Tour of the Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world (even when parts of it are hidden under what seems like acres of scaffolding). With Big Ben’s Elizabeth Tower at one end and the Victoria Tower at the other, its striking façade stretches for 287 metres alongside the River Thames.

The palace is open to the public (see here for tour options) and we recently took the self-guided audio tour, which lasted for around 75 minutes.

Once inside the opportunity for photography is extremely limited (and due to the presence of a ton of security guards and heavily armed police officers, I followed the rules).

The tour offered an fascinating insight into the workings of the UK Parliament, and the separate roles of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The Commons chamber is much, much smaller than it appears when seen on the BBC TV News.

The most poignant part for me were the coats of arms. Nineteen coats of arms along the south gallery of the Commons chamber commemorate MPs who died in the First World War, and the 23 along the northern gallery commemorate those who died in the Second World War. Shields above the north and south entrances bear the arms of four MPs who were murdered by the Irish Liberation Army (INLA) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). One shield above the opposition benches bears the name of Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016.

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
– Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), Hansard, November 11, 1947

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