Westminster

Last updated

Westminster
Hdr parliament.jpg
The Palace of Westminster
Westminster Abbey St Peter.jpg
Western façade of Westminster Abbey
Greater London UK location map 2.svg
Red pog.svg
Westminster
Location within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ295795
  Charing Cross 0.58 mi (0.9 km)  NEbE
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district SW1
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
UK
England
London
51°29′41″N00°08′07″W / 51.49472°N 0.13528°W / 51.49472; -0.13528 Coordinates: 51°29′41″N00°08′07″W / 51.49472°N 0.13528°W / 51.49472; -0.13528

Westminster is a government district, based in London, which was the former administrative capital of the Kingdom of England and is today part of the wider City of Westminster on the north bank of the River Thames [1] . It is home to one of the highest concentrations of visitor attractions and historic landmarks in London, including: the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Contents

Historically the area lay within St Margaret's parish, City and Liberty of Westminster, Middlesex.

The name Westminster (Old English :Westmynstre) [2] originated from the informal description of the abbey church and royal peculiar of St Peter's (Westminster Abbey), located west of the City of London (and, until the Reformation, there was an Eastminster , near the Tower of London, in the East End of London). 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 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.

The area has a substantial residential population. By the 20th Century Westminster has seen rising numbers of residential apartments with wealthy inhabitants. Hotels, large Victorian homes and barracks exist near to Buckingham Palace.

History

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. [3] The settlement grew up around the palace and abbey, as a service area for them. The parish church, St Margaret's Westminster served the wider community of the parish; the servants of the palace and abbey as well as the rural population and those associated with the high status homes developing on the road from the City. The area became larger and in the Georgian period became connected through urban ribbon development with the City along the Strand.

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. [4]

Royal seat

Bird's-eye view of Westminster in 1909 Bird Eye Pictures of London Westminster in 1909.jpg
Bird's-eye view of Westminster in 1909

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.

Victorian divide

Part of Charles Booth's poverty map showing Westminster in 1889. The colours of the streets represent the economic class of the residents: Yellow ("Upper-middle and Upper classes, Wealthy"), red ("Lower middle class - Well-to-do middle class"), pink ("Fairly comfortable good ordinary earnings"), blue ("Intermittent or casual earnings"), and black ("lowest class occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals"). Booth coloured Victoria Street, with its new shops and flats, yellow. The model dwellings built by the Peabody Trust on the side streets off Victoria Street appear as pink and grey, signalling modest respectability, while the black and blue streets represent the remaining slum areas housing the poorest. Booth map of Westminster.jpg
Part of Charles Booth's poverty map showing Westminster in 1889. The colours of the streets represent the economic class of the residents: Yellow ("Upper-middle and Upper classes, Wealthy"), red ("Lower middle class – Well-to-do middle class"), pink ("Fairly comfortable good ordinary earnings"), blue ("Intermittent or casual earnings"), and black ("lowest class occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals"). Booth coloured Victoria Street, with its new shops and flats, yellow. The model dwellings built by the Peabody Trust on the side streets off Victoria Street appear as pink and grey, signalling modest respectability, while the black and blue streets represent the remaining slum areas housing the poorest.

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 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 buildings [6] and nearby social housing (mostly non-council housing) buildings of the Peabody Trust founded by philanthropist George Peabody.

Local government

A map showing the wards of Westminster Metropolitan Borough as they appeared in 1916 Westminster Met. B Ward Map 1916.svg
A map showing the wards of Westminster Metropolitan Borough as they appeared in 1916

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. 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 Town Hall in Caxton Street from 1883. [7]

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 the Metropolitan Borough of Westminster. The borough was given city status at the same time, 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 1965. [8]

The City and Liberty of Westminster and the Metropolitan Borough of Westminster were very similar in extent, covering the parts of the wider modern City of Westminster south of the Oxford Street, and its continuations Hyde Park Place. The exception is that part of Kensington Gardens, south of that road, are part of Paddington.

Wider uses of the term

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.

Westminster from the dome on Methodist Central Hall.jpg
Panorama of Westminster taken from the roof of the Methodist Central Hall

High Commissions

Education

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.

Notable people

Related Research Articles

City of Westminster City and borough in London

The City of Westminster is in London and is an Inner London borough that holds city status. For centuries, it has been the location of the national government. It occupies much of the central area of Greater London including most of the West End. Historically in Middlesex, it is immediately to the west of the older 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 District within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London

Kensington is an affluent district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the West of central London.

Whitehall road in the City of Westminster, in central London

Whitehall is a road and area in the City of Westminster, Central London. The road forms the first part of the A3212 road from Trafalgar Square to Chelsea. It is the main thoroughfare running south from Trafalgar Square towards Parliament Square. The street is recognised as the centre of the Government of the United Kingdom and is lined with numerous departments and ministries, including the Ministry of Defence, Horse Guards and the Cabinet Office. Consequently, the name 'Whitehall' is used as a metonym for the British civil service and government, and as the geographic name for the surrounding area.

Palace of Whitehall building in the City of Westminster, 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 notably Inigo Jones's Banqueting House of 1622, were destroyed by fire. Henry VIII moved the royal residence here after the old royal apartments at the nearby Palace of Westminster were themselves destroyed by fire.

Metropolitan Borough of Westminster

The Metropolitan Borough of Westminster was a metropolitan borough in the County of London, England, from 1900 to 1965.

St Margarets, Westminster church building in Westminster, London, United Kingdom

The Church of St Margaret, Westminster Abbey, in the grounds of Westminster Abbey on Parliament Square, London, England, was, until 1972, the Anglican parish church of the House of Commons. It is dedicated to Margaret of Antioch, and forms part of a single World Heritage Site with the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.

Parliament Square square in London, United Kingdom

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, London, UK.

Cities of London and Westminster (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1950 onwards

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, Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, and Whitehall are located.

City and Liberty of Westminster

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 former civil parish in the metropolitan area of London, England

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 (parish) civil parish within the Liberty of Westminster

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.

Westminster St Margaret and St John ancient parish in the City of Westminster

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.

Eia Former Medieval manor in Middlesex, England

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:

This is a list of the etymology of street names in the London district of Westminster. The Westminster area has no formally defined boundaries - those utilised here are the generally accepted boundaries of: The Mall and Northumberland Avenue to the north, the river Thames and Victoria Embankment/Millbank to the east, Vauxhall Bridge Road to the south and Buckingham Gate, Buckingham Palace Road and Bressenden Place to the west. For convenience Constitution Hill and Spur Road in the Royal Parks, and the area around the Wellington Arch, are included here, as are the streets in the Leicester Square area.

West London Western part of London, England

West London is a popularly, but informally and inexactly defined part of London, England.

References

Notes
  1. "London's Places" (PDF). London Plan . Greater London Authority. 2011. p. 46. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 April 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  2. "Manuscript C: Cotton Tiberius C.i". asc.jebbo.co.uk. Retrieved 24 November 2018. 'On þisum geare com Harold kyng of Eoforwic to Westmynstre'
  3. Jacqueline Riding, All Change at the Palace of Westminster, BBC.
  4. "Westminster | History of Parliament Online". www.historyofparliamentonline.org.
  5. Richard, Dennis (2008). Cities in Modernity: Representations and Productions of Metropolitan Space. Cambridge University Press. p. 140. ISBN   978-0-521-46841-1.
  6. "OS Map with Listed Buildings". English Heritage. Archived from the original on 10 April 2011.
  7. GLA planning report PDU/0583/01 Archived 17 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine 2003
  8. "Local Government Act 1963". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
Bibliography

Further reading