The Gunpowder Plot: Parliament & Treason 1605
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The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Hall

Home > Parliament > The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Hall

In 1605, as today, Parliament was based in the Palace of Westminster in London, a complex of medieval buildings grouped around Westminster Hall, originally a royal palace. Following a fire in 1512 the Palace was abandoned by monarchs and became the site of a variety of government offices, including the Royal Courts of Justice.

The picture below, engraved by Wenceslaus Hollar in 1647, shows part of the palace from the river, including Westminster Hall and the House of Commons. The House of Lords is out of the picture, to the left of the House of Commons.

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Palace of Westminster Collection

The plan below was drawn in the early nineteenth century for a reconstruction of the Palace of Westminster as it stood at the beginning of the fifteenth century.

Despite the fire of 1512 there had been little change to the main structures by the time of the Plot. Alterations between the 1790s and 1820s and a great fire of 1834 were to destroy almost all of these buildings except Westminster Hall.

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'Foundation Plan of the Ancient Palace of Westminster', J. T. Smith, Antiquities of Westminster (1807). Parliamentary Archives.

Westminster Hall was the main building of the medieval palace and still stands today. The drawing below shows how it would have looked during the seventeenth century.

Shows a drawing depicting Westminster Hall showing a large gothic-style window at its end. Wooden benches are set against the wall beneath the window and several figures are either seated or milling around in the foreground.
The wooden structures housed the court of King's Bench (left) and Chancery (right) until the eighteenth century. These were removed for occasions such as coronations and major state trials.The south end of Westminster Hall, Anonymous, Anglo-Dutch School, c. 1620. © Trustees of the British Museum.
Westminster Hall remained the site of the law courts until their relocation to the Strand in the nineteenth century.

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