The Palace of Westminster – or the Houses of Parliament as we know it, is one of the most glorious buildings in London. With a pretty impressive history too. It spans 900 years from the Anglo Saxons to the present. Westminster Hall is the oldest building on the parliamentary estate dating back to the 11th century. It was built by William II between 1097 – 1099 and was the largest hall in England at the time. Decisions made in its corridors of power have shaped Britain’s history.
The Palace was remodelled and extended by various royal residents up until the 1500s when a fire struck and gutted the chambers of King Henry VIII who lived there at the time, after this the royals moved out the lawyers moved in! Naturally, this became the place for anyone with an axe to grind to come and stage their protests here, in more recent times these include flour-bombing Tony Blair and rooftop sit ins dressed as super heroes. And (as we at Davis Brown estate agents in W1 like to be relevant) this is what Guy Fawkes and his cronies tried to do. In a nutshell here’s what happened…. when Protestant King James I came to power laws were made against Catholics and they could only practise their religion in secret. A group of Catholic men found these laws rather unfair and in revenge plotted to assassinate the King. Guy however was not the main man but a chap called Robert Catesby was. They hatched a plan which involved leasing an unused room beneath the House of Lords where they were to lay gunpowder and blow up parliament and the King. Mr Fawkes’ job was to keep watch over the barrels of gunpowder and to light the fuse, but the plan was foiled when he was discovered by soldiers; he was arrested and executed along with his gang. In celebration of his survival King James ordered that the people of England should have a big bonfire on November 5th, and as we all know this tradition holds to this day. So when you’re ooo-ing and ahhh-ing this evening at all the pretty fireworks you will now know the history of why we celebrate November 5th!