The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Commonly known as the Houses of Parliament after its occupants, it is also known as the ‘heart of British politics’. The Palace lies on the northern bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London. Its name derives from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey.
In 1834, fire ravaged the heavily rebuilt Houses of Parliament, and the only medieval structures of significance to survive were Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen’s, the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, and the Jewel Tower.
The subsequent competition for the reconstruction of the Palace was won by the architect Charles Barry, whose design was for new buildings in the Gothic Revival style, specifically inspired by the English Perpendicular Gothic style of the 14th-16th centuries.
The Elizabeth Tower, in particular, which is often referred to by the name of its main bell, “Big Ben”, is an iconic landmark of London and the United Kingdom in general, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and an emblem of parliamentary democracy. The Palace of Westminster has been a Grade I listed building since 1970 and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.