Westminster - heart of government.
While the underground station dates from 1868, Westminster itself is almost as old as London itself. It has a large concentration of London’s historic and prestigious landmarks and visitor attractions, including the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace
, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.
Historically part of the parish of St Margaret in the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex, the name Westminster was the ancient description for the area around Westminster Abbey – the West Minster, or monastery church, that gave the area its name – which has been the seat of the government of England (and later the British government) for almost a thousand years.
Westminster is the location of the Palace of Westminster, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The area has been the seat of the government of England for almost a thousand years. Westminster
is thus often used as a metonym for Parliament and the political community of the United Kingdom generally. The civil service is similarly referred to by the area it inhabits, Whitehall
, and Westminster
is consequently also used in reference to the ’Westminster System’, the parliamentary model of democratic government that has evolved in the United Kingdom.
The historic core of Westminster is the former Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey was built. The Abbey became the traditional venue of the coronation of the kings and queens of England. The nearby Palace of Westminster came to be the principal royal residence after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and later housed the developing Parliament and law courts of England. It can be said that London thus has developed two distinct focal points: an economic one in the City of London; and a political and cultural one in Westminster, where the Royal Court had its home. This division is still very apparent today.
The monarchy later moved to the Palace of Whitehall
a little towards the north-east. The law courts have since moved to the Royal Courts of Justice, close to the border of the City of London.
The Westminster area formed part of the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex. The ancient parish was St Margaret; after 1727 split into the parishes of St Margaret and St John. The area around Westminster Abbey formed the extra-parochial Close of the Collegiate Church of St Peter surrounded by—but not part of—either parish. 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 on 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 in 1889 and the local government of Westminster was reformed in 1900 when the court of burgesses and parish vestries were abolished, to be replaced with a metropolitan borough council. The council was given city status, allowing it to be known as Westminster City Council.
The underground station was opened as Westminster Bridge
on 24 December 1868 by the steam-operated Metropolitan District Railway (MDR) (now the District line) when the railway opened the first section of its line from South Kensington. It was originally the eastern terminus of the MDR and the station cutting ended at a concrete wall buffered by timber sleepers. The approach to the station from the west runs in cut and cover tunnel under the roadway of Broad Sanctuary
and diagonally under Parliament Square
. In Broad Sanctuary
the tunnel is close to Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s church and care was required to avoid undermining their foundations when excavating in the poor ground found there.
The station was completely rebuilt to incorporate new deep-level platforms for the Jubilee line when it was extended to the London Docklands in the 1990s. During the works, the level of the sub-surface platforms was lowered to enable ground level access to Portcullis House. This was achieved in small increments carried out when the line was closed at night.