Visit to Houses of Parliament
15th August, 2015

On 3rd August 2015, 30 members of the HAHG enjoyed a visit to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. They joined official guided tours starting at about 11 a.m. and lasting around 90 minutes. Besides the Lords Chamber and Commons Chamber, the tour visited less-familiar areas, including the Queen’s Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, lobbies and St Stephen’s Hall, before finishing in Westminster Hall.

Although parts of the buildings date back to the 11th century, most of the visible architecture is later than the fire of 1834. Following a public competition to design the new Palace, the entry by Charles, later Sir Charles, Barry was chosen. Barry was assisted in this design by Pugin, who was even more influential during the later construction phase. Earlier parts of the buildings include St Stephens Hall, formerly the chapel of St Stephen where the House of Commons sat before the destructive fire occurred, although the design of the 19th century building was much changed. The earliest existing part of the complex is Westminster Hall, which fortunately escaped the fire, and which features a 14th century hammer-beam roof and even some of the earlier stonework.

A number of the group made independent visits to the 14th century Jewel Tower, formerly a part of the mediaeval Palace of Westminster, but now apart from the present-day complex. The Tower originally housed precious items belonging to the king and now contains an exhibition of less-precious, but still fascinating, items and replicas illustrating the history and role of the building.