The Palace of Westminster proudly stands on the north bank of the River Thames in the high-end City of Westminster at the center of London and is near the famed Westminster Abbey and the important government offices of Whitehall and the Prime Minister’s residence on Downing Street.
The original royal palace on the site was built in the Eleventh Century. At the time, Westminster Palace was the primary London residence of the Monarchy. That first complex was destroyed—for the most part—in a fire in 1512. Since Parliament had been meeting at Westminster Palace since the Thirteenth Century, after the fire of 1512, the portion of the palace that was saved remained the seat of Parliament while the monarch’s residence was moved elsewhere. That building was also the seat of the Royal Courts of Justice, based in and around Westminster Hall—the only original part of the structure (built in 1096) which still remains and is a significant part of the Coronation procession.
|J.M.W. Turner's Painting|
Since the Palace of Westminster was such an important part of the inner-workings of the British government, there was no question that the complex needed to be rebuilt. As was often the case with major building commissions, a competition was held to decide upon the best architect and team for the job.
Barry was joined on this project by Augustus W. N. Pugin, who was the leading authority on Gothic architecture at the time. Pugin was instrumental in much of the adornment and decoration of the palace—offering designs for everything from floor tiles and windows to the furnishings. Construction began in 1840 and lasted for over thirty years. Progress was slowed by cost overruns, political woes and the deaths of both Barry and Pugin. The loss of Pugin greatly retarded the interior decoration which consequently continued well into the Twentieth Century. A bombing in 1941 during the Second World War greatly damaged the Palace and required considerable repair.