Spectacular medieval architecture and early Georgian town-planning forge England’s ancient seat of monarchy, church and state
Westminster is London’s second oldest district after the City but with its historic character more prescriptively preserved than its eastern counterpart, it arguably provides the most sensuous and romanticised evocation of London’s ancient roots. Some of this evocation is Victorian artifice but it is enthused with such a level of intricacy, detail and melodrama that it becomes indistinguishable from the medieval forbears beside which it sits. Gothic is the dominant visual force at Westminster’s core and the hulking citadels of state that encircle Parliament Square provide an incomparable urban set-piece in which the strident verticality and riotous ornamentation of the style is on full display.
While today Westminster is primarily synonymous with politics, with two spectacular religious buildings of national importance - its iconic abbey and its Byzantine cathedral – Westminster’s architecture helps maintain its vital historic role as England’s pre-eminent spiritual seat. But lesser known is its impressive collection of superlative and forensically well-preserved Georgian streets and terraces arranged around a magnificent baroque church and along the southern edge of St. James's Park. These tranquil and intimate confines, at at times pastorally overlooked by the soaring towers of Westminster Abbey, reveal a cool classicism that stands in marked contrast to the emotional Gothic theatricality at Westminster’s heart. But they further embellish the architectural status of this UNESCO World Heritage Site as being one of the most historically important urban districts in the world.
Houses of Parliament
WALK START LOCATION: Westminster tube station (Exit 4) / Map
WALK ENDS: Near Victoria Station