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

Open location in Google Maps: 51.500585, -0.125533


This text was copied from Wikipedia on 14 July 2024 at 6:10AM.

New Palace Yard
View of New Palace Yard in 2017, looking south-east
TypeOpen courtyard
LocationWestminster, London, England
Coordinates51°30′02″N 0°07′31″W / 51.5005°N 0.1254°W / 51.5005; -0.1254
AreaPalace of Westminster
Builtcirca 1100
Governing bodyParliament of the United Kingdom
New Palace Yard is located in Greater London
New Palace Yard
Location of New Palace Yard in Greater London

New Palace Yard is a yard (area of grounds) northwest of the Palace of Westminster in Westminster, London, England. It is part of the grounds not open to the public. However, it can be viewed from the two adjoining streets, as a result of Edward Middleton Barry, who also assisted with its landscaping, having used railings rather than walls or fencing in its design. The yard has existed since about the year 1100, but was greatly reduced in the 18th century to allow for the construction of new streets and buildings, the most notable of which is the wing taking up the eastern end and having the most prominent tower of the current palace. Speaker's Green fronts the Thames. An underground car park used by Members of Parliament is beneath. Before latest incarnations of the palace, the yard was an open public space used diversely such as for speeches, tournaments, pilloryings, and executions. It has twice been the scene of terrorist attacks.


The colonnade along the east side of New Palace Yard

New Palace Yard takes up the north-west corner of the grounds of the Palace of Westminster. It is bordered to the north by Bridge Street, to the east by the Palace's North Front and Big Ben, to the south by Westminster Hall and to the west by Parliament Square. It is accessed from Parliament Square via the Carriage Gates. Underneath the yard is a five-level underground car park with 450 spaces for the cars of Members of Parliament, which was built in the 1970s.[1][2] Westminster Hall's north end is accessed via the yard, which is also the site of the Members' Entrance to the House of Commons. A public arcade along the Westminster Bridge side of Speaker's Green descends to a walkway under Bridge Street connecting Westminster tube station and Westminster Pier beneath the Victoria Embankment.


The Jubilee Fountain in New Palace Yard

The yard is laid out as a garden with a formal avenue of lime trees, benches of Portland stone and a central lawn surrounded by an oval roadway. Around the outside are a number of old catalpa trees. A fountain in the central lawn was installed in 1977 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II and recalls the lost medieval fountain of Henry VI.[1] The fountain stands in an octagonal pool in the centre of which is a large welded steel sculpture by Walenty Pytel. The sculpture is decorated with depictions of birds and beasts from six continents and is surmounted by a gilded crown.[3]


The name of New Palace Yard refers to the first Palace of Westminster, built by the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor around 1050. The yard was created after William II of England constructed Westminster Hall in 1097 and was given the appellation "New" to distinguish it from Old Palace Yard a few hundred metres further south. For several hundred years, it was probably a patch of low-lying open marshy ground or perhaps even an inlet, prone to flooding up to very recent times. A rapid increase in the level of the Thames necessitated the construction of a river wall on the yard's eastern side in the 12th century.[4] It was reclaimed by laying down cobbles on successive layers of debris that had accumulated over the years[5] and was laid out as an open space by the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. Thereafter, as Westminster grew, the yard came to be surrounded by buildings and walls.[4]

The yard's function in relation to the Palace of Westminster was similar to that of an outer bailey in a castle. It was one of three yards in the palace: New Palace Yard was the outer ward, a large open space which the general populace could access; the Green Yard was the middle ward, where the royal administration and the great offices of state were located; and Old Palace Yard was the inner ward, where the royal apartments were located.[4]

The interior of the yard was dominated for centuries by a large cupola-topped fountain built by Henry VI in 1443, which stood until the late 17th century.[1] According to the 16th century historian John Stow, the fountain, which was known as the Great Conduit, was made to run with wine to mark coronations and other great state events.[6] The remains of the fountain were rediscovered in the 1970s during the construction of the underground car park.[1]

Several executions and mutilations took place there: in 1580 the Puritan attorney John Stubbs and his servant William Page both had their hands cut off as punishment for libelling Queen Elizabeth I, while in 1612 the Scottish nobleman Robert Crichton, 8th Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, was hanged in the yard for murder.[7] Lesser criminals were publicly exposed in a pillory erected on the site. Two such were the pretender Perkin Warbeck, pilloried in 1498, and Titus Oates, pilloried there during the reign of King James II for the Popish Plot. The last person to be pilloried in the yard was John Williams, the publisher of The North Briton newspaper in 1765.[3]

Tournaments and royal festivities were also staged there.[8] On one occasion, when Catherine of Aragon married Arthur, Prince of Wales in 1501, a grand tournament was held in New Palace Yard. A stand was erected for the King on the south side of the yard and challengers exited Westminster Hall on horseback. They proceeded into the yard accompanied by a pageant-car which was drawn by four animals and carried a "fair young lady" on "a goodly chair of cloth of gold". Jousting is last recorded to have taken place in the yard in 1547 when Edward VI was crowned.[9]

Changes to the layout of New Palace Yard

New Palace Yard was originally much larger than it is today. An etching by Wenceslaus Hollar, published in 1647, shows the area as an enclosed rectangle with houses flanking Westminster Hall on both sides, Henry VI's fountain and stands for coaches in the centre, a row of shops, taverns and coffee-houses on the north side and a large square gatehouse on the west side giving access to King Street, built by Henry VIII in 1532 and demolished in 1723.[10] The gatehouse was built by Richard III[10] and stood until 1707. A tower to the north side was built under Edward I and was demolished in 1715; it housed the bell known as Great Tom.[11]

Many of the buildings around New Palace Yard were swept away in the 1750s by the urban redevelopment that accompanied the construction of Westminster Bridge. Bridge Street was built to the north of the yard, Parliament Street to connect the Palace with Charing Cross, and Abingdon Street to connect it with Millbank.[12] A row of buildings separated the yard from Bridge Street until they were demolished in 1866–7, opening up the yard to public view.[3]

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the perimeter of New Palace Yard was occupied by coffeehouses and taverns. It provided a site for public meetings such as the September 1838 rally in support of the People's Charter.[8] Public access to New Palace Yard was restricted from 1866 after a demonstration held in Hyde Park for parliamentary reform turned violent. Edward Barry was commissioned to enclose the yard with railings standing 7 feet (2.1 m) high, which were completed by February 1868.[8] The works entailed major changes to the fabric of the yard, the surface of which was lowered by as much as 3 metres (9.8 ft) in places.[13] The yard was occasionally opened to the public to attend public speeches by the likes of William Ewart Gladstone, but is now treated as a secure area, closed to the public.[8]

Between 1972 and 1974, an underground car park with 450 spaces was constructed underneath the yard for £2.5 million (equivalent to £41.7 million in 2023).[1][2]

Terrorist attacks

New Palace Yard has twice been the scene of terrorist attacks. On 31 March 1979, an Irish National Liberation Army car bomb killed MP Airey Neave as he exited the underground car park at New Palace Yard.[14] On 22 March 2017, an Islamic terrorist crashed a car into the perimeter fence of the Palace grounds, after driving into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge.[15][16] After abandoning the vehicle, he ran into the New Palace Yard and fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer, an unarmed police officer guarding the Carriage Gates.[17] His armed colleagues then shot at the terrorist who later died at the scene.[18][19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Old and New Palace Yards". Houses of Parliament. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b Fell, Bryan H.; Mackenzie, Kenneth R.; Natzler, D. L. (1988). The Houses of Parliament: a guide to the Palace of Westminster. H.M.S.O. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-11-701392-6.
  3. ^ a b c Weinreb, Ben; Hibbert, Christopher (1993). The London Encyclopaedia. Papermac. ISBN 978-0-333-57688-5.
  4. ^ a b c Thomas, Christopher; Cowie, Robert; Sidell, Jane (2006). The Royal Palace, Abbey and Town of Westminster on Thorney Island: Archaeological Excavations (1991-8) for the London Underground Limited Jubilee Line Extension Project. Museum of London Archaeology Service. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-901992-50-2.
  5. ^ McKay, Chris (27 May 2010). Big Ben: the Great Clock and the Bells at the Palace of Westminster. OUP Oxford. pp. 32–. ISBN 978-0-19-958569-4.
  6. ^ Archer, Jayne Elisabeth; Goldring, Elizabeth; Knight, Sarah (2007). The Progresses, Pageants, and Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth I. Oxford University Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-19-160879-7.
  7. ^ Bard, Robert (2013). Tyburn: The Story of London's Gallows. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 538. ISBN 978-1-4456-1571-4.
  8. ^ a b c d Shepherd, Robert (2012). Westminster: A Biography: From Earliest Times to the Present. A&C Black. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-8264-2380-1.
  9. ^ Gerhold, Dorian (1999). Westminster Hall: nine hundred years of history. James & James. p. 29. ISBN 0907383890.
  10. ^ a b Pepys, Samuel (2001). The Diary of Samuel Pepys: A New and Complete Transcription. University of California Press. p. 475. ISBN 978-0-520-22715-6.
  11. ^ Shakespeare, William (1839). The Pictorial Edition of the Works of W. Shakespeare, 1: Histories. Charles Knight and Company. p. 85.
  12. ^ Sawyer, Sean (2003). "Delusions of National Grandeur: Reflections on the Intersection of Architecture and History at the Palace of Westminster, 1789–1834". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society: Volume 13: Sixth Series. Cambridge University Press. p. 239. ISBN 978-0-521-83076-8.
  13. ^ "New Palace Yard, Westminster". The Builder: 29. 11 January 1868.
  14. ^ Hoggart, Simon (31 March 1979). "Car bomb kills MP Airey Neave". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  15. ^ Gilchrist, Karen (23 March 2017). "London police name Parliament attacker as British-born Khalid Masood, age 52". CNBC. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  16. ^ "London attack: Four dead in Westminster terror attack". BBC News. 22 March 2017.
  17. ^ "London attack – latest updates". BBC News. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  18. ^ Boyle, Danny; Evans, Martin (22 March 2017). "Parliament shooting: Knifeman shot by police after charging through Westminster gates and stabbing officer". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  19. ^ Rayner, Gordon; McCann, Kate (23 March 2017). "London attack: Cabinet minister's bodyguard shot Westminster terrorist". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 March 2017.

External links

8 Annotations

First Reading

Phil  •  Link

New Palace Yard was immediately to the north of Westminster Hall:…

Old Palace Yard was to the south of the Hall. Latham & Matthews assume that when Pepys was ambiguous and referred to merely "Palace Yard" or "Palace," he's referring to New Palace Yard.

ed  •  Link

new palace yard had the world's first traffic lights

Vincent Bell  •  Link

However the world's first automatic traffic lights could be seen in Princes Square, Wolverhampton in 1927.

Simon  •  Link

The Crown was almost certainly in Old Palace Yard - it is refered to in a trial report of the theft of a silver tankard in 1683…

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Palace Yard (New), the open space before the north entrance to Westminster Hall, so called from being the great court of the new palace begun by William II., of which Westminster Hall was the chief feature completed. The Clock-tower, long the distinguishing feature of New Palace Yard, was originally built, temp. Edward I., out of the fine imposed on Ralph de Hingham, Chief Justice of England. There is a capital view of it by Hollar. The great bell of the tower (Westminster Tom) was given by William III. to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's; and the metal of which it was made forms a part of the great bell of the Cathedral.
Before the Great Hall there is a large Court called the new Palace, where there is a strong tower of stone, containing a clock, which striketh on a great Bell every hour, to give notice to the Judges how the time passeth; when the wind is south-south-west, it may be heard unto any part of London, and commonly it presageth wet weather.—Howell's Londinopolis, fol. 1657, p. 378; and see Ned Ward, The London Spy, pt. 8.

---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

There were bars and restaurants in New Palace Yard, where Pepys wined and dined his business contacts and his mistresses; and a theater, where he enjoyed plays.

For lots of photographs of Whitehall, then and now, see:…

Per L&M Companion: Harman, Sir John, kt. 1665 (d. 1673). One of the most experienced of contemporary seamen, he served in all three Dutch wars; in the last two as a flag-officer. A John Harman lived in New Palace Yard in 1658 and 1661.

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


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