Houses of Parliament

Discover the mother of all parliaments, the Palace of Westminster, London

Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world and a place of work for 650 Members of Parliament who represent the people of the United Kingdom. Hearing Big Ben chime and seeing government officials rushing to and fro is a reminder you are in the capital of the UK. 

On the weekends' visitors from around the world can step inside these iconic buildings and discover the story of Parliament on a guided tour. Admire Westminster Hall, the House of Commons and House of Lords. 

Include a visit to Parliament on a private guided tour of London. We can tailor a tour of London to match your interests and pace of travel. A Parliament tour is ideal for a first visit to the UK.

A brief history of Parliament
Some big committee did not plan Parliament and its procedures; it is an institution that has evolved over the centuries to meet the needs of the nation. The ingredients to create an evolving parliament have been war, revolt, Royal upheaval, invasion and more. It is a never-ending circle of ideas to meet changing issues, problems and threats. It is never perfect and will never be, but it seems to work, as long as the political pendulum swings gently from left to right. But, we aren't getting into politics here, this is just an overview of one of the oldest parliamentary democracies in the world and fascinating place to visit while touring the London and the UK.

The Witan – before 1066
The Witan was a King council of sorts. Summoned individuals would advise the King on local disputes, customs and concerns. In a small way, it was a method to show the regions of the realm the King was listening, who then sort the support from local barons. 

Magna Carta (1215)
Magna Carta was born out of frustration of poor leadership and governance of King John. The document granted various rights and liberties to ordinary citizens. Magna Carta gives the individual the right to be 'judged by your peers in a court of law'. Most importantly, Magna Carta limited the power of the Crown for the first time.  

Simon de Montfort (1205-1265)
Simon de Montfort, friend and once an ally of King Henry III (1216-1272 reign) led a baronial army against the King. The King refused the barons request for reform, which mainly revolved around the cancellation of interest payments of debts owed to Jews. Simon and his barons had a stunning military victory at Lewes, Sussex and took control of governing and created a parliament. The King would still be King, but Simon de Montfort's new government asked boroughs to send two representatives (1258). The important aspect of this request for representation compared to previous occasions was that the people were ordinary, not knights or lords, and were elected. 

The dark side to these events was the expulsion of Jews from Leicester and the burning Jewish debt record-keeping, thereby freeing lenders from their financial burdens.  

Parliament flexes its muscles
After 1332, knights and elected officials (burgess) sat in a chamber known as the house of commons. In 1341, debates took place without the presence of the King. It is worth noting that during this time, King Edward III travelled extensively, usually at war, which allowed Parliament to develop unchecked. Parliament begins to flex its muscles in three significant parliamentary sessions; the Good Parliament (1376), when government impeached corrupt royal ministers. The Wonderful Parliament (1386), when the government forced King Richard II to fire his Lord Chancellor, and the Merciless Parliament (1399) when government dethroned King Richard II and his followers. 

Key dates
From 1401-7, the House of Commons claims the right to agree on taxes and the Commons to establish all new taxes. In 1413, government representative to live within the borough they are representing. In 1512, King Henry VIII moved the family out of the Palace of Westminster. After that, it became the home of government only - during the 16th Century, freedom of speech was a frequent topic.

The Bill of Rights (1689)
Installed certain civil rights and made it clear who should inherit the Crown, along with further limiting the powers of the monarch. 

From the 17th Century onward the Crown has less and less power and constituents slowly gain more control. The Representation of the People Act (1918) allows all men to vote (not only property-owning) over 21 and all women over 30. In 1928, the act was extended to include the vote for women over 21, and finally in 1969 to all over the age of 18. 

Touring and accommodation 
The best places to stay in London are Mayfair, St James, and the Royal Borough of Kensington. If you are considering day tours from London, staying further west in Kensington makes sense. Harrods and Hyde Park are close. Staying in Mayfair and St James will give you easy access to Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and high-end shops. The theatre district called the ‘West End’ is a short hop too. 

We offer a range of suggested half-day, full-day tours. We can also tailor a tour of London for you and include everything you want to see and do. Our Tour Designers are here to customise your private tours of London and day tours from London. Tell us about you and your interests, and we will create a tailor-made tour. Our Old City of London tour features St Paul's Cathedral. However, we can tailor a tour of London for you. 

We have professional tour guides who have specific skills and knowledge to match what you require for your day out. You may need a family-friendly guide who is good at engaging young people or an art historian, archaeologist or a tour guide with a great sense of humour with vast knowledge. We want to help you choose the right person to enhance your experience.

If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of your Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. Merging Wales with England makes for a dynamic experience of mountains, stately homes and cosy country pubs.

From the Magna Carta to the 21st Century

Discover the fascinating story the British Parliament

  • See the House of Lords
  • See the House of Commons
  • Westminster Hall and famous Lobby's
  • VIP Tours Available soon