Meeting places of the medieval Parliament

The home of the medieval Parliament was the old Palace of Westminster, which burned down in a fire in 1834. Only a few buildings from the medieval palace remain.

Westminster Hall

The most significant survivor is Westminster Hall, the largest medieval hall in England. It was the location of the major law courts of England but was not used for parliamentary meetings.

When Parliament met at Westminster, the formal opening of each Parliamentary session took place in the Painted Chamber, a building to the south of Westminster Hall. It was named after the magnificent wall paintings which decorated the room, copies of which can still be seen in the Houses of Parliament. The Lords had their deliberation in the upper storey of a building at the southern end of the Painted Chamber called the White Chamber.

Commons and the Palace

For over two centuries the Commons did not even meet in the Palace. In 1352 it first met in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, and in 1397 it moved from there to the Refectory, or dining hall, of the Abbey. After the Reformation the royal chapel in the Palace, St Stephen’s, no longer served the religious purpose for which it had been built, and in 1547 the Protestant Edward VI gave the Commons the use of the chapel as their place to deliberate, where they stayed until it burned down in 1834.

Did you know?

Parliament did not always meet at Westminster. It met wherever the King was, including York, Northampton, Nottingham, Winchester, Salisbury and other places. By the 15th century it was generally based at Westminster.

Also within Living Heritage

Find out more about Westminster Hall's long history.

Learn about the architecture of the old Palace of Westminster and where the two Houses sat.