Friday, July 4, 2014

Houses of Parliament

Hello, everybody!

Happy Fourth of July! I hope you all are enjoying your holiday, celebrating our fantastic country. I am personally having a great day, and I am excited to watch Estes Park's fireworks show tonight from the Baldpate Inn's front porch. The Fourth of July is always a fun holiday for me, and this year I get to share it with the family here at the Baldpate.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I probably should have chosen a truly American key to talk about today in this blog. I chose, though, a key that comes from England. Isn't it ironic that I would choose a key from the country from which we were declaring independence on this day in 1776? Anyway, the key that I am going to talk about is the key to the main gate for the Houses of Parliament in London. This is one of the keys that I'll be talking about in my presentation on July 30 for our Summer Enchanted Evenings. My presentation is all about Hollywood, and you'll have to come see it if you want to know how an English key relates to Hollywood. This key from the Houses of Parliament seems to be missing a tag, so we don't know when it was donated or by whom it was donated. It is interestingly shaped and is quite a unique key. Let me tell you a little bit about the Houses of Parliament in England.

The Houses of Parliament is also known as the Palace of Westminster and is the seat of the two parliamnetary houses of the United Kingdom, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The building is located on the banks of the river Thames. When the parliament was created with two houses, the House of Lords met at the Palace of Westminster while the House of Commons did not have a permanent location. In 1530, King Henry VIII moved his court to Whitehall Palace, but the House of Lords continued to meet at the Palace of Westminster. In 1547, the House of Commons also moved to the Palace of Westminster.

The Old Palace was actually destroyed by a fire in 1834. The Jewel Tower, the crypt and cloister of St. Stephen, and Westminster Hall were the only parts of the building that were left intact. There were ninety-seven entries in the competition that was held to determine the design of the new building, and Sir Charles Barry alongside Augustus Pugin created the winning design. The design was for a large but balanced complex that was created in neo-Gothic style and incorporates the structures that survived the fire. The building contains 1,100 rooms that surround two courtyards. The construction lasted between 1840 and 1870. Interesting parts of the building include Big Ben, the Commons Chamber and Lords Chamber, and Westminster Hall.

The famous clock tower that was included in the design was originally called St. Stephen's Tower, but it was soon named after the tower's largest bell, the Big Ben. A light at the top of the tower is illuminated when Parliament is sitting at night.

The Commons Chamber and the Lords Chamber are where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet respectively. The Commons Chamber was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt
by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1950. The Lords Chamber is more lavishly decorated than the Commons Chamber. The balance of power has moved, though, over time from the House of Lords to the House of Commons.

Westminster Hall is the oldest hall in the Houses of Parliament, left standing after the fire that destroyed most of the building in 1834. Westminster Hall dates back to 1097. The large hammer beam roof was built in the fourteenth century and replaced the original roof that was supported by two rows of pillars. The following link will take you to an online tour of Westminster Hall:

I also want to include some interesting, strange facts about the Houses of Parliament. It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament because it is a royal palace. People are also not allowed to wear armor in the building because it is supposed to be a peaceful place. In addition, the only Member of Parliament allowed to eat or drink in the Chamber is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who can have an alcoholic drink while delivering the budget.

I hope you enjoyed today's blog! Comment and tell me about your favorite Fourth of July tradition.

Have a great day!

Key Room Museum Curator