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Parliament Square

Parliament Square in 1980

Parliament Square is a square at the northwest end of the Palace of Westminster in London. It features a large open green area in the centre with trees to its west and it contains ten statues of statesmen and other notable individuals.

As well as being one of London's main tourist attractions, it is also the place where many demonstrations and protests have been held. The square is overlooked by various official buildings: legislature to the east (in the Houses of Parliament), executive offices to the north (on Whitehall), the judiciary to the west (the Supreme Court), and the church to the south (with Westminster Abbey).


  • Location 1
  • History 2
  • Statues 3
  • Demonstrations 4
  • Panorama 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Buildings looking upon the square include the churches HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs, and Portcullis House.

Roads that branch off the Parliament Square are St. Margaret Street (towards Birdcage Walk), Parliament Street (leading into Whitehall), and Bridge Street (leading onto Westminster Bridge).


Streets around Parliament Square in 1888

Parliament Square was laid out in 1868 in order to open up the space around the Parliamentary Estate to the control of the Greater London Authority by the Greater London Authority Act 1999. It has responsibility to light, cleanse, water, pave, and repair the garden, and has powers to make bylaws for the garden.

The east side of the square, lying opposite one of the key entrances to the Palace of Westminster, has historically been a common site of protest against government action or inaction. On Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which provides for a different regime of "prohibited activities".[1]

As well as sparking a great deal of protest from various groups on the grounds of infringement of civil liberties including the European Convention on Human Rights, the Act was initially unsuccessful in accomplishing its goals: Brian Haw was held to be exempt from needing authorisation in a High Court ruling, as his protest had started before the Act came into effect (though any new protests would be covered); Haw remained in Parliament Square. Later, the Court of Appeal overturned this ruling, forcing Haw to apply for police authorisation to continue his protest.


The square is home to eleven statues of British, Commonwealth, and foreign statesmen. They are listed here in anti-clockwise order, beginning with Winston Churchill's statue which faces Parliament.

Image Subject Location Sculptor Date of unveiling Notes Listing
Winston Churchill
Prime Minister 1940–1945 and 1951–1955
North-eastern edge of the green

Ivor Roberts-Jones 1 November 1973 Unveiled by Lady Clementine Churchill. Churchill indicated his desire for a statue of himself in this spot when Parliament Square was redeveloped in the 1950s.[2] Roberts-Jones’s initial versions of the statue were felt to bear too close a resemblance to Benito Mussolini.[3] Grade II
David Lloyd George
Prime Minister 1916–1922
Northern edge of the green Glynn Williams 25 November 2007

Unveiled by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. Stands on a plinth of slate from Penrhyn Quarry, North Wales.[4]

Jan Smuts
Prime Minister of South Africa 1919–1924 and 1939–1948
Northern edge of the green

Sir Jacob Epstein 7 November 1956 Winston Churchill, on his return to power in 1951, wished to erect a statue to Smuts; he was, however, unable to perform the unveiling due to illness. The pedestal is of granite from South Africa.[5] Grade II
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
Prime Minister 1855–1858 and 1859–1865
North-western edge of the green

Thomas Woolner 2 February 1876 Palmerston is portrayed in middle age, before he became Prime Minister. The pedestal departs from the "Gothic" model of the nearby statues of Derby and Peel.[6] Grade II
Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby
Prime Minister 1852, 1858–1859 and 1866–1868
North-western edge of the green

Matthew Noble 11 July 1874 Derby is represented wearing his robes as Chancellor of Oxford University. The bronze reliefs around the pedestal depicting scenes from his life were executed by Noble’s assistant, Horace Montford.[7] Grade II
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield
Prime Minister 1868 and 1874–1880
Western edge of the green

Mario Raggi 19 April 1883 The statue was the "shrine" of the Primrose League, a conservative association established in Disraeli’s memory, who left wreaths in front of it every year on "Primrose Day", the anniversary of his death.[8] Grade II
Sir Robert Peel
Prime Minister 1834–1835 and 1841–1846
Western edge of the green

Matthew Noble 1877 Initially a statue of Peel was commissioned from Carlo Marochetti. This was ready by 1853 but was considered to be far too large. Marochetti produced a smaller work which was placed at the entrance to New Palace Yard; this was removed in 1868 and melted down in 1874.[9] Grade II
George Canning
Foreign Secretary 1807–1809 and 1822–1827; Prime Minister 1827
At the square's junction with Great George Street

Sir Richard Westmacott 2 May 1832 Originally erected in New Palace Yard; in its current location since 1949. The features are based on the portrait bust of Canning by Sir Francis Chantrey, who was "not at all pleased with the preference shewn to Mr. Westmacott".[10] Grade II
Abraham Lincoln
President of the United States 1861–1865
In front of the Middlesex Guildhall

Augustus Saint-Gaudens July 1920 A replica of the statue in [11] Grade II
Nelson Mandela
President of South Africa 1994–1999
South-western edge of the green

Ian Walters 29 August 2007

Westminster Council had earlier refused permission for placing the statue in Trafalgar Square adjacent to South Africa House.[12] The statue was unveiled by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the presence of Wendy Woods, the widow of Donald Woods, a late anti-apartheid campaigner, and the British actor, director and long-time friend of Woods, Richard Attenborough.

Mahatma Gandhi
Indian Independence Leader
Philip Jackson 14 March 2015

The statue of the Indian independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi is based on a photograph of Gandhi standing outside the offices of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Ramsay MacDonald in 1931.[13] It was unveiled by Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 14 March, 2015. The statue was dedicated as a commemoration of the centennial of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa, which is generally regarded as the commencement of his efforts for Indian independence. Speakers at the unveiling of the statue included Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, Indian film star Amitabh Bachchan and Gandhi's grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi. [13]


The Parliament Square Peace Campaign is a peace campaign started by Brian Haw in 2001 and carried on by Barbara Tucker.[14]

In May 2010, a peace camp known as Democracy Village was set up in the square to protest (initially) against the British government's involvement in invasions in the Middle East, which became an eclectic movement encompassing left-wing causes and anti-globalisation protests.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson appealed to the courts to have them removed and, after demonstrators lost an appeal in July 2010, Lord Neuberger ruled that the protesters camping on the square should be evicted.[15]


Panoramic view from the centre of Parliament Square


  1. ^ The law and history on protest around Parliament, including the ban that was enforced under SOCPA and the narrower restrictions under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 are analysed in an article on protest in Parliament Square. Kiron Reid 'Letting Down the Drawbridge: Restoration of the Right to Protest At Parliament'. (2013) 1 Law Crime and History 16 (pp. 16-51) (Internet (free access)). ISSN 2045-9238. The file is a .pdf.
  2. ^ Howard, Philip (2 November 1973). "Resolute and defiant as ever, Churchill's statue is revealed". The Times. 
  3. ^ "Winston Churchill's statue ‘had a look of Mussolini’". The Daily Telegraph. 1 January 2004. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "Lloyd George statue ‘is a disgrace’". The Independent. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 30 September 201. 
  5. ^ Ward-Jackson 2011, p. 206–10
  6. ^ Ward-Jackson 2011, pp. 195–7
  7. ^ Ward-Jackson 2011, p. 192
  8. ^ Ward-Jackson 2011, pp. 200–3
  9. ^ "Noble, Matthew (bap. 1817, d. 1876), sculptor". Your Archives. The National Archives. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Ward-Jackson 2011, pp. 190–2
  11. ^ "The statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square". Your Archives. The National Archives. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "London Mandela statue for Parliament Sq". BBC News. 29 August 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ "Parliament Square peace campaigner Brian Haw dies". BBC Online. 19 June 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  15. ^ Parliament Square protesters lose eviction appeal], BBC News, 16 July 2010.
  • Ward-Jackson, Philip (2011). Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster: Volume 1.  

Further reading

External links

  • Parliament Square Peace Campaign website
  • Specifically prohibited activities : Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Part 3: Parliament Square Garden and surrounding area

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