Westminster Palace, rebuilt from the year 1840 on the site of important medieval remains, is a fine example of neo-Gothic architecture. The site – which also comprises the small medieval Church of Saint Margaret, built in Perpendicular Gothic style, and Westminster Abbey, where all the sovereigns since the 11th century have been crowned – is of great historic and symbolic significance.
Westminster Abbey, the Palace and St Margaret's illustrate in a concrete way the specificities of parliamentary monarchy over nine centuries. Whether one looks at the royal tombs or the chapter house, the remarkable vastness of Westminster Hall, of the House of Lords or of the House of Commons, art is everywhere present and harmonious, making it a veritable museum of the history of the United Kingdom. Westminster Abbey is a unique artistic construction representing a striking sequence of the successive phases of English Gothic art. In addition to its influence on English architecture during the Middle Ages, the abbey has played another leading role by influencing the work of Barry and Pugin at Westminster Palace, in the 'Gothic Revival' of the 19th century.
On 16 October 1834, a fire almost completely destroyed the old Westminster Palace. Since 1547, it had been the seat of regular parliamentary assemblies. Previously, it was the principal residence of the kings of England, from Edward the Confessor to Henry VIII. The construction of a new Westminster Palace by Sir Charles Barry and A. W. N. Pugin began in 1835.
The seat of Parliament, which includes to the south of a central tower, the House of Lords, and to the north the House of Commons, illustrates in colossal proportions the grandeur of the constitutional monarchy and the principle of the bicameral system.
Its facade, situated along the Thames, is 266 m long; the Victoria Tower is to the south, and the Clock Tower (Big Ben) to the north. The ensemble is constructed in the Gothic Tudor style, so as to show, by a deliberately English historical reference, the national character of the monument. The construction is grouped around some precious vestiges of medieval times, the main three of which are Westminster Hall (rebuilt in 1394-99 by Henri Yevele, and a key monument of Perpendicular style), the chapel of St Mary of the Crypt and the Jewel Tower.
The new Westminster Palace is an outstanding, coherent and complete example of neo-Gothic style, with the magnificent interiors of the Royal Gallery, House of Lords, Central Lobby, House of Commons, library, apartments, etc. The palace is also a vivid symbol of one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world. Victoria Tower holds 3 million archival documents, including all Acts of Parliament since 1497.
Westminster Abbey, where all the kings of England have been crowned since 1066, is inseparable from the parliamentary history of the kingdom and the throne is an obvious symbol. Prior to 1547, when the king granted the Commons the chapel of St Stephen, they had no seat in the palace and held their meetings in the abbey.
St Margaret's, a charming Gothic construction, continues to be the parish church of the House of Commons.