Housed in the Palace of Westminster along the River Thames, Westminster Hall is the oldest existing part of the palace. The hall was first built by the son of William the Conquer after he moved his royal residence to what would be the palace grounds from the Tower of London. Over the years, Westminster Hall has been host to many different state functions up to and including speeches and celebrations. Being that it is located in the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Hall has become one of the top tourist landmarks in the city of London. The London Marriott Hotel-Country Hall is the closest hotel to this famous landmark.
Built in 1097, Westminster Hall was, for a time, the largest hall in Europe. It is believed that it was first supported by pillars that in turn created three aisles inside the hall. However, during the reign of King Richard II, the pillars were replaced with a hammerbeam roof by the king’s chief carpenter Hugh Herland. This change in the hall’s design allowed for the original three aisles to be replaced with a single open space and the addition of a dais at the end of the hall. At the same time, a new roof for the hall was commissioned in 1393. To this day, Westminster Hall has the largest clearspan medieval roof in England, which measures in at 20.7 by 73.2 meters or 68 by 240 feet. After its building and renovations, Westminster Hall would be host to many different events and functions in its long history. However, the main use for the hall was for judicial proceedings, being the host site for many different trials including the trials of King Charles I after the English Civil War, Sir William Wallace, Sir Thomas More, Cardinal John Fisher and Guy Fawkes, one of the men behind the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Apart from trials, Westminster Hall was also a place for ceremonial functions and speeches by royals and other important figures. Between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries, coronation banquets were held in the hall until William IV abanded the idea on the grounds that it was too expensive.
At the same time, the hall was used for the lyings in state for both state and ceremonial funerals. Although this is reserved for the monarch and his or her consorts, a few non royals to have lain in state at Westminster Hall. The only ones to get this honor were Frederick Sleigh Roberts, the 1st Earl Roberts, in 1914 and Sir Winston Churchill in 1965. The most recent lying in state at the hall was for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002. In the end, Westminster Hall, being one part of an already famous London city landmark, is a place that is rich in history and tradition. The hall has seen both the highs and lows of England’s long history and is a must see when visiting the city of London.