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Farther west along the Strand is the historic political centre of Westminster, where the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey are located. A central feature is the Mall, a processional road that links Trafalgar Square with Buckingham Palace. Also notable here is Covent Garden, designed by the English architect Inigo Jones in the early 17th century. It was London's first formal square surrounded by town houses, although it eventually became an important fruit, flower, and vegetable market, a function it lost in 1974. Covent Garden served as a model for Bedford, Belgrave, Berkeley, Grovesnor, Russell, and a host of other squares in the now fashionable neighbouring districts of Soho, Mayfair, Belgravia, Bloomsbury, and Marylebone. Toward the middle of the 19th century, urban development had spread north of Oxford Street to reach Marylebone, Euston, Pentonville, and City roads. Along this route the major railroad companies located the stations of Paddington, Marylebone, Euston, Saint Pancras, King's Cross, and Liverpool, which today serve western, northern, and eastern England. Access to southern England is provided by Victoria, Charing Cross, Waterloo, and London Bridge stations.
Points of Interest
Despite both the extensive rebuilding in the inner city and the widespread destruction caused by German bombing raids during World War II, London remains a city rich in structures with historic associations.
Saint Paul's Cathedral, London's most imposing church, is a large baroque edifice, distinguished by a huge central dome, and designed by the English architect Sir Christopher Wren. Built between 1675 and 1710, the cathedral is the burial place of many important British figures, as is Westminster Abbey, a typical example of English Gothic architecture (13th and 14th century), long the site of coronations and royal weddings. Other well-known churches are the Gothic Southwark Cathedral; Saint Bartholomew-the-Great, built shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066; the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral; Saint Martin-in-the-Fields; All Souls'; Saint Bride's; Saint Clement Dane's; Saint Margaret's, the church of Parliament; and Saint Mary-le-Bow.
The great complex of buildings known as the Houses of Parliament, still officially called the New Palace of Westminster, serves as the seat for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Built in a neo-Gothic style between 1840 and 1850, it is distinguished by the clock tower that contains the famous bell Big Ben. Mansion House has been the official residence of the lord mayor since 1753.