The City of Westminster is a London borough, lying to the west of the City of London and containing much that people think of when they think of London.

Westminster Abbey is a royal peculiar and hosts the state religious functions of the United Kingdom, such as coronations, royal weddings and state funerals. It was here that William the Conqueror came to be crowned on Christmas Day 1066, and legend has it that it was in the churchyard of the Abbey that King Arthur pulled the sword from the stone.

Next to the Abbey is the Palace of Westminster, better known as the Houses of Parliament. The present structure is largely Victorian, but incorporates the mediaeval Westminster Hall. The tower at the south end is called Victoria Tower, and that at the north end is colloquially known as Big Ben, a name properly applied to the bell inside. The House of Commons and House of Lords sit here, watched over by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

Parliament Square, just outside, has statues of great statesmen from around the world: Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Jan Christian Smuts amongst them. On the far side of the square from the Houses of Parliament is Methodist Central Hall, and the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral is a short distance down Victoria Street.

Whitehall, with its government offices, and Downing Street, home to the Prime Minister are here. Between St James's Park and Green Park is Buckingham Palace, andSt James's Palace is close by. Trafalgar Square is at the north end of Whitehall and the east end of the Mall.

And all this is simply the region people think of as Westminster. The city extends away to the north and west, taking in vast tracts of central London.



Westminster is also the name of a London Underground station on the District, Circle and Jubilee lines. Recently rebuilt to accomodate the Jubilee Line Extension, it lies directly below Portcullis House, the building which houses MPs' offices. The architecture of the rebuilt station is striking: a vast concrete-walled cavern opens up below you as you descend to the trains. At the level of the Jubilee Line westbound platform, the deepest public area, you are perhaps as far below the ground as neighbouring Big Ben is above it. Several secure entrances allow MPs to enter Portcullis House or the Palace of Westminster without even visting street level.

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