The Info List - Westminster

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(/ˈwɛsmɪnstər, ˈwɛst-/) is an area of central London within the City of Westminster, part of the West End, on the north bank of the River Thames.[1] Westminster's concentration of visitor attractions and historic landmarks, one of the highest in London, includes the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey
and Westminster
Cathedral. Historically the area lay within St Margaret's parish, City & Liberty of Westminster, Middlesex. The name Westminster
originated from the informal description of the abbey church and royal peculiar of St Peter's ( Westminster
Abbey), literally West of the City of London, indeed until the Reformation there was a reference to the 'East Minster' at Minories
(Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate) east of the City; the abbey was part of the royal palace that had been created here by Edward the Confessor. It has been the home of the permanent institutions of England's government continuously since about 1200 (High Middle Ages' Plantagenet times), from 1707 the British Government - formally titled Her Majesty's Government. In a government context, Westminster
often refers to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Palace of Westminster
- also known as the Houses of Parliament. The closest tube stations are Westminster, St James's
St James's
Park on the Jubilee, Circle, and District lines. The area is the centre of Her Majesty's Government, with Parliament in the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
and most of the major Government ministries known as Whitehall, itself the site of the royal palace that replaced that at Westminster. Within the area is Westminster
School, a major public school which grew out of the Abbey, and the University of Westminster, attended by over 20,000 students. Bounding Westminster
to the north is Green Park, a Royal Park of London. Notable alumni: Eric Ewing


1 Demography 2 History

2.1 Royal seat 2.2 Victorian divide 2.3 Local government

3 Wider uses of the term 4 References 5 Further reading 6 External links

Demography[edit] The area has a substantial residential population. A proportion of residents are people of limited means, living in council and Peabody Trust estates in certain streets between Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
and Millbank. Hotels, large Victorian homes and barracks exist nearer to Buckingham Palace. History[edit] For a list of street name etymologies for Westminster
see Street names of Westminster The name describes an area no more than 1 mile (1.6 km) from Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
and the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
immediately to the west of the River Thames.[2] The settlement grew up around the palace and abbey, as a service area for them. The need for a parish church, St Margaret's Westminster
for the servants of the palace and of the abbey who could not worship there indicates that it had a population as large as that of a small village. It became larger and in the Georgian period became connected through urban ribbon development with the City along the Strand. It did not become a viable local government unit until created as a civil parish. Henry VIII's Reformation
in the early 16th century abolished the Abbey and established a Cathedral - thus the parish ranked as a "City", although it was only a fraction of the size of the City of London
City of London
and the Borough of Southwark
at that time. Indeed, the Cathedral and diocesan status of the church lasted only from 1539 to 1556, but the "city" status remained for a mere parish within Middlesex. As such it is first known to have had two Members of Parliament in 1545 as a new Parliamentary Borough, centuries after the City of London
City of London
and Southwark
were enfranchised.[3] Royal seat[edit]

Bird's-eye view of Westminster
in 1909

The historic core of Westminster
is the former Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
was built. The abbey became the traditional venue of the coronation of the kings and queens of England
from that of Harold Godwinson (1066) onwards. From about 1200, near the abbey, the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
became the principal royal residence, marked by the transfer of royal treasury and financial records to Westminster
from Winchester. Later the palace housed the developing Parliament and England's law courts. Thus London developed two focal points: the City of London
City of London
(financial/economic) and Westminster
(political and cultural). The monarchs later moved to St James' Palace
St James' Palace
and the Palace of Whitehall
a little towards the north-east, and eventually to Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
and other palaces. The main law courts have since moved to the Royal Courts of Justice. Victorian divide[edit]

Part of Charles Booth's poverty map showing Westminster
in 1889. The streets are coloured to represent the economic class of the residents: Yellow ("Upper-middle and Upper classes, Wealthy"), red ("Lower middle class – Well-to-do middle class"), pink ("Fairly comfortable good ordinary earnings"), blue ("Intermittent or casual earnings"), and black ("lowest class ... occasional labourers, street sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals"). Booth coloured Victoria Street, with its new shops and flats, yellow. The model dwellings built by the Peabody Trust
Peabody Trust
on the sidestreets off Victoria Street were coloured pink and grey, signalling modest respectability, while the black and blue streets were the remaining slum areas housing the poorest.[4]

Charles Booth's poverty map showing Westminster
in 1889 recorded the full range of income and capital brackets living in adjacent streets within the area; its central western area had become (by 1850) (the) Devil's Acre
Devil's Acre
in the southern flood channel ravine of the Tyburn (stream), yet along Victoria Street and other small streets and squares had the highest colouring of social class in London, yellow/gold. Westminster
has shed the abject poverty with the clearance of this slum and with drainage improvement, but there is a typical Central London
Central London
property distinction within the area which is very acute, epitomised by grandiose 21st-century developments, architectural high-point listed buildings[5] and nearby social housing (mostly non-council housing) buildings of the Peabody Trust
Peabody Trust
founded by philanthropist George Peabody. Local government[edit]

A map showing the wards of Westminster
Metropolitan Borough as they appeared in 1916

The Westminster
area formed part of the City and Liberty of Westminster
in Middlesex. The ancient parish was St Margaret; after 1727 this became the civil parish of 'St Margaret and St John', the latter a new church required for the increasing population. The area around Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
formed the extra-parochial Close of the Collegiate Church of St Peter surrounded by — but not part of — either parish.[clarification needed][surrounded by both parishes?] Until 1900 the local authority was the combined vestry of St Margaret and St John (also known as the Westminster
District Board of Works from 1855 to 1887), which was based at Westminster
City Hall in Caxton Street from 1883. The Liberty of Westminster, governed by the Westminster
Court of Burgesses, also included St Martin in the Fields and several other parishes and places. Westminster
had its own quarter sessions, but the Middlesex
sessions also had jurisdiction. The area was transferred from Middlesex
to the County of London
County of London
in 1889, and the local government of Westminster
was reformed in 1900, when the court of burgesses and the parish vestries were abolished, and replaced by a metropolitan borough council. The borough was given[when?] city status, allowing it to be known as the City of Westminster
City of Westminster
and its council as Westminster
City Council— a title which was retained when it was merged with the boroughs of St Marylebone
and Paddington
in the 1960. Wider uses of the term[edit] Thus "Westminster", with its focus in public life from early history, is casually used as a metonym for Parliament and the political community of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
generally. (The civil service is similarly referred to by the northern sub-neighbourhood it inhabits, "Whitehall".) "Westminster" is consequently also used in reference to the Westminster
system, the parliamentary model of democratic government that has evolved in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
and for those other nations, particularly in the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
and other parts of the former British Empire
British Empire
that adopted it. The term " Westminster
Village", sometimes used in the context of British politics, does not refer to a geographical area at all; employed especially in the phrase " Westminster
Village gossip", it denotes a supposedly close social circle of members of parliament, political journalists, so-called spin doctors and others connected to events in the Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster
and Government ministries.

Panorama of Westminster
taken from Westminster



^ "London's Places" (PDF). London Plan. Greater London
Greater London
Authority. 2011. p. 46. Retrieved 27 May 2014.  ^ Jacqueline Riding, All Change at the Palace of Westminster, BBC. ^ History of Parliament online ^ Richard, Dennis (2008). Cities in Modernity: Representations and Productions of Metropolitan Space. Cambridge University Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-521-46841-1.  ^ OS Map with Listed Buildings


Manchee, W. H. (1924), The Westminster
City Fathers (the Burgess Court of Westminster) 1585–1901: Being some account of their powers and domestic rule of the City prior to its incorporation in 1901; with a foreword by Walter G. Bell and 36 illustrations which relate to documents (some pull-outs) and artefacts. London: John Lane (The Bodley Head). Davies, E. A. (1952), An Account of the Formation and Early Years of The Westminster
Fire Office; (Includes black-and-white photographic plates with a colour frontispiece of 'A Waterman' and a foreword by Major K. M. Beaumont. London: Country Life Limited for the Westminster Fire Office. Hunting, P. (1981), Royal Westminster. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Printed by Penshurst Press. ISBN 0-85406-127-4 (paper); ISBN 0-85406-128-2 (cased).

Further reading[edit]

Timbs, John (1867), "Westminster", Curiosities of London (2nd ed.), London: J.C. Hotten, OCLC 12878129 

External links[edit]

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Westminster.

Borough Council Westminster
Walks – from Findlay Muirhead's 1927 guidebook to London and its Environs Westminster, by Sir Walter Besant and Geraldine Edith Mitton and A. Murray Smith, 1902, from Project Gutenberg Palmer's Village, a deserted village in Westminster

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