England’s best views
Westminster skyline
From the Abbey sanctuary, London SW1

‘The “Olympic gold” pillar box at the junction of Victoria and Tothill streets commands a fine view of the national tableau of Westminster. It looks beyond Westminster Abbey and encompasses Victoria Tower in one frame.

To the left-but invisible here-the Elizabeth Tower (which houses the bell Big Ben) stands bold over Westminster Bridge where, since 1859, it has marked the nation’s time and acted as its guardian angel. As visual focus of the City of Westminster, it gathers up river, bridge and government quarter and commands their collective obedience to the gods of parliament.

The Palace of Westminster was commissioned after the old parliament building burned down in 1834.

Designed by Charles Barry and adorned by Augustus Pugin, the composition is the world’s most bravura work of Gothic Revival, a balanced series of elevations whether seen from the river or the square. ’

Extracted from ‘England’s 100 Best Views’ by Simon Jenkins, to be published by Profile books in October 2013 (£25 hardback)

Words: Simon Jenkins

Photograph: Paul Barker