Houses of Parliament at dusk

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Palace of Westminster or better known as Houses of Parliament stands in London’s part City of Westminster, on the north bank of Thames River. It is inscribed in World Heritage List as well as UNESCO.

Palace of Westminster is a place where two chambers of Parliament of the United Kingdom (House of Lords and House of Commons) meet to conduct their business. It is one of the largest parliament building in the world, with 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and over 3 kilometres (2 miles) of corridors.

The site of Houses of Parliament has been occupied since Saxon times. However, the oldest existing parts of current buildings complex (Westminster Hall and Great Hall) are from the period of King William II. Palace of Westminster became the monarch’s principal residence and since 1295 also a meeting place of almost all Parliaments in the United Kingdom. After the fire in 1529, the Palace was used only by the two Houses of Parliament and as a law court.

After another big fire on 16 October 1834, most of the Palace was destroyed. The only parts that remained were Westminster Hall, Jewel Tower, the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel (former royal chapel) and cloisters. A new Palace was planned to be build on the same site. In 1836 Royal Commission chose the design of Sir Charles Barry. His plan was in Gothic style. The foundation stone was laid in 1840. Barry worked together with his assistant Augustus Welby Pugin. The Lords' Chamber was completed in 1847, and the Commons' Chamber in 1852. Westminster Hall, which was built in the 11th century and survived the fire, was incorporated in Barry's design. Most of the work was finished by 1860, although the construction was not completely finished until 1870s.

There are several tower incorporated in the Palace. The tallest one (98 metres; 323 feet tall) is located at the south-western end of the Palace. It is called Victoria Tower. It is home to Parliamentary Archives. At its base, there is Sovereign’s entrance to the Palace. At the north-western end there is famous Clock Tower, commonly known also as Big Ben. It is 96 metres (316 feet) tall. St. Stephen’s Tower (or Central Tower) stands over the middle of the Palace and it is the shortest of the three main towers with the height of 91 metres (300 feet). At the front of the Palace there is a small tower that contains the main entrance to the House of Commons at its base. It is known as St Stephen's entrance.
There are a number of small gardens surrounding the Palace of Westminster. However, most of them are private.

Palace of Westminster was controlled by the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Queen’s representative due the fact that it was royal residence. By agreement with the Crown, control passed to the two Houses in 1965. However, some ceremonial rooms are still controlled by Lord Great Chamberlain.
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