|UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND|
|Region: Greater London|
|2 Cities: City of London, City of Westminster and 31 Boroughs|
London is the capital of both England and the United Kingdom, and the largest metropolitan area in the European Union. London is one of the world’s most important business, financial and cultural centres and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion and the arts contributes to its status as a major global city. London’s population draws from a wide range of peoples, cultures, and religions, and over 300 languages are spoken within the city. As of July 2007, it had an official population of 7,556,900 within the boundaries of Greater London making it the most populous municipality in the European Union, with a population more than double that of its nearest rival, Berlin. As of 2001, the Greater London Urban Area had a population of 8,278,251 and the metropolitan area is estimated to have a total population of just under 14 million.
Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of
According to a tradition first reported in about 1080, a church was founded at the site in the 7th century.
Between 1042 and 1052 King Edward the Confessor began rebuilding
Since 1066, when Harold Godwinson (Harold II) and William the Conqueror (William I) were crowned, the coronations of English and British monarchs have been held there. There have been at least 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100. Two were of reigning monarchs (Henry I and Richard II), although, before 1919, there had been none for some 500 years. On 6 September 1997 the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, was held at the Abbey. On 17 September 2010 Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope to set foot in the abbey.
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace is where the two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) meet. The palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the London borough of the City of Westminster, close to the government buildings of Whitehall. After a fire in 1834, the present Houses of Parliament were built over the next 30 years. They were the work of the architect Sir Charles Barry (1795–1860) and his assistant Augustus Welby Pugin (1812–1852). The design incorporated Westminster Hall and the remains of St. Stephen’s Chapel. The palace contains around 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 4.8 kilometres (3 mi) of corridors. Control of the Palace of Westminster and its precincts was for centuries exercised by the monarch’s representative, the Lord Great Chamberlain. By agreement with the Crown, control passed to the two Houses in 1965. Certain ceremonial rooms continue to be controlled by the Lord Great Chamberlain.
Westminster Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge over the River Thames between Westminster, Middlesex bank, and Lambeth, Surrey bank. For over 600 years, the nearest bridge to London Bridge was at Kingston. Proposals for a bridge at Westminster had been made as early as 1664. These were opposed by the Corporation of London and the watermen. Despite further opposition in 1722 and after a new timber bridge was built at Putney in 1729, the scheme received parliamentary approval in 1736. Financed by private capital, lotteries and grants, Westminster Bridge, designed by the Swiss architect Charles Labelye, was built between 1739–1750. It was only the second bridge crossing to be built across the Thames below Kingston when opened. By the mid-19th century it was subsiding badly and expensive to maintain. The current bridge was designed by Thomas Page and opened in 1862. With an overall length of 252 metres (826.8 ft) and a 26 metre width, it is a seven-arch wrought iron bridge which has Gothic detailing by Charles Barry (the architect of the Palace of Westminster). It is the only bridge over the Thames that spans seven arches and is the oldest bridge in the central area of the river Thames. When constructed it incorporated two 2-metre-wide tramways; the tracks were removed in 1952. The bridge is painted predominantly green, the same colour as the leather seats in the House of Commons which is on the side of the Palace of Westminster nearest the bridge. This is in contrast to Lambeth Bridge which is red, the same colour as the seats in the House of Lords and is on the opposite side of the Houses of Parliament.
Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge built in 1886–1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. Tower Bridge is one of five London bridges now owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. The bridge’s present colour scheme dates from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. The bridge deck is freely accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge’s twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition, for which an admission charge is made.
The etymology of London remains a mystery. The earliest etymological explanation can be attributed to Geoffrey of Monmouth in Historia Regum Britanniae. The name is described as originating from King Lud, who had allegedly taken over the city and named it Kaerlud. This was slurred into Kaerludein and finally London. Many other theories have been advanced over the centuries, most of them deriving the name from Welsh or British, and occasionally from Anglo-Saxon or even Hebrew. Although there is evidence of scattered Brythonic settlements in the area, the first major settlement was founded by the Romans in AD 43 as Londinium, following the Roman conquest of Britain. This Londinium lasted for just seventeen years. Around 61, the Iceni tribe led by Queen Boudica stormed this first London, burning it to the ground. The next, heavily planned incarnation of the city prospered and superseded Colchester as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia in 100. At its height in the 2nd century, Roman London had a population of around 60,000.
By the 600s, the Anglo-Saxons had created a new settlement called Lundenwic approximately 1 km upstream from the old Roman city, around what is now Covent Garden. It is likely that there was a harbour at the mouth of the River Fleet for fishing and trading, and this trading grew until the city was overcome by the Vikings and forced to relocate the city back to the location of the Roman Londinium to use its walls for protection. Viking attacks continued to increase around the rest of South East England, until 886 when Alfred the Great recaptured London and made peace with the Danish. The original Saxon city of Lundenwic became Ealdwic (“old city”), a name surviving to the present day as Aldwych, which is in the modern City of Westminster. In a retaliatory attack, Ethelred’s army achieved victory by pulling down London Bridge with the Danish garrison on top, and English control was re-established. Canute took control of the English throne in 1017, controlling the city and country until 1042, when his death resulted in a reversion to Saxon control under his pious stepson Edward the Confessor, who re-founded Westminster Abbey and the adjacent Palace of Westminster. By this time, London had become the largest and most prosperous city in England, although the official seat of government was still at Winchester. Following a victory at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror, the then Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England in the newly finished Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. William granted the citizens of London special privileges, while building what is now known as the Tower of London, in the south-east corner of the city, to keep them under control.
In 1097, William II began the building of Westminster Hall, close by the abbey of the same name. The hall became the basis of a new Palace of Westminster, the prime royal residence throughout the Middle Ages. Westminster became the seat of the royal court and government (persisting until the present day), while its distinct neighbour, the City of London, was a centre of trade and commerce and flourished under its own unique administration, the Corporation of London. London grew in wealth and population during the Middle Ages. In 1100 its population was around 18,000; by 1300 it had grown to nearly 100,000. King Edward I issued an edict in 1290, expelling all Jews from England. Before the edict, there was an increasing population of Jews, whereas after this time, the population of Jews began to drop considerably. Disaster struck during the Black Death in the mid-14th century, when London lost nearly a third of its population. Apart from the invasion of London during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, London remained relatively untouched by the various civil wars during the Middle Ages, such as the first and second Barons’ Wars and the Wars of the Roses.
After the successful defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, political stability in England allowed London to grow further. In 1603, James VI of Scotland came to the throne of England (James I), essentially uniting the two countries. His enactment of harsh anti-Catholic laws made him unpopular, and an assassination attempt was made on 5 November 1605 — the well-known Gunpowder Plot. Plague caused extensive problems for London in the early 17th century, culminating in the Great Plague in 1665–1666 that killed 70,000 to 100,000 people, up to a fifth of London’s population. This was the last major outbreak in England, possibly thanks to the disastrous fire of 1666. The Great Fire of London broke out in the original City and quickly swept through London’s wooden buildings, destroying large swathes of the city. Rebuilding took over ten years, largely under direction of a Commission appointed by King Charles II and chaired by Sir Christopher Wren. Following London’s growth in the 18th century, it became the world’s largest city from about 1831 to 1925. Rising traffic congestion on city centre roads led to the creation of the world’s first metro system, the London Underground, in 1863, driving further expansion and urbanisation. London’s local government system struggled to cope with the rapid growth, especially in providing the city with adequate infrastructure. Between 1855 and 1889, the Metropolitan Board of Works oversaw infrastructure expansion. It was then replaced by the County of London, overseen by the London County Council, London’s first elected city-wide administration.
The Blitz and other bombing by the German Luftwaffe during World War II killed over 30,000 Londoners and destroyed large tracts of housing and other buildings across London. In 1965 London’s political boundaries were expanded to take into account the growth of the urban area outside the County of London’s borders. The expanded area was called Greater London and was administered by the Greater London Council. An eco revival from the 1980s onwards re-established London’s position as a pre-eminent international centre.
[Texts adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_Westminster,