Westminster Hall

The south end of Westminster Hall. The stained-glass window by Sir Ninian Comper is a memorial to the Members and servants of both Houses of Parliament who fell in the war of 1939-45
The south end of Westminster Hall.  The stained-glass window by Sir Ninian Comper is a memorial to the Members and servants of both Houses of Parliament who fell in the war of 1939-45

The south end of Westminster Hall.
The stained-glass window by Sir Ninian Comper is a memorial to the Members and servants of both Houses of Parliament who fell in the war of 1939-45

Westminster Hall is the oldest remaining part of the Palace, and its walls incorporate part of the walls of the original hall built by William II, Rufus, between 1097 and 1099. Despite its great size (240 feet long, 68 feet wide) William declared it to be ‘a mere bed-chamber compared with what he had intended’. The Hall which we now see was built by Richard II between 1394 and 1399 and his badge, a chained hart, is repeated along the string-course. The architect was Henry Yevele, the first great exponent of the Perpendicular style. The great glory of the Hall, the hammer-beam roof, was the work of Hugh Herland, son of the designer of Windsor Great Hall. Much of the original oak has been replaced and the trusses have been strengthened with concealed steel girders. Part of the lantern and a considerable area of the roof were destroyed by fire in the air raid of 10 May 1941. The statues of the six kings on the south wall, and also the five larger statues of kings on the window-sills which originally stood on the north front, are contemporary with the roof.

From the earliest times the Hall was used for the meetings of the King’s Great Council, out of which developed the Royal Courts of Justice on the one hand and Parliament on the other. The law courts sat in or about the Hall from the thirteenth century until 1882 when they moved to the Strand. The Hall did not become the normal meeting- place of parliaments, although the extraordinary assemblies which deposed Edward II and Richard II met here. The Hall was also the scene of most of the great state trials and impeachments, including those of Sir William Wallace in 1305, Saints Thomas More and John Fisher in 1535, Guy Fawkes in 1606, Charles I in 1649, the Scottish rebel lords of 1715 and 1745, and Warren Hastings, whose trial lasted from 1788 to 1795.

From Stephen to George IV the coronation banquet was held here. Here also Oliver Cromwell took the oath as Lord Protector in 1653, and in 1657, ‘adorned in princely state’, took his seat in the Coronation Chair.

The Cloisters, built between 1526 and 1529

The Cloisters, built between 1526 and 1529

In modern times the two Houses of Parliament have met here for ceremonial purposes, as for example in 1960 to welcome President de Gaulle and in 1965 to celebrate the centenary of the parliament to which Simon de Montfort caused representatives of the communes, i.e. the counties and towns, to be summoned. Tablets in the floor of the Hall commemorate the lying in state of Mr Gladstone in 1898, Edward VII in 1910, George V in 1936, George VI in 1952, Queen Mary in 1953, and Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

The Font in the Crypt Chapel

The Font in the Crypt Chapel

The statue of Richard 1, Coeur de Lion, by Carlo Marochetti (1805-68)

The statue of Richard 1, Coeur de Lion, by Carlo Marochetti (1805-68)

 

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