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Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament is the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, symbolises Great Britain. This is far more than just a historical building – it is a functioning institution where politicians make decisions and the prime minister carries out his daily business.

The House of Commons is open to the public, so you can come here to witness politicians in action. The House of Lords: also known as the ‘Upper House’ of the Houses of Parliament. This is where a group of experts in their field who have not been elected democratically aid the government in decision and law making. The Lords are chosen by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The first royal palace was built on this site in the eleventh century. It was the London residence of the Kings of England until 1512 – politicians would often come here to have meetings with the King. In 1512 a fire destroyed the whole complex.

These are the buildings that the legendary Guy Fawkes attempted to burn down in 1604 as part of a conspiracy to overturn the then King, King James, with a team of conspirators, on 05 November he allegedly tunnelled his way into the buildings with gun power. However an anonymous letter to the King alerted his men to a possible danger. On searching the grounds they found Fawkes and the gun powder. He was tortured and hung as punishment and a warning to other would-be traitors.

The complex was rebuilt and the members of Parliament began using the site as the place for their meetings.

There was another fire in 1834 in the re-built complex. There was a competition to choose which architect would design the new Parliamentary buildings. The competition was won by architect Charles Barry. Construction started in 1840 and took thirty years to complete.