Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Burning of Westminster

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[The burning of the Palace of Westminster was painted from memory,
but witnessed first-hand by the painter J. M. W. Turner.

Most of the Palace of Westminster, seat of Britain's Parliament, burned to the ground on this day in 1834; as reported by Charles Dickens, the cause of the blaze was the burning of useless old tally sticks, which had formerly been used by both the Commons and the Lords in the tallying of votes. The only parts of the old Palace to survive were Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower, the crypt of St. Stephen's Chapel, and the cloisters.

Rebuilding was begun in 1840, and continued officially until 1860, although further work would be done over the following decade as well; principal architect on the project was Charles Barry, aided by Augustus Pugin. The new Palace of Westminster, rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style, is one of London's most popular and recognizable historic landmarks.
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