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Westminster is an area of Central London, within the City of Westminstermarker. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, southwest of the City of Londonmarker and southwest of Charing Crossmarker. It has a large concentration of Londonmarker's historic and prestigious landmarks and visitor attractions, including Buckingham Palacemarker and Westminster Abbeymarker.

Historically a part of Middlesexmarker, 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 Westminstermarker, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses the Parliament of the United Kingdommarker.

History

The name Westminster describes the area around Westminster Abbeymarker and Palace of Westminstermarker, – the West Minster, or monastery church, west of the City of London's St Paul's, that gave the area its name–which has been the seat of the government of Englandmarker for almost a thousand years. The name is also used for the larger City of Westminstermarker which covers a wider geographical area; and, since 1965, has included the former boroughs of Marylebonemarker and Paddingtonmarker.

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 Westminstermarker 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 Whitehallmarker a little towards the north-east. The law courts have since moved to the Royal Courts of Justicemarker, close to the border of the City of London. The area is still the centre of government, with Parliament now located in the Palace of Westminster and most of the major Government ministries situated in Westminster, centred on Whitehallmarker. "Westminster" is thus often used as a metonym for Parliament and the political community of the United Kingdommarker 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 Kingdommarker. The Westminster System is used with some adaptation in many other nations, particularly in the Commonwealth of Nations and other parts of the former British Empire.
Close to the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey is Westminster Schoolmarker, one of the major English public schools. Three of the four campuses of the University of Westminstermarker are within the greater London borough of the City of Westminstermarker, although none in the ancient area of Westminster.

The area has a substantial residential population, a surprisingly large proportion of which is a traditional London working class community living in council and Peabody Trust estates at the back of Westminster Abbey and off Millbankmarker. There is also a substantial working class community in the north of the borough.

The term Westminster Village, sometimes used in the context of British politics, does not refer to a geographical area at all; employed especially in the phrase Westminster Village gossip, it denotes a supposedly close social circle of Members of Parliament, political journalists, so-called spin doctors and others connected to events in the Palace of Westminster.

Bibliographic references

  • Manchee, W. H. (1924) The Westminster City Fathers (the Burgess Court of Westminster) 1585-1901: Being some account of their powers and domestic rule of the City prior to its incorporation in 1901; with a foreword by Walter G. Bell and 36 illustrations which relate to documents (some pull-outs) and artefacts. London: John Lane (The Bodley Head)
  • Davies, E. A. (1952) An Account of the Formation and Early Years of The Westminster Fire Office; (Includes black and white photographic plates with a colour frontispiece of 'A Waterman' and a foreword by Major K. M. Beaumont. London: Country Life Limited for the Westminster Fire Office


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