Sunday, 4 January 2009

Westminster

Starting on the South Bank of the Thames by County Hall provides an excellent view over Westminster Bridge towards the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament).



County Hall (main entrance)

County Hall (which has an impressive facade on the Thames) was originally the home of the London County Council (LCC) and then of its successor the Greater London Council (GLC). Afte the abolition of the later the building has (eventually) become a hotel and lesiure complex, housing (amongst others) the London Aquarium.The County Hall Island Block (a concrete monstrosity in the middle of a roundabout) was demolished a couple of years ago and a hotel is currently under construction.



1 Westminster Bridge Road (under construction)

On the opposite side of the road from County Hall is St Thomas' Hospital. Although the buildings look very modern this were reconstructed after war damage and the hospital has actually been on its current site since the late 19th Century.



St Thomas' Hospital

Intesting note: the Houses of Parliament are a royal palace, and as such Commoners are not allowed to die there. Bodies are taken to St Thomas' where the death is certified! Westminster Bridge itself was immortalised by William Wordsworth in his poem 'Upon Westminster Bridge' - although the view invoked by the poem is very different from the one offered today! It is the oldest extant vehicle/passenger bridge in Central London beating Blackfriars Bridge by seven years (opening in 1862 and 1869 respectively). The oldest crossing in London is of course London Bridge (in many incarnations since Roman times) but Westminster is the nex t oldest, having had a bridge located at this point since 1750.



Looking east (Hungerford Bridge and Shell-Mex House)



Looking west (Vauxhall)

Arriving on the North Bank of the Thames one is confronted immediately by the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square.



Looking north (Palace of Westminster)



'Big Ben'

Big Ben is actually the nickname of the Great Bell housed within the Clock Tower, not of the clock (or the tower) itself. Big Ben is accurate to 1/10th of a second - although it isn't even the biggest clock face in London, that honour belongs to the Clock on Shell-Mex House (see photo above). Looking back across the Thames provides a fantastic view of County Hall and the statue of Boudicca (Queen of the Icena) who legend has it is buried somewhere in London - one of the strangest options being under platform 10 of King's Cross station!



County Hall



Paliament Square

Parliament Square is borderd to the south by the Palace of Westminster, to the west by St Margaret's and Westminster Abbey, to the east by Whitehall and to the north by Middlesex Guildhall which is currently undergoing refurbishment to become the UK's Supreme Court. The square acutally functions as a giant roundabout, situated as it is on the confulence of routes East/West and North/South. The square in the centre is almost completely inaccessible, there being no pedestrian crossings. The square is noticable for the statues of several former British Prime Ministers and one of Nelson Mandela; that and the 'peace camp' of protestor Brian Haw, which has been there since 2001 and beginning to look its age.



Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church

The site of noteable weddings and funerals as well as many noteable tombs and of course Poets' Corner Westminster Abbey was originally a monestary which explains the church of St Margaret's so close by! Shown below are some of the statues around Parliament Square these include the likes of Churchill, Disraeli, Palmerston, Peel and Mandela.

From Westminster the next stop is Whitehall.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Whitehall

Whitehall is the name of the road which runs between Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square. Housing many buildings occupied by various Government departments and access to Downing Street (London residence of the Prime Minister) it is synonymous with Government in the UK.


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

There are several buildings along Whitehall other than Government offices - several of these being public houses!


The Red Lion

Other structures on Whitehall include war memorials - one of these being the Cenotaph, designed by Lutyens and constructed around 1920 following the First World War. It is now the location of the Remembrance Sunday ceremony annually.


The Cenotaph

The Cenotaph was joined in 2005 by a second memorial, which is to the women who contributed in many ways during World War II; this is located a little further up towards Trafalgar Square.


Women of World War II Memorial

Probably the most famous part of Whitehall, Downing Street. This is the official residence of both the Prime Minister (at No. 10) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (at No. 11). Pictured here are the heavily guarded gates which block the end of the street from public access.


Downing Street

On the opposite side of Whitehall is located Banqueting House. Constructed in 1622 and designed by Inigo Jones it is the only surviving part of the palace of Whitehall. It was the location of the execution of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II. Much of the splendour of the building is on the inside rather than the outside, and it is open to the public.


Banqueting House

Back across the other side of Whitehall again is the front of Horse Guards Parade. This is the 'official' entrance to St James' and Buckingham Palaces. Mounted members of the Household Cavalry are stationed there from 10am to 4pm and before 8pm and after 7am an unmounted soldier is on duty. The Household Cavalary is made up from two regiments, the Life Guards (wearing red tunics) and the Blues and Royals (wearing navy blue). The changing of the guard can be seen on the parade ground between Whitehall and St James' Park every day at 11am (10am on Sundays). This area will be converted into an arena for Beach Volleyball during the 2012 Olympics.


Whitehall entrance to Horse Guards Parade

This brings us almost to Trafalgar Square, and the end of Whitehall. There are several more 19th Century buildings which still house various Government departments, committees and so on.


The Old Admiralty Building (now the Cabinet Office)


The Old War Office


55 Whitehall