If you saw any of the Queenly speech at Parliament the other day, you might have noticed that it took place in the awesome venue of Westminster Hall.
This grand space although used for functions, spends most of its life as the “entrance hall” for visitors who pass through security to get into the Parliamentary Estate. And a mighty impressing entrance it is too.
Built in 1097, the most impressive part of the hall, apart from its size is the massive hammer-beam roof, which is a later addition, being built around 1393. It’s not known what sort of roof existed before that. The absence of marks in the foundations for supports suggest it could have been a single span roof, even though the techniques to build one were not thought to have existed at the time.
As a semi-regular visitor to the building, I have never quite lost the awe that is felt when going inside the hall, but oddly enough, I have never taken a photo of it.
Photography in most of the Parliamentary Estate is forbidden – except in Westminster Hall. As the Diamond Jubilee stained glass window is on display, today was finally an incentive for me to stop and take photos.
It’s a bit of a difficult location to photograph without a tripod mainly due to the extremes of light and dark, but I think these are modestly decent efforts.
The Diamond Jubilee Stained Glass Window is on display until later this year in its presentation box. It seemed to sit rather uncomfortably within the modern case, more like a plastic advertising sign than a work of glassy art.
It’ll look a lot better when eventually mounted into the window frame it is destined for. I think.
If you want to have a look for yourself, then the building is free to enter, either to listen to a debate, or just have a look around a bit. Just go though security checks and then you are in the Hall. Up the steps at the far end and through the barrier beyond which photos are not allowed, and you are in what was the original House of Commons.
In fact, it was a chapel, with choir benches facing each other, and when the Commons took it over, they retained the layout leading to the layout that presides in its replacement, of politicians facing each other on benches.
Today it’s where the tourist shop resides. Politics to Mammon in roughly 500 years.
Another Hammerbeam roof that is equally impressive, although in a smaller scale is inside Middle Temple just off Fleet Street.