This is the second part of our Christmas Tour for this year and concludes the circular tour we started last December. No pictures are necessary we all know what the tourist sites look like; all that’s provided is a potted history. I’ve attempted to give directions as a Knowledge student would use. Please note also that at this time of year there are many road closures and so it might not always possible to adhere to the tour’s directions.
[T]his short journey takes us from the seat of modern government to the ancient London home of the head of the Anglican Church.
Comply Parliament Square
Houses of Parliament In 1834 the Palace of Westminster burn down, ending the ancient accommodation for England’s legislature for nearly 300 years. Designed by Charles Barry whose son designed Tower Bridge, with ornamentation by Augustus Pugin in Perpendicular Gothic. When the clock tower reached a height of 150ft. work on it had to be suspended as it was discovered that the mechanism of the clock could not be raised inside it.
Westminster Hall The only surviving part of the original Palace of Westminster, built in 1097, with additions and alterations, it has the widest hammer-beam roof in the country added in 1399. Traditionally the Royal champion would ride to the centre of the Hall, throw down his gauntlet, and challenge any man denying the right of the Sovereign to single combat.
From 13th century to 1882 it housed the law courts. In early days men were hired as witnesses here, the sign of their trade was a straw protruding from their shoe, hence expressions ‘man of straw’ and ‘straw bail’ The barristers waiting for a brief, would place themselves around the room leaning against the posts and pillars where the expression ‘going from pillar to post’ comes from.
Amongst those tried here have been Sir John Oldcastle (Shakespeare’s Falstaff), Sir Thomas More, Queen Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes. After the Restoration the heads of Cromwell and his fellow Commonwealth leaders, Ireton and Bradshaw were placed on the roof. Cromwell’s head stayed there for 25 years until it was finally blown down. We seem to have forgiven Mr. Cromwell as his statute has pride of place outside Westminster Hall; unfortunately his spurs are upside down. The Irish however had not forgiven his barbaric treatment of them, as they refused to help finance the making of it.
L/By Margaret Street
F Old Palace Yard
F Abingdon Street
Comply Millbank Circus
Thames House on right headquarters of MI5. They are recruiting what they euphemistically describe as ‘mobile surveillance officers’ that’s spies to you and me. Now I’m old enough to remember the Burgess/Phil by/Maclean debacle and rather assumed recruitment was through an old boys’ network with links to an Oxbridge College, and a predilection to, shall we say? – unusual sexual appetites. There is great deal on the MI5 site about extended working hours, multitasking, thinking on your feet and the need not to have facial tattoos (they make you too noticeable, apparently!), but nothing about getting shot at, being stabbed with trick umbrellas or being irradiated. Should MI5 not be your cup of tea (or vodka martini), there’s always MI6 across the water. So surely there is something in there for everyone?
L/By Lambeth Bridge
Lambeth Bridge As you cross Lambeth Bridge note the bridge is painted red while Westminster Bridge on your left is green. This is reputedly to mirror the leather seats in the Palace of Westminster: green for the House of Commons nearest Westminster Bridge and red for the House of Lords at the other end of the Palace of Westminster nearest to where you now stand.
That is the end of our circular tour. Remember during the Christmas period there are numerous scheduled road works, for check them out follow this link.