January 20th On this day in 1265, Simon de Montfort convened England’s first Parliament at Westminster Hall (see also “The Mother of Parliaments” blog, posted on October 3rd). Before 1265, Parliament, or its precursor, had met in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey (see also “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” blog, posted on December 17th). After 1548, it met in the then-secularised Royal Chapel of St Stephen in the Palace of Westminster.
Westminster Hall was originally built as a royal residence cum banqueting house by William II, Rufus, in 1097-99; and rebuilt, with a spectacular hammerbeam roof, by Henry Yevele, for Richard II, in 1394-1401. It once formed part of the Old Palace of Westminster, work on which is believed to have begun, under Cnut, as long ago as 1016. Together with the adjacent Jewel Tower, it is essentially the only part of the old palace to have survived the terrible fires of 1512 and 1834 (the present, new palace was built, in the Victorian Gothic style, between 1837-58).
Westminster Hall is visited, although not entered, on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey – Priories, Palaces and Parliament” standard walk, and on both our “Medieval London” and “Legal London” themed specials.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of this web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section, by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by phone (020-8998-3051).