Sunday, April 11, 2010

England's Palace of Westminster

In 1834, the old House of Parliament in London burned down. A year later, a design competition was announced, stating that the building had to be of Gothic or Tudor design, which was bad for all the leading architects, who all built classical buildings. The winner of this competition was Charles Barry, who also made buildings of classical design, but was able to create a Gothic design as requested. The building included new chambers for the Commons and the Lords, along with smoking rooms, kitchens, and libraries. The building ended up being 914ft (289m) long with two main towers, the Victoria Tower to the south and the Clock Tower (holding Big Ben) to the north. Big Ben, the bell in the clock tower, is probably the most famous part of the Palace, but took much time to get working. At first, the casting broke, and the bell was not raised until
1858, and then drowned out the parliamentary speakers, and soon before it was planned to be taken out, an adjustment of the hammer fixed the problem. Charles Barry had another man,
Augustus Welby Pugin, worked on the interior of the Palace. After many years of problems and having to garrison the building to withstand a siege, the Lords and Commons were both finally installed in their chambers in 1852. The whole building was finally finished in 1867, and now stands as one of the greatest sights in London, with the Clock Tower standing high over much of the city.