Westminster Palace or Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London. The present enormous structure, of Neo-Gothic design, was built (1840–60) by Sir Charles Barry to replace an aggregation of ancient buildings almost completely destroyed by fire in 1834. The complex served as a royal abode until the 16th cent., when it was adopted as the assembly place for the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Great Hall was built by William II at the end of the 11th cent. The superbly constructed hammer-beam roof spanning its width of 68 ft. (20.7 m), part of a subsequent rebuilding of the hall by Richard II, was the finest extant example of medieval open-timber work; it was burned by incendiary bombs in 1941. Westminster Hall was the only portion of the palace to survive intact from the fire of 1834 and now serves as the entrance of the building. In it the House of Lords, sitting as the highest English court of law, met for centuries. Among the numerous events of historic renown enacted there were the deposition of Richard II, the sentencing of Charles I, and the trials of Sir Thomas More and Warren Hastings. Damage inflicted during air raids during World War II has since been completely repaired.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.