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.
View from the River Thames
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.
Victoria Tower - with the Sovereign's Entrance beneath
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.
Houses of Parliament
The fire gave Sir Charles Barry the opportunity of designing the Gothic Houses of Parliament we know today. The modern Palace of Westminster is the largest Gothic building in the world - there are over 1,000 rooms and two miles of corridors in it.
The Palace of Westminster contain the bell Big Ben that is struck each quarter hour. A light in the clock tower tells when the House of Commons is in session.
Big Ben is one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The clock tower is situated on the banks of the river Thames and is part of the Palace of Westminster.
Officially "Big Ben" does not refer to the whole clocktower (also known as St Stephen's Tower), but to the huge thirteen ton bell that strikes the hour.
The Great Bell which was first struck on the 7 September 1859
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)