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Tower of London

Tower of London

Built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, the Tower of London became a symbol of Norman dominance over the city following the invasion of 1066. Also known as the White Tower (it was built of pale Caen limestone), the Tower was a royal residence until the reign of King James I (1566-1625).

The Tower of London is probably most famous as a prison and place of execution. Sir Walter Raleigh, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey and King Henry VI are amongst those imprisoned and executed within the confines of the Tower. However, not all prisoners met their end in the Tower and during the reign of Mary I, the future queen Elizabeth I was confined there for two months before being released.

One of London's most popular tourist attractions, today the Tower houses the Crown Jewels and the Royal Armouries. It is permanently guarded by the Yeoman Warders who are traditionally called Beefeaters and is home to a colony of Ravens whose presence, according to legend, guards England from invasion. Website: www.hrp.org.uk. Underground Station: Tower Hill.

Houses of Parliament

Home to the "Mother of all Parliaments", the Palace of Westminster with its adjacent clock tower is situated on the north bank of the River Thames.

The British Parliament consists of two Houses - the Commons for elected members and the Lords for Peers of the Realm. The original building dates from the 11th century and was used as a royal residence until 1834 when it was destroyed by fire and rebuilt by Charles Barry in the Gothic style seen today.

The clock tower is often referred to as Big Ben. Its true name is St. Stephens Tower and the name Big Ben actually refers to the tower bell.

There is access to the public galleries for both UK and overseas visitors when Parliament is in session. Admission is by queueing and due to the restricted numbers entry is not guaranteed. During the summer recess, when Parliament is not in session, it is possible for UK residents and overseas visitors to take a tour of the Palace. Website: www.parliament.uk. Underground Station: Westminster.

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