Parliament Square is a square at the northwest end of the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster in central London. It features a large open green area in the centre with trees to its west, and it contains twelve statues of statesmen and other notable individuals.
As well as being one of London's main tourist attractions, it is also the place where many demonstrations and protests have been held. The square is overlooked by various official buildings: legislature to the east (in the Houses of Parliament), executive offices to the north (on Whitehall), the judiciary to the west (the Supreme Court), and the church to the south (with Westminster Abbey).
Buildings looking upon the square include the churches Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's, Westminster, the Middlesex Guildhall which is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Government Offices Great George Street serving HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs, and Portcullis House.
Roads that branch off the Parliament Square are St Margaret Street (towards Millbank), Broad Sanctuary (towards Victoria Street), Great George Street (towards Birdcage Walk), Parliament Street (leading into Whitehall), and Bridge Street (leading onto Westminster Bridge).
Parliament Square was laid out in 1868 in order to open up the space around the Palace of Westminster and improve traffic flow, and featured London's first traffic signals. A substantial amount of property had to be cleared from the site. The architect responsible was Sir Charles Barry. Its original features included the Buxton Memorial Fountain, which was removed in 1940 and placed in its present position in nearby Victoria Tower Gardens in 1957. In 1950 the square was redesigned by George Grey Wornum. The central garden of the square was transferred from the Parliamentary Estate to the control of the Greater London Authority by the Greater London Authority Act 1999. It has responsibility to light, cleanse, water, pave, and repair the garden, and has powers to make bylaws for the garden.
The east side of the square, lying opposite one of the key entrances to the Palace of Westminster, has historically been a common site of protest against government action or inaction. On May Day 2000 the square was transformed into a giant allotment by a Reclaim the Streets guerrilla gardening action. Most recently, Brian Haw staged a continual protest there for several years, campaigning against British and American action in Iraq. Starting on 2 June 2001, Haw left his post only once, on 10 May 2004 – and then because he had been arrested on the charge of failing to leave the area during a security alert, and returned the following day when he was released. The disruption that Haw's protest is alleged to have caused led Parliament to insert a clause into the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 making it illegal to have protests in Parliament Square (or, indeed, in a large area reaching roughly half a mile in all directions) without first seeking the permission of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
The provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act relating to Parliament Square were repealed by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which provides for a different regime of "prohibited activities".
As well as sparking a great deal of protest from various groups on the grounds of infringement of civil liberties including the European Convention on Human Rights, the Act was initially unsuccessful in accomplishing its goals: Brian Haw was held to be exempt from needing authorisation in a High Court ruling, as his protest had started before the Act came into effect (though any new protests would be covered); Haw remained in Parliament Square. Later, the Court of Appeal overturned this ruling, forcing Haw to apply for police authorisation to continue his protest.
The square is home to twelve statues of British, Commonwealth and foreign political figures. They are listed here in anti-clockwise order, beginning with Winston Churchill's statue, which faces Parliament.
|Image||Subject||Location||Sculptor||Date of unveiling||Notes||Listing|
| Winston Churchill |
Prime Minister 1940–1945 and 1951–1955
|North-eastern edge of the green||Ivor Roberts-Jones||1 November 1973|
Unveiled by Clementine, Baroness Spencer-Churchill. Churchill indicated his desire for a statue of himself in this spot when Parliament Square was redeveloped in the 1950s. Roberts-Jones’s initial versions of the statue were felt to bear too close a resemblance to Benito Mussolini.
| David Lloyd George |
Prime Minister 1916–1922
|Northern edge of the green||Glynn Williams||25 November 2007|
Unveiled by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. Stands on a plinth of slate from Penrhyn Quarry, North Wales.
| Jan Smuts |
Prime Minister of South Africa 1919–1924 and 1939–1948
|Northern edge of the green||Sir Jacob Epstein||7 November 1956||Grade II|
| Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston |
Prime Minister 1855–1858 and 1859–1865
|North-western edge of the green||Thomas Woolner||2 February 1876||Grade II|
| Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby |
Prime Minister 1852, 1858–1859 and 1866–1868
|North-western edge of the green||Matthew Noble||11 July 1874||Grade II|
| Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield |
Prime Minister 1868 and 1874–1880
|Western edge of the green||Mario Raggi||19 April 1883|
The statue was the "shrine" of the Primrose League, a conservative association established in Disraeli’s memory, who left wreaths in front of it every year on "Primrose Day", the anniversary of his death.
|Sir Robert Peel |
Prime Minister 1834–1835 and 1841–1846
|Western edge of the green||Matthew Noble||1877|
Initially a statue of Peel was commissioned from Carlo Marochetti. This was ready by 1853 but was considered to be far too large. Marochetti produced a smaller work which was placed at the entrance to New Palace Yard; this was removed in 1868 and melted down in 1874.
| George Canning |
Foreign Secretary 1807–1809 and 1822–1827; Prime Minister 1827
|At the square's junction with Great George Street||Sir Richard Westmacott||2 May 1832|
Originally erected in New Palace Yard; in its current location since 1949. The features are based on the portrait bust of Canning by Sir Francis Chantrey, who was "not at all pleased with the preference shewn to Mr. Westmacott".
| Abraham Lincoln |
President of the United States 1861–1865
|In front of the Middlesex Guildhall||Augustus Saint-Gaudens||July 1920|
A replica of the statue in Lincoln Park, Chicago. This statue was unveiled by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, after being ceremonially presented by the American ambassador and accepted by Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Initially the statue was to be erected in 1914, but this was postponed. By that time some favoured an alternative statue by George Grey Barnard, which was eventually erected in Manchester.
| Nelson Mandela |
President of South Africa 1994–1999
|South-western edge of the green||Ian Walters||29 August 2007|
Westminster Council had earlier refused permission for placing the statue in Trafalgar Square adjacent to South Africa House. The statue was unveiled by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the presence of Wendy Woods, the widow of Donald Woods, a late anti-apartheid campaigner, and the British actor, director and long-time friend of Woods, Richard Attenborough.
| Mahatma Gandhi |
Indian Independence Leader
|Philip Jackson||14 March 2015|
The statue of the Indian independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi is based on a photograph of Gandhi standing outside the offices of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Ramsay MacDonald in 1931. It was unveiled by Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 14 March, 2015. The statue was dedicated as a commemoration of the centennial of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa, which is generally regarded as the commencement of his efforts for Indian independence. Speakers at the unveiling of the statue included Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, Indian film star Amitabh Bachchan and Gandhi's grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
| Millicent Fawcett |
Campaigner for women's suffrage
|Gillian Wearing||24 April 2018|
Erected in conjunction with the centenary of women being granted the vote in the UK, following a campaign led by Caroline Criado-Perez, this is the first statue of a woman to be included in Parliament Square. It is by Gillian Wearing, making her the first woman to create a statue that stands in Parliament Square. Dame Millicent was a prominent leader during the campaign for women's suffrage, serving as president of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies for more than twenty years, as well as co-founding Newnham College, Cambridge. This statue depicts her as a 50-year-old, the age at which she became president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. The banner her statue holds reads: "Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere", an extract from a speech she made after the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison.
The Parliament Square Peace Campaign was a peace campaign started by Brian Haw in 2001 and carried on by Barbara Tucker until 2013.
In May 2010, a peace camp known as Democracy Village was set up on the square to protest (initially) against the British government's involvement in invasions in the Middle East, which became an eclectic movement encompassing left-wing causes and anti-globalisation protests.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson appealed to the courts to have them removed and, after demonstrators lost an appeal in July 2010, Lord Neuberger ruled that the protesters camping on the square should be evicted.The final tents were removed in January 2012.
The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parliament after its occupants, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London, England.
The West End of London is a district of Central London, west of the City of London and north of the River Thames, in which many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues, including West End theatres, are concentrated.
Brian William Haw was an English protester and peace campaigner who lived for almost ten years in a peace camp in London's Parliament Square from 2001, in a protest against UK and US foreign policy. He began the Parliament Square Peace Campaign before the 2001 United States attacks, and became a symbol of the anti-war movement over the policies of both the United Kingdom and the United States in Afghanistan and later Iraq. At the 2007 Channel 4 Political Awards he was voted Most Inspiring Political Figure. Haw died of cancer in Berlin, where he had been receiving medical treatment.
Cities of London and Westminster is a constituency returning a single Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons in the United Kingdom Parliament. It is a borough constituency for the purposes of election expenses and type of returning officer. As with all constituencies, the election is decided using the first past the post system of election. Since its creation at the 1950 general election, the constituency has, thus far, always elected the candidate nominated by the Conservative Party. This constituency is known for being the one in which the British Parliament, Downing Street and Whitehall are located.
The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005 (c.15) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom aimed primarily at creating the Serious Organised Crime Agency. It also significantly extended and simplified the powers of arrest of a constable and introduced restrictions on protests in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster. It was introduced into the House of Commons on 24 November 2004 and was passed by Parliament and given Royal Assent on 7 April 2005.
State Britain is an installation artwork by Mark Wallinger displayed in Tate Britain in January 2007. It is a recreation from scratch of a protest display about the treatment of Iraq, set up by Brian Haw outside Parliament and eventually confiscated by the police. Haw's display contained several hundred items donated by members of the public. As well as continuing the protest, Wallinger's recreation in a different context also brings up questions of authenticity. Wallinger won the Turner Prize in 2007 for this piece.
Abby Jackson is a British artist, Stuckist painter, writer and art activist.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It transfers the control of police forces from police authorities to elected Police and Crime Commissioners. The first police commissioner elections were held in November 2012. The next elections took place in May 2016 and will subsequently take place every four years.
The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, London, is a bronze sculpture of the former British prime minister Winston Churchill, created by Ivor Roberts-Jones.
Nelson Mandela is a bronze sculpture in Parliament Square, London, of former President of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. Originally proposed to Mandela by Donald Woods in 2001, a fund was set up and led by Woods's wife and Lord Richard Attenborough after the death of Woods. The Mayor of London fought for permission from Westminster City Council to locate the statue on the north terrace of Trafalgar Square, but after an appeal it was located in Parliament Square instead where it was unveiled on 29 August 2007.
The Parliament Square Peace Campaign was a peace camp outside the Palace of Westminster in Parliament Square, London, from 2001 to 2013. Activist Brian Haw launched the campaign at the site on 2 June 2001, initially as an around-the-clock protest in response to the United Nations economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. His protest grew broader following the war in Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was joined by Barbara Tucker in December 2005, and stayed at the site day and night for nearly a decade.
Barbara Grace Tucker is an Australian born peace activist. She is a native of the Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley and travelled widely before settling in Britain in the early 1980s.
A statue of William Shakespeare, sculpted by Giovanni Fontana after an original by Peter Scheemakers, has formed the centrepiece of Leicester Square Gardens in London since 1874.
The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square, Westminster, London, is a work by the sculptor Philip Jackson.
The statue of Millicent Fawcett, the suffragist leader and social campaigner, in Parliament Square, London, is a 2018 work by the Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing. Following a campaign and petition by the activist Caroline Criado Perez, the statue's creation was endorsed by both the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The statue, Parliament Square's first monument to a woman and also its first sculpture by a woman, was funded through the government's Centenary Fund, which marks 100 years since some women won the right to vote. The memorial was unveiled on 24 April 2018.
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