The Palace of Westminster
Western façade of Westminster Abbey
|OS grid reference|
|• Charing Cross||0.58 mi (0.9 km) NEbE|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Westminster is a government district and former capital of the Kingdom of England in Central London within the City of Westminster, part of the West End, on the north bank of the River Thames.Westminster's concentration of visitor attractions and historic landmarks, one of the highest in London, includes the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.
Historically the area lay within St Margaret's parish, City and Liberty of Westminster, Middlesex.
The name Westminster (Old English :Westmynstre) originated from the informal description of the abbey church and royal peculiar of St Peter's (Westminster Abbey), literally West of the City of London (indeed, until the Reformation there was a reference to the 'East Minster' at Minories (Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate) east of the City). The abbey was part of the royal palace that had been created here by Edward the Confessor. It has been the home of the permanent institutions of England's government continuously since about 1200 (High Middle Ages' Plantagenet times), and from 1707 the British Government.
In a government context, Westminster often refers to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Palace of Westminster — also known as the Houses of Parliament. The closest tube stations are Westminster and St James's Park, on the Jubilee, Circle, and District lines.
The area is the centre of Her Majesty's Government, with Parliament in the Palace of Westminster and most of the major Government ministries known as Whitehall, itself the site of the royal palace that replaced that at Westminster.
Within the area is Westminster School, a major public school which grew out of the Abbey, and the University of Westminster, attended by over 20,000 students. Bounding Westminster to the north is Green Park, a Royal Park of London.
The area has a substantial residential population. By the 20th Century Westminster has seen rising residential condominiums with wealthy inhabitants. Hotels, large Victorian homes and barracks exist near to Buckingham Palace.
For a list of street name etymologies for Westminster see Street names of Westminster
The name describes an area no more than 1 mile (1.6 km) from Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster immediately to the west of the River Thames. The settlement grew up around the palace and abbey, as a service area for them. The need for a parish church, St Margaret's Westminster for the servants of the palace and of the abbey who could not worship there indicates that it had a population as large as that of a small village. It became larger and in the Georgian period became connected through urban ribbon development with the City along the Strand. It did not become a viable local government unit created as a civil parish.
Henry VIII's Reformation in the early 16th century abolished the Abbey and established a Cathedral - thus the parish ranked as a "City", although it was only a fraction of the size of the City of London and the Borough of Southwark at that time.
Indeed, the Cathedral and diocesan status of the church lasted only from 1539 to 1556, but the "city" status remained for a mere parish within Middlesex. As such it is first known to have had two Members of Parliament in 1545 as a new Parliamentary Borough, centuries after the City of London and Southwark were enfranchised.
The former Thorney Island, the site of Westminster Abbey, formed the historic core of Westminster. The abbey became the traditional venue of the coronations of the kings and queens of England from that of Harold Godwinson (1066) onwards.
From about 1200 the Palace of Westminster, near the abbey, became the principal royal residence, a transition marked by the transfer of royal treasury and financial records to Westminster from Winchester. Later the palace housed the developing Parliament and England's law courts. Thus London developed two focal points: the City of London (financial/economic) and Westminster (political and cultural).
The monarchs moved their principal residence to the Palace of Whitehall (1530-1698), then to St James's Palace in 1698, and eventually to Buckingham Palace and other palaces after 1762. The main law courts moved to the Royal Courts of Justice in the late-19th century.
Charles Booth's poverty map showing Westminster in 1889 recorded the full range of income and capital brackets living in adjacent streets within the area; its central western area had become (by 1850) (the) Devil's Acre in the southern flood channel ravine of the Tyburn (stream), yet along Victoria Street and other small streets and squares had the highest colouring of social class in London, yellow/gold. Westminster has shed the abject poverty with the clearance of this slum and with drainage improvement, but there is a typical Central London property distinction within the area which is very acute, epitomised by grandiose 21st-century developments, architectural high-point listed buildingsand nearby social housing (mostly non-council housing) buildings of the Peabody Trust founded by philanthropist George Peabody.
The Westminster area formed part of the City and Liberty of Westminster in Middlesex. The ancient parish was St Margaret; after 1727 this became the civil parish of 'St Margaret and St John', the latter a new church required for the increasing population. The area around Westminster Abbey formed the extra-parochial Close of the Collegiate Church of St Peter surrounded by — but not part of — either parish.[ clarification needed ][ surrounded by both parishes? ] Until 1900 the local authority was the combined vestry of St Margaret and St John (also known as the Westminster District Board of Works from 1855 to 1887), which was based at Westminster City Hall in Caxton Street from 1883.
The Liberty of Westminster, governed by the Westminster Court of Burgesses, also included St Martin in the Fields and several other parishes and places. Westminster had its own quarter sessions, but the Middlesex sessions also had jurisdiction. The area was transferred from Middlesex to the County of London in 1889, and the local government of Westminster was reformed in 1900, when the court of burgesses and the parish vestries were abolished, and replaced by a metropolitan borough council. The borough was given[ when? ] city status, allowing it to be known as the City of Westminster and its council as Westminster City Council— a title which was retained when it was merged with the boroughs of St Marylebone and Paddington in the 1960.
Thus "Westminster", with its focus in public life from early history, is casually used as a metonym for Parliament and the political community of the United Kingdom generally. (The civil service is similarly referred to by the northern sub-neighbourhood it inhabits, "Whitehall".) "Westminster" is consequently also used in reference to the Westminster system, the parliamentary model of democratic government that has evolved in the United Kingdom and for those other nations, particularly in the Commonwealth of Nations and other parts of the former British Empire that adopted it.
The term "Westminster Village", sometimes used in the context of British politics, does not refer to a geographical area at all; employed especially in the phrase "Westminster Village gossip", it denotes a supposedly close social circle of members of parliament, political journalists, so-called spin doctors and others connected to events in the Palace of Westminster and Government ministries.
The City of Westminster is an Inner London borough that also holds city status. It occupies much of the central area of Greater London including most of the West End. Historically in Middlesex, it is to the west of the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary is the River Thames. The London borough was created with the 1965 establishment of Greater London. Upon its creation, it inherited the city status previously held by the smaller Metropolitan Borough of Westminster from 1900, which was first awarded to Westminster in 1540.
Kensington is an affluent district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the West End of central London.
The Palace of Whitehall at Westminster, Middlesex, was the main residence of the English monarchs from 1530 until 1698, when most of its structures, except for Inigo Jones's Banqueting House of 1622, were destroyed by fire. It had at one time been the largest palace in Europe, with more than 1,500 rooms, overtaking the Vatican, before itself being overtaken by the expanding Palace of Versailles, which was to reach 2,400 rooms. The palace gives its name, Whitehall, to the street on which many of the current administrative buildings of the present-day British government are situated, and hence metonymically to the central government itself. At its most expansive, the palace extended over much of the area bordered by Northumberland Avenue in the north; to Downing Street and nearly to Derby Gate in the south; and from roughly the elevations of the current buildings facing Horse Guards Road in the west, to the then banks of the River Thames in the east —a total of about 23 acres (9.3 ha). It was about 710 yards (650 m) from Westminster Abbey.
The Metropolitan Borough of Westminster was a metropolitan borough in the County of London, England, from 1900 to 1965.
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.
Westminster is an area within the City of Westminster.
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 is the constituency in which the British Parliament is located.
The Metropolis Management Act 1855 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that created the Metropolitan Board of Works, a London-wide body to co-ordinate the construction of the city's infrastructure. The Act also created a second tier of local government consisting of parish vestries and district boards of works. The Metropolitan Board of Works was the forerunner of the London County Council.
The City and Liberty of Westminster was a unit of local government in the county of Middlesex, England. It was located immediately to the west of the City of London. Originally under the control of Westminster Abbey, the local authority for the area was the Westminster Court of Burgesses from 1585 to 1900. The area now forms the southern part of the City of Westminster in Greater London.
Westminster St George's, originally named St George's, Hanover Square, was a parliamentary constituency in Central London. It returned one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the first past the post system of election.
St George Hanover Square was a civil parish in the metropolitan area of London, England. The creation of the parish accompanied the building of the St George's Hanover Square Church, constructed by the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches to meet the demands of the growing population. The parish was formed in 1724 from part of the ancient parish of St Martin in the Fields in the Liberty of Westminster and county of Middlesex. It included some of the most fashionable areas of the West End of London, including Belgravia and Mayfair. Civil parish administration, known as a select vestry, was dominated by members of the British nobility until the parish adopted the Vestries Act 1831. The vestry was reformed again in 1855 by the Metropolis Management Act. In 1889 the parish became part of the County of London and the vestry was abolished in 1900, replaced by Westminster City Council. The parish continued to have nominal existence until 1922. As created, it was a parish for both church and civil purposes, but the boundaries of the ecclesiastical parish were adjusted in 1830, 1835 and 1865.
St Martin in the Fields was a civil parish in the metropolitan area of London, England. It took its name from the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields and was within the Liberty of Westminster. It included within its boundaries the former extra-parochial areas of Buckingham Palace and St James's Palace.
St Anne Within the Liberty of Westminster, also known as St Anne Soho, was a civil parish in the metropolitan area of London, England. The creation of the parish accompanied the building of St Anne's Church, Soho to meet the demands of the growing population. The parish was formed in 1687 from part of the ancient parish of St Martin in the Fields in the Liberty of Westminster and county of Middlesex. It included the eastern section of the contemporary districts of Soho to the north of Shaftesbury Avenue and Chinatown to the south of it. Initially controlled by a select vestry, the parish was governed by an open vestry of all inhabitants until 1855, when the vestry was superseded for most purposes by the Strand District Board of Works. In 1889 the parish became part of the County of London and in 1900 the local authority became Westminster City Council. The parish continued to have nominal existence until 1922.
St Margaret was an ancient parish in the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex. It included the core of modern Westminster, including the Palace of Westminster and the area around, but not including Westminster Abbey. It was divided into St Margaret's and St John's in 1727, to coincide with the building of the Church of St John the Evangelist, constructed by the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches in Smith Square to meet the demands of the growing population, but there continued to be a single vestry for the parishes of St Margaret and St John. This was reformed in 1855 by the Metropolis Management Act, and the two parishes formed the Westminster District until 1887. St Margaret and St John became part of the County of London in 1889. The vestry was abolished in 1900, to be replaced by Westminster City Council, but St Margaret and St John continued to have a nominal existence until 1922.
The Commissioners of Scotland Yard was the informal name for the Commissioners for the Streets and Wayes, a body of improvement commissioners established in 1662 to manage and regulate various areas relating to streets and traffic in the cities of London and Westminster and the borough of Southwark. They were appointed under a 1662 Act of the Parliament of England which expired in 1679. The Commissioners' office was attached to that of the Surveyor of the King's Works in Scotland Yard.
Eia or Eye was an early Medieval manor in the parish of Westminster, Middlesex and is now a part of Central London It was about one mile west of the Palace of Westminster/Whitehall, about 2 miles west-south-west of the walled City of London, and about half a mile north of the River Thames. A smaller sub-manor called Ebury or Eybury, containing the hamlet Eye Cross, was originally part of the manor. Ebury and a corruption of it, Avery, appear as modern streets and other places.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to London:
West London is a popularly, but informally and inexactly defined part of London, England.
'On þisum geare com Harold kyng of Eoforwic to Westmynstre'
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