As one of the key landmarks in Westminster, we’re often quizzed on fun facts about the Houses of Parliament. After all, the building plays a huge role in shaping the lives of every single British citizen, so it’s only natural to be curious about the Houses of Parliament’s facts and secrets.

Thankfully, there is a wealth of Houses of Parliament London facts in order to pique your interest in the space ahead of the Westminster and Changing of the Guard Tour. We’ve selected a handful of our favourite Houses of Parliament fun facts to delve into and share with you here.

The House of Commons Was Practically Destroyed During the Blitz

Firstly, in 1943, the House of Commons suffered a direct hit, meaning that the structure had to be redesigned by Giles Gilbert. Across the whole of the Blitz, the Palace of Westminster was hit 14 times, which meant that substantial reconstruction was required.

Materials for the House of Commons to be Rebuilt Were Donated by Countries in the Commonwealth

In order to restore the damage of the Blitz, countries from all over the Commonwealth made donations. These included the Table of the House from Canada, the North Entrance doors to the chamber from India, the Silver Gilt Inkstand from Dominica, and the Speaker’s Chair from Australia.

MPs and Peers Vote with their Feet

The votes in each house are otherwise known as divisions, and this is because the MPs are required to physically stand and walk over to their chosen corridor in the house. These are called “Aye” and “No” in the House of Commons, and “In Favour” and “Not in Favour” in the House of Lords.

The Queen Can’t Enter Parliament Beyond a Specific Point

As the ruler of the nation, you’d think that the Queen would be allowed to do anything she pleases; however, this isn’t quite the case. She is able to go as far as the throne in the House of Lords, but any further than this is deemed as an intrusion on the operation of the designated House of Commons.

Typically, the Queen only visits the Houses of Parliament on a yearly basis to attend the State Opening of Parliament. For any other matters, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod or Lady Usher of the Black Rod is sent to the Houses of Parliament on the Queen’s behalf. One of the roles of the Black Rod is to call upon the MPs for the Queen’s Speech.


It’s Tradition to Slam the Door in Black Rod’s Face

Although the Black Rod is responsible for handling the Queen’s parliamentary encounters, they’re not usually met with a pleasant greeting. Instead, it’s tradition for the Black Rod to knock on the door of the House of Commons, to which they’ll shut the door in the Black Rod’s face. Following this, the Black Rod is expected to knock three times, using their staff, before being granted entry into the building.

The Lords Spiritual Still Sit in the House of Lords

The House of Lords consists of two types of peers, these are the Lords Temporal and the Lords Spiritual. The Lords Spiritual are the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester, and various Church of England bishops. Their attendance is something that has prevailed since the early days of parliament; however, it’s been known to be a subject of controversy.


Big Ben Isn’t What You Think it is

Big Ben is the huge clock tower that’s attached to the Palace of Westminster, right? Wrong! In fact, Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the clock tower. The tower itself is rather called the Elizabeth Tower.

You Can Tell Whether You’re in the House of Commons or the House of Lords by the Colour of the Seats

The Houses of Parliament is all about colour coding to distinguish what’s what and who’s who. Therefore, green is used for the House of Commons, red is used for the House of Lords, and gold is used for the Monarch.

Parliament Considered Abandoning the Palace of Westminster

You may be shocked to discover that parliament once considered abandoning its ornate building in its luxurious location; however, the reason will likely not surprise you. This abandonment was initially considered due to the fact that the River Thames smelt so bad. The debacle was otherwise known as the Great Stink of 1858.

In order to combat the stench, parliament initially dipped their curtains in a chloride and lime mixture; however, the method proved unsuccessful. Following this, they laid down a bill and made a law in 18 days that revolutionised hygiene laws and plumbing infrastructure. Without this, London as we know it could have been a very different place.

You’re Not Allowed to Wear a Suit of Armour into Parliament

Although there’s no dress code to enter the Houses of Parliament, it’s prohibited to enter the space wearing a suit of armour. This law was established in the Statute forbidding Bearing of Armour or Coming Armed to Parliament Act 1313. The reasoning behind it was that the noblemen of the time often used armed force in parliamentary matters, which only resulted in trouble. Who knew that parliament was once even fierier than it is today?

Learn More About the Houses of Parliament on a Westminster and Changing of the Guard Tour

In order to discover more about the Houses of Parliament, be sure to book in for one of our tours here or find out more about our private tours.

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