Friday, June 26, 2009

St. Paul's Cathedral, The Palace of Westminster and Big Ben, London, England - 2009

Here are more thoughts on my recent visit to England. 
I was born in Lewisham Hospital, South East London, and like many people born in London I would pass many of the famous buildings and  locations on my way to work, whilst barely noticing them as we are caught up in the busy day to day living. When I go home now I become like a tourist and want to revisit as many of the sites as I can. 

St. Paul's Cathedral
This 'official' aerial photograph of St. Paul's Cathedral shows the scope of this magnificent building. When I was taking photos of the Cathedral I found that my camera could not fit the majesty of this building  onto the camera screen. 

St Paul's Cathedral is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. Work began in 1675 to a design by Sir Christopher Wren. It took 35 years to complete the building.  It was built to replace old St Paul’s that was destroyed 
by the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The present building survived the World War II bombings that flattened a great many of the surrounding buildings. This is the fourth Cathedral to stand on this site. The first, a Saxon building, was built in AD 604. 

 The 360ft high dome which dominates the city's skyline is the second largest in the world. 
The church itself is the largest Protestant church in England. 
When I was a child we often went there on a school trip and the most vivid memory I have is the 'whispering gallery’, which is so named because of the way a voice will echo there.
 If you speak into this one area, what you said is repeated and can be heard as a whisper all around the enormous circular dome and comes out on the other side.
 Very impressive!
The cathedral is still in use today. And you may remember that it was center stage worldwide, via television, in 1981 for the fairytale marriage of Prince Charles and 
Lady Diana Spencer.

Waldorf Astoria Hotel

In the heart of London's West End Theater district the Waldorf Hilton, is a five star hotel with 299 rooms.  The Waldorf Hilton has an illustrious history dating back over a century. Since its opening in 1908, the Waldorf has dominated the Aldwych skyline and is a living tribute to its Edwardian creators. The Waldorf Hilton celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2008.

No I didn't stay there - I was just walking by :-)

Palace of Westminster (official photo)
Now more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament

 The Palace started out, almost 1,000 years ago, as a royal residence in 1042 under Edward the Confessor. The major structure to survive various fires, Westminster Hall, was built between 1087-1100 and is one of the largest medieval halls in Europe with an unsupported hammer beam roof. Thomas More, Charles I and those accused of trying to blow up parliament (1605) were all tried in Westminster Hall.

Following a fire in 1512, Henry VIII decided to abandon the palace and from this moment onwards it became home to the two seats of parliament - the Commons and the Lords. However, it was to suffer from another disastrous fire in 1834 and everything was lost except Westminster Hall.

This site was strategically important during the  Middle Ages , as it was located  on the north bank of the River Thames in the  London Borough of the City of Westminster.   The palace has approximately  1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 3 miles of corridors

During the Second World War, the Palace of Westminster was hit fourteen times by bombs. The worst of these was on 10 May 1941, when the Commons Chamber was destroyed and three people were killed.


Big Ben

Possibly the most famous clock face and chimes in the world, Big Ben is actually the name of the biggest bell (13.5 tons) inside The Clock Tower (320ft) which forms part of the Houses of Parliament. Built in 1858 the bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall and when it was cast it was Britain’s heaviest bell. The clock’s four dials each have a diameter of 23ft, the minute hands are 14ft long and the numerals on each face are nearly 2ft high. The placing of old pennies in the mechanism controls the accuracy of the clock movement, yet it is incredibly accurate.

Big Ben as seen through the London Eye

The Clock Tower houses a large, four-faced clock—the Great Clock of Westminster—also designed by Pugin. The tower also houses five bells, which strike the Westminster Chimes every quarter hour. The largest and most famous of the bells is Big Ben (officially The Great Bell of Westminster), which strikes on the hour.

As I write this I find it really hard to condense more than one thousand years of history into a few short paragraphs. I believe that this is part of the charm that visitors to England feel, in that there are so many hundreds of years of documented history 
that one can view with one's own eyes. 

When I was living in Central America I had a short wave, battery operated, radio that I listened to late at night. I was able to get the BBC news every now and then and I always got comfort from listening to the bells from the Big Ben tower that would chime on the hour, every hour over the airwaves from that station. 

Let's face it, wherever one visits in the world, there is truly 'no place like home' in our hearts.

photos by peacesojourner (unless otherwise stated)


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