The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.500047, -0.125216


From the Wikipedia entry on the Palace of Westminster:

Westminster Hall, the oldest existing part of the Palace of Westminster, was erected in 1097, at which point it was the largest hall in Europe. The roof was probably originally supported by pillars, giving three aisles, but during the reign of King Richard II, this was replaced by a hammerbeam roof by the royal carpenter Hugh Herland, “the greatest creation of medieval timber architecture”, which allowed the original three aisles to be replaced with a single huge open space, with a dais at the end. The new roof was commissioned in 1393. Richard’s architect Henry Yevele left the original dimensions, refacing the walls, with fifteen life-size statues of kings placed in niches. The rebuilding had been begun by King Henry III in 1245, but had by Richard’s time been dormant for over a century.

Westminster Hall has the largest clearspan medieval roof in England, measuring 20.7 by 73.2 metres (68 by 240 ft). Oak timbers for the roof came from royal woods in Hampshire and from parks in Hertfordshire and Surrey, among other sources; they were assembled near Farnham, Surrey, 56 kilometres (35 mi) away. Accounts record the large number of wagons and barges which delivered the jointed timbers to Westminster for assembly.

Westminster Hall has served numerous functions. It was primarily used for judicial purposes, housing three of the most important courts in the land: the Court of King’s Bench, the Court of Common Pleas and the Court of Chancery. In 1875, these courts were amalgamated into the High Court of Justice, which continued to meet in Westminster Hall until it moved to the Royal Courts of Justice in 1882. In addition to regular courts, Westminster Hall also housed important trials, including impeachment trials and the state trials of King Charles I at the end of the English Civil War, Sir William Wallace, Sir Thomas More, Cardinal John Fisher, Guy Fawkes, the Earl of Strafford, the rebel Scottish Lords of the 1715 and 1745 uprisings and Warren Hastings.

13 Annotations

First Reading

Phil  •  Link

A footnote to 20 Jan 1660 says "These stationers and booksellers, whose shops disfigured Westminster Hall down to a late period, were a privileged class. In the statutes for appointing licensers and regulating the press, there is a clause exempting them from the pains and penalties of these obnoxious laws."

Arbor  •  Link

If in London. Westminster Hall is very much worth a visit. It is the oldest building for miles... with a typically wonderful medieval and unsupported roof. Worth the visit just to look at it. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was recently 'laid in state' there... remember the pictures?

Glyn  •  Link

Westminster Hall is now open every year to visitors in summer as part of the guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. All the details can be found on this official website:…

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Wenceslaus Hollar (Czech/British 1607-1677)

Westminster Hall; view of square to the N of Westminster Hall, with groups of people and coaches on the left and fountain on the right; Abbey seen over the roofs in the background.
Etching, 1647…

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Commonly known as the Houses of Parliament after its tenants, the Palace lies on the Middlesex bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London. Its name, which derives from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey, may refer to either of two structures: the Old Palace, a medieval building complex that was destroyed by fire in 1834, and its replacement New Palace that stands today.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I wonder if Pepys ever looked up:

Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, died in 1658, was embalmed and buried in Westminster Abbey after a lavish funeral. After the Restoration his body was disinterred and taken to Tyburn where it was gibbeted until sundown.

The Public Executioner cut down the body and cut off the head which was then impaled on a 25 foot pole on the roof of Westminster Hall. It remained there for over 24 years until 1685 when it was dislodged during a gale. A soldier found the head and hid it in his chimney.

On his deathbed, he bequeathed the relic to his daughter. In 1710 the head appeared in a ‘Freak Show’, described as ‘The Monster’s Head’! For many years the head passed through numerous hands, the value increasing with each transaction until a Dr. Wilkinson bought it.

The head was offered by the Wilkinson family to Sydney Sussex College in 1960, as this was where Oliver Cromwell had studied. It was given a dignified burial in a secret place in the college grounds.…

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

On my recent Stuart pilgrimage to London I didn't buy a ticket for a tour of the Houses of Parliament, and explained to the ticket checker that I only wanted to see Westminster Hall. Fine said he, but I must give you a ticket for Prime Minister's Question Time as compensation. I smiled and accepted, and handed it in to an usher in the Hall.

The echo today makes it hard to imagine law suits being argued in various areas, and stalls of merchandise being sold by the likes of Betty Lane. The biggest display is the Speaker's golden coach, made during the reign of William III and Mary II, which is spectacular. Well worth a visit -- and they have a cafe.

Plus it's close to St. Margaret's Church, which is also well worth a visit; at no charge -- go to the front of the line and tell the Westminster Abbey ticket checkers you're going to St. Margaret's and not the Abbey, and you're in.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

L&M: After the Restoration, Westminster Hall was renovated and the Courts of Chancery and King's Bench moved from the sides to the upper (southern) end of the hall.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.