Westminster Hall is the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate. It has played a central role in 900 years of British history, with the major institutions of the British state having grown up directly around it.
The Hall was built in 1097 under William II (Rufus), the son of William the Conqueror, and was completed two years later. He had conceived the project to impress his new subjects with his power and the majesty of his authority.
According to one story, when the King first inspected the Hall, one of his attendants remarked that it was much larger than needed. The King replied that the Hall was not half large enough, and that it was a mere bedchamber when compared to what he had in mind.
The Hall was by far the largest hall in England, and probably in Europe at that time. Measuring 73 by 20 metres, it had a floor area covering 1,547 square metres, with a length of almost four cricket pitches end-to-end.
The Hall was so large that other halls were needed at Westminster for normal use, and the royal household usually ate in a smaller hall nearby.
The great mystery about the Hall is the form of its original roof. Not until the 13th or 14th century could carpenters create roofs significantly wider than the length of the available timber, and so it was assumed that a single or double row of columns was needed to support the Hall’s roof.
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