfectly describing my intention with this tip that I simply let him speak first:
Quote David Watkin:
“Architecture is more than mere engineering, aiming not just to make buildings stand up but make them speak – and, at its best, to make them speak eloquently of profound matters. No public building exemplifies that power better than Sir Charles Barry’s Houses of Parliament, whose architecture delivers virtually a sermon in stone to the British nation about its deepest value, its ancient culture”.
Well, the Palace of Westminster had a certain fascination for me. This time however I took my time and walked around it quite often, at least as far as I could get. I deeply regret that I don’t know that much about British history as it would have been helpful to understand what I saw. Sir Barry created a masterpiece with this facade. He created it in Perpendicular style, the typical English version of late Gothic, which, to be honest, I really like better than our continental version of Gothic. It is fascinating to look at the eastern part (the one which faces river Thames). At first glance it seems very much symmetrical, but it is not. The three towers are of different size, height and style, and the middle part is a bit raised compared to the sides. But to me this looks even more harmonic than if it would be completely symmetrical. I’ve read that this eastern part has sculptures of more than 300 kings, queens and saints, but it is difficult to get details, unless you would hire a boat and drive along slowly. The southern facade (towards Victoria Gardens) is easier to admire. Photo 3 shows in my opinion how this perpendicular harmony was created: one statue in the middle, flanked by two others, but the middle one has a higher spire on the guarding roof, which points into the next “rectangular block” above this section. Sir Barry and Pugin gave very much attention to the elaborateness of all the statues, as it can easily be seen in the main photo. Between the statues are Tudor roses and initials of Queen Victoria (Victoria Regina) all over. On the western façade (the outer walls of House of Lords) the porticullis and heads of earls and others dominate.

So I can only highly recommend to take your time and walk around the long building to take in these amazing details of the façade. I will certainly do so next time, and by then I hopefully know more about the history to understand what I see. I often thought about how Sir Barry and Pugin worked on the plans, in days where no CAD was available. And from this point of view, their work is even more outstanding, given the huge amount of drawings and sketches they did, which alltogether lead to this incredibly beautiful building.

There has been a building on this site since the mid 11th century, and the earliest surviving building of the Westminster Complex is the adjacent Westminster Abbey. Westminster Palace was initially a royal residence that accommodated a Model Parliament (comprising some members of the clergy and nobility) from as early as 1295, although their primary function was to impose taxes rather than govern – some would argue that not much has changed!

The Palace has changed dramatically over the centuries due to several devastating fires and repeatedly extended and remodelling to adapt to its changing function. Parts of the medieval structure such as the lovely Undercroft Chapel still survive – despite the best efforts of Guy Fawkes and the other ill-fated participants in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (who were hung, drawn and quartered for their pains) – but most of the building postdates the catastrophic fire of 1834.

The Palace has three towers. The tallest is the Victoria Tower, which is equipped with a flagstaff: if the Royal Standard (the Queen’s personal flag) is flying, then the monarch is in the House, and if the Union Jack is flying, Parliament is in session. The Bell Tower at the other end of the building houses five bells, including the largest, Big Ben (whose distinctive ‘boing’ strikes on the hour). If there is a light on in the Bell Tower, then it is indication that the House is sitting – rumour has it that this convention was introduced so that Queen Victoria to make sure that her Government were putting in the requisite number of hours! The Octagonal Tower is the smallest of the three towers, and was initially installed as a ventilation feature (presumably to vent all that hot air???), cited by architects as “the first occasion when mechanical services had a real influence on architectural design”. However, the design was a failure and the tower was eventually was demoted to a decorative feature.

When I was at university, my Byronic boyfriend and I often take late night strolls down to the Thames and play Pooh Sticks off Westminster Bridge – it sounds very lame looking back, but in the throes of young love, it seemed wildly romantic! If the weather was cold and we didn’t yet feel like going home, we would check to see whether the light was on in the Bell Tower, and, if so, we would submit ourselves to a cursory security check and then slip into the Visitors’ Gallery of the House of Commons to watch the late night debate in the surprisingly small Chamber. This was usually much less dramatic than it sounds, with MPs droning on about some dull topic (and in truth, it was more amusing to spot which members were snoozing on the benches) but it was interesting to see parliamentary process in action. In the post 9/11 world, things are very different, and although it is still possible to visit, the process is a lot more security-conscious (although still free): see the website below for more details.

People Of A Certain Age (ie. middle aged people like me!) will not be able to look at the roof of Westminster Palace without conjuring up a pivotal scene from my all time favourite BBC series: ‘House of Cards’ – people who have seen it will know exactly what I mean, and I won’t spoil it for those who have yet to have the pleasure. This brilliant pitch black commentary on the life and times of a fictional British MP Francis Urquhart (whose initials were far from accidental) was written by Michael Dobbs, Margaret Thatcher’s former Chief of Staff and is a biting commentary on Westminster and what one has to do to survive and thrive in this viciously competitive environment. This series (and its sequels, ‘To Play The King’ and ‘The Final Cut’) are an absolute must for those wanting to gain an insight into the British parliamentary system and cynical British humour!

The Jewel Tower

Many visitors to Westminster probably miss the Jewel Tower, but it is one of only two surviving buildings from the original medieval Palace of Westminster. It was built in 1365-6 for King Edward III by Henry Yevele, the ‘Surveyor of the King’s Masonry’ and was originally intended as a private treasury. It was originally surrounded by a moat, to give greater security, and also provide fish for the King’s table. From 1621 the tower was used to store parliamentary records, and later it was used by the Board of Trade’s standards department, which tested standard weights and measures. Nowadays, there is an exhibition inside telling the story of the building, and a small cafe.

Houses of Parliament Summer Opening

Each summer (from August 1st to September 30th) the Houses of Parliament are open to the public with gioded tours operating every few minutes. Tours last 75 minutes. Foreign language tours are also available in French, Spanish, German and Italian. You will be able to see the historic building, including the chambers of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

History of the Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster was the principal residence of the kings of England from the middle of the 11th century until 1512.

In 1834 the Palace was burned down. This fire destroyed almost all of the Palace except Westminster Hall, the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel, the adjacent cloisters and the Jewel Tower. The present Houses of Parliament were built over the next 30 years. They were the work of the architect Sir Charles Barry. The design incorporated Westminster Hall and the remains of St Stephen’s Chapel.
The House of Commons Chamber was destroyed in a German air attack in 1941. It was rebuilt after the Second World War, taking care to preserve the essential features of Barry’s building – the architect was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The new Chamber was completed in 1950.
After coming through the public entrance St Stephen’s Entrance, the approach to the Central Lobby of the Palace is through St Stephen’s Hall from St Stephen’s Porch at the southern end of Westminster Hall. Central Lobby, a large octagonal hall, is the centrepiece of the Palace. The Central Lobby is a great masterpiece of Victorian art.
From the Central Lobby, corridors lead northward to the House of Commons Lobby and Chamber and southward to the House of Lords. Beyond the House of Lords are the ceremonial rooms used at the State Opening of Parliament – the Queen’s Robing Room and the Royal Gallery – reached by a separate entrance under the Victoria Tower.

Barry’s and Pugin’s Neogothic clock dream

The story of Big Ben is interesting to read. George Mears, bellfounder at Whitechapel Bell Foundry, cast it in 1858 and a year later it was ringing for the first time. But, as a too heavy hammer was used to ring it, it cracked. Instead of replacing it, they just rotated it, drilled a hole above the crack and Big Ben continued its work for the kingdom. Whitechapel Bell Foundry is still exisiting, by the way, produces many bells of every size and can be visited (Saturdays at 10 am and 2 pm, entrance fee £10, only on pre-booking). Big Ben, by the way, has 4 little “sisters”, the ones that chime the quarters.

I discovered to my utmost delight that UK Parliament has registered and uploaded many photos on Flickr, which are transformed into excellent slide shows on
Big Ben virtual tour, with explanatory virtual visits to the ground floor and additional 7 floors within the tower. Make sure to view in fullscreen!! And make also sure to visit their site on Flickr: UK Parliament on Flickr page. The videos include Big Ben chiming 12 o’clock (01:21 min), the pendulum bob (00:11 min) and the fly fans (00.26 min) to regulate the descent of the weights. Fantastic to watch!! The 51 photos include the crack I mentioned above. Thank you, UK Parliament!! What an excellent work, as it really enables us to virtually visit the bell and the tower in every aspect. Make sure you take your time and watch all.

Oh yes, visits to the tower are possible. UK Parliament’s website describes the details. Tours are free but you must be in perfect health condition, as there is no lift, only 334 stairs to the top. It seems that only Britons can visit it, arranged through their local MP. However, I’ve read that overseas visitors might be able to arrange a visit through their embassies in London. It is definitely worth a try.
The tours, by the way, lead up as high as to Aryton light, which is the famous light visible in the dark when Parliament is still at work, in place since 1885 and named after A.S. Aryton MP, the first Commissioner of works. Another fascinating story is the one of the old pennies: to regulate the clock old pennies are used. One old penny lets the clock gain 2/5 th of a second per day. Fascinating!!
The tower also has a prison room, well, more of an incarceration room, where MPs could be sent when they misbehaved. Charles Bradlaugh was sent here in 1880, because as atheist he didn’t want to take the Official Oath on the bible and Emily Pankhurst, Britain’s famous feminist, as well in early 20th century.

But even if the bell is fascinating, the façade is even more so. I cannot get enough of this delicate work, Pugin and Barry realised when they designed the belltower. Don’t just look at it from far away, but take your time to discover the many details ot the top. Look at photo 4: there is a frieze of many black/green/gold coats of arms, among them the chained porticullis (symbol of the Palace of Westminster), Scotland’s thistle and Wales’ daffodil . At the four edges is the unified white-red rose of Lancaster and York and Northern Ireland’s shamrock on the top of the little spires . And the clock face itself is magnificent as well, 312 panes of opaque glass form each of the four clock faces. From UK Parliament’s photos I learned that one of these panes is movable for maintenance.

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