The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London.

The palace was originally the principal residence of the English monarch. Parliament first met there in 1265.

However, in 1512, during the reign of Henry VIII, a fire destroyed part of the building and the King moved to the Palace of Whitehall.


Parliament before the 1834 fire with Old Palace Yard in the foreground. Drawn by J. Shury & Son, Printed by Day & Haghe Date circa 1834. Retrieved through Wikimedia Commons.

In 1834 a large fire destroyed both Houses of Parliament and many of its
ancillary buildings.


The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16th October, 1834 by J. M. W. Turner retrieved through Wikimedia Commons

Several of my forebears and relatives served in Parliament.

Thomas Crew (1564 – 1634), one of my 11th great grandfathers, was elected at Lichfield in 1604. He was Speaker of the House of Commons in 1624 and 1625. Thomas Crew’s father was a tanner of Nantwich, who put his two sons into law. Both Thomas and his brother Ranulphe (1559 – 1646) became Speakers of the House of Commons, the only brothers ever to have had this distinction.

Crew Thomas

Portrait of Sir Thomas Crewe, Speaker 1623 – 1625. Given by his descendant Ralph Cartwright, Esq. 1805. In the collection of the UK Parliament (catalogue number WOA 2702) Crew displeased James 1 by upholding the liberties of Parliament as ‘matters of inheritance, not of grace’ but later said by the King to be the ‘ablest Speaker known for years’.

John Crew (1598 – 1679), son of Thomas and one of my 10th great grandfathers, was first elected to Parliament in 1624 and served until after 1660.

Edward Mainwaring (1635 – 1703), one of my 8th great grandfathers, represented the seat of Newcastle-Under-Lyme in 1685 He was a Tory(a Monarchist), on the committee on the bill for the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees (a committee whose recommendations were of great significance to my Huguenot refugee forebears).

Two generations after arriving as Huguenot refugees, my Champion de Crespigny 5th great grandfather and his Fonnereau brothers-in-law entered Parliament.

Philip Champion Crespigny (1738 – 1803), one of my 5th great grandfathers, first entered Parliament in 1780, Philip Crespigny supported the Tory Prime Minister Lord North. Philip later transferred his allegiance to the radical Whig Charles James Fox (1749-1806); Fox formed a coalition with Lord North in 1783. Philip’s second son by his fourth wife Dorothy nee Scott, born in 1785, was baptised Charles [James] Fox. Philip’s address at that time was number 4, Old Palace Yard, an elegant residential terrace conveniently close to the Houses of Parliament.


Old Palace Yard, Westminster” watercolour by Thomas Malton, probably exhibited in the Royal Gallery in 1796

The website called “The History of Parliament Online” has biographies of members of Parliament and the history of constituencies. These cover Parliamentary politics and other aspects of the history of the institution. This project has published 41 volumes, with 24,000 biographical articles on MPs from 1386 to 1832, and a blog with contributions from some of the project’s historians. Recent articles on the blog include:


AtoZ map P

The Palace of Westminster is marked with a black x


The History of Parliament

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