The Palace of Westminster, known also as the Houses of Parliament or just Westminster, is where the two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) conduct their sittings. It is the place where laws governing British life are debated and passed.Its name, which derives from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey, may refer to either of two structures: the Old Palace, a medieval building complex destroyed by fire in 1834, and its replacement, the New Palace that stands today. The palace is owned by the monarch in right of the Crown and, for ceremonial purposes, retains its original status as a royal residence. The building is managed by committees appointed by both houses, which report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker.
Fire and reconstruction
On 16 October 1834, a fire broke out in the Palace after an overheated stove used to destroy the Exchequer's stockpile of tally sticks set fire to the House of Lords Chamber. In the resulting conflagration both Houses of Parliament were destroyed, along with most of the other buildings in the palace complex. Westminster Hall was saved thanks to fire-fighting efforts and a change in the direction of the wind.
In the Parliament
From the middle of the 11th century until 1512 the Palace of Westminster was the royal home to the Kings and Queens of England, hence the name. The Palace of Westminster features three main towers. Of these, the largest and tallest is the 98.5-metre (323 ft) Victoria Tower, which occupies the south-western corner of the Palace.
The Queen rides in a State coach to Westminster to open each new session of Parliament, usually in the second week in November.
Only Westminster Hall (scene of many trials, such as Guy Fawkes' and Charles I's) and St Stephen's Crypt escaped the great fire of 1834. Over 700 years of history were destroyed in that dramatic fire.
Big Ben is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. It is the clock tower. The name Big Ben is often used to describe the clock tower that is part of the Palace of Westminster. Officially "Big Ben" does not refer to the clock tower but instead to the huge thirteen ton Great Bell located at the top of the 320-foot-high tower. The clock tower is now called The Elizabeth Tower. It was called St Stephen's Tower by Victorian journalists. They referred to anything to do with the House of Commons as news from 'St Stephens', as originally MP's used to sit in St Stephen's Hall.
Where is Big Ben located?
Big Ben is situated on the banks of the River Thames on the north side of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.
How heavy is Big Ben bell?
The Big Ben bell has the following measurements:
9'-0" diameter, 7'-6" high, and weighs 13 tons 10 cwts 3 qtrs 15lbs (13,760 Kg)
When can we hear the bell ring?
Big Ben chimes every 15 minutes and the sound can be heard for a radius of up to 5 miles.
Quick Facts about Big Ben
Big Ben is the world's largest four-faced chiming clock. The clock became operational on 7th September 1859. The four faces of the clock are 55 meters above ground. The clock faces are 23 feet (7m) in diameter. The hour hand is 9 ft (2.7m) long, and the minute hand is 14 ft (4.3m) long. The pendulum is 3.9m long, weighs 300Kg and beats once every 2 seconds. At the base of each clock face is a Latin inscription, in gilt letters. It reads -“Domine salvam fac Reginam nostrum Victoriam PrimamO Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First". The clock tower is the focus of New Year celebrations in the United Kingdom, with radio and TV stations tuning to its chimes to welcome the start of the year. On Remembrance Day, the chimes of Big Ben are broadcast to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. A light in the clock tower tells when the House of Commons is in session.