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Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is a complex of buildings in London. It is the seat of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the House of Commons). The palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the London borough of the City of Westminster, close to the government buildings of Whitehall.
The palace contains around 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 3 miles (5 km) of corridors. Although the building mainly dates from the 19th century, remaining elements of the original historic buildings include Westminster Hall, used today for major public ceremonial events such as lyings in state, and the Jewel Tower.
Control of the Palace of Westminster and its precincts was for centuries exercised by the Queen's representative, the Lord Great Chamberlain. By agreement with the Crown, control passed to the two Houses in 1965. Certain ceremonial rooms continue to be controlled by the Lord Great Chamberlain.
After a fire in 1834, the present Houses of Parliament were built over the next 30 years. They were the work of the architect Sir Charles Barry (1795–1860) and his assistant Augustus Welby Pugin (1812–52). The design incorporated Westminster Hall and the remains of St Stephen's Chapel.

Fire and reconstruction

On 16 October 1834, a fire broke out in the palace after a stove used to destroy the Exchequer's stockpile of tally sticks ignited panelling in the Lords Chamber. In the resulting conflagration both houses of Parliament were destroyed along with most of the other buildings in the palace complex. Westminster Hall was saved largely due to heroic firefighting efforts. The Jewel Tower, the crypt of St Stephen's Chapel and the cloisters were the only other parts of the palace to survive.
At one stage King William IV considered converting Buckingham Palace into the new Houses of Parliament, which was being renovated at the time.
A Royal Commission was appointed to study the rebuilding of the Palace and a heated public debate over the proposed styles ensued. The neo-Classical design, similar to that of the White House and U.S. Capitol in the United States, was popular at the time, but had connotations of revolution and republicanism, whereas Gothic design embodied conservative values. The Commission announced in June 1835 that "the style of the buildings would be either Gothic or Elizabethan".
In 1836, after studying 97 rival proposals, the Royal Commission chose Charles Barry's plan for a Gothic-style palace. The foundation stone was laid in 1840; the Lords Chamber was completed in 1847, and the Commons Chamber in 1852 (at which point Barry received a knighthood). Although most of the work had been carried out by 1860, construction was not finished until a decade afterwards. Barry (whose own architectural style was more classical than Gothic) relied heavily on Augustus Pugin for the sumptuous and distinctive Gothic interiors, including wallpapers, carvings, stained glass and furnishings, like the royal thrones and canopies.
During the Second World War, the Palace of Westminster was hit fourteen times by bombs (see The Blitz). The worst of these was on 10 May 1941, when the Commons Chamber was destroyed and three people were killed. The chamber was re-built under the architect Giles Gilbert Scott; the work was completed in 1950.
As the need for office space in the Palace increased, Parliament acquired office space in the nearby Norman Shaw Building in 1975, and more recently in the custom-built Portcullis House, completed in 2000. This increase has now allowed all MPs to have their own office facilities.

(Source Wikipedia)