Did you know that there’s another marvelous tower on the opposite side of Big Ben?
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Victoria Tower, another fascinating building in London.
1. It’s located next to the Palace of Westminster
The Victoria Tower is located on the southwest end of the Palace of Westminster, also referred to as the Houses of Parliament. That’s in the City of Westminster, an inner Borough of London on the left bank of the River Thames.
It stands on the “House of Lords” end of the Palace, which is the opposite end of the House of Commons end where we can find Big Ben which is officially known as the “Elizabeth Tower,” the most iconic tower in London.
2. It was built during the construction of the new Palace of Westminster
The Old Palace of Westminster was destroyed during a fire in the year 1834. Plans to move the Houses of Parliament to Buckingham Palace were shelved as it was deemed unsuitable, so it was decided to completely rebuild the Palace instead.
The massive new palace was completed between 1840 and 1876, and the Victoria Tower was part of this project. The tower itself was completed 16 years before the palace in the year 1860.
3. The tower was built for two particular purposes
While the Elizabeth Tower on the other end served as a clock tower and didn’t really have a functional purpose, the Victoria Tower was built for two main reasons:
- To house the Parliamentary Archives and serve as a “fireproof repository for books and documents.”
- To serve as the main entrance for the Monarch at the State Opening of Parliament.
One of the most interesting facts about the Victoria Tower is that the entrance of the tower, which is referred to as the “Sovereign’s Entrance,” is wide enough for the Queen’s Coach to pass through it at the State Opening of Parliament.
12 of the 14 floors of the tower are used to store books and documents.
4. It was designed in an English Gothic architectural style
The main designers of the tower were also the main architects of the Palace of Westminster. Sir Charles Barry and Auguste Pugin designed the tower in the typical Perpendicular Gothic style, also referred to as the last of the “English Gothic” styles.
It was Queen Victoria herself who laid the first stone of the tower on December 22, 1843.
5. The Victoria Tower is just a bit taller than the Elizabeth Tower
The Palace is marked by the two massive towers standing on each end. While the Elizabeth Tower is most definitely the most iconic of the two towers, it’s a bit shorter than the Victoria Tower.
The Victoria Tower stands 98.5 meters (323 feet) tall while Big Ben only reaches a height of 96.3 meters (316 feet).
6. The tower held an amazing record for numerous years
One of the most fascinating facts about the Victoria Tower is that it was the tallest square tower in the world upon completion in the year 1860. It held this record for numerous years as well.
The 14 floors of the tower used to be connected with an old wrought-iron Victorian staircase that contained a total of 553 steps.
Today, only 5 floors of this staircase, of which the steps were made of granite that was quarried in Aberdeenshire in Scotland, still exist.
7. It’s elaborately decorated with statues, including one of Queen Victoria
One feature of the English Gothic architectural style is its elaborate decorations, something which Sir Charles Barry indulged in while he designed this magnificent tower.
The statues we can see in the niches of the tower include:
- Statues of the patron saints of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
- Allegorical statues represent Mercy and Justice.
- A life-size statue of Queen Victoria herself.
8. The Victoria Tower has a link with Tower Bridge
While it’s clear that the design of the towers of Tower Bridge and the Victoria Tower is similar, this isn’t the link we are referring to!
One of the most amazing facts about the Victoria Tower is that it’s not supported by the visible stones but rather by a cast-iron framework. This is also the case with the towers of Tower Bridge which are supported by a steel framework and the stones are merely decorations.
9. Two different flags can fly from the flagpole on top of the tower
There’s a flagpole located on top of the tower which can fly two different flags:
- The Union Flag – The national flag of the United Kingdom.
- The Royal Standard – The flag used by Queen Elizabeth II.
When the Monarch is present at the Palace of Westminster, the Union Flag is replaced with the Royal Standard.
The Union Flag is present every day, but only since 2010. Before that, it was only present when either of the Houses of Parliament sat.
10. It was named after Queen Victoria on a special day
The tower was originally referred to as the “King’s Tower,” this is for the simple reason that the Old Palace was destroyed by a fire in 1834 which was during the reign of King William IV.
It wasn’t until the Diamond Jubilee year of Queen Victoria in 1897 that the tower was officially renamed the “Victoria Tower.”
This also happened during the Diamond Jubilee year of Queen Elizabeth II, when the “Clock Tower” (Big Ben) was officially renamed the “Elizabeth Tower” in 2012!