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Guildhall, an early 15th-century Gothic hall, is used for the lord mayor's banquet and civil functions. Westminster Hall, an assembly hall adjoining the Houses of Parliament, was constructed in the 11th century and redesigned in the 14th century with a magnificent roof.
The most venerable building in the city is the Tower of London, an excellent example of Norman military architecture. Beginning as a centre of defence for William the Conqueror, the Tower has served as a royal residence, state prison, execution ground, and place for royal pageants; the Tower is also the home of the crown jewels. In 1994 the Jewel House, an expanded and remodelled area housing the crown jewels, was opened.
Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of the monarch since 1837, when Queen Victoria moved her court from Saint James's Palace, which is located on the Mall. Three other important palaces are Kensington Palace; Lambeth Palace, the London seat of the archbishops of Canterbury; and Hampton Court, the Tudor palace originally built by Thomas Cardinal Wolsey.
Museums and Art Galleries
Pre-eminent among London's museums is the British Museum, which possess one of the finest libraries in the world as well as a superior collection of artworks, antiquities, and objects of natural history. The Museum of London has exhibits dealing with the development and life of London from Roman times to the present. The Victoria and Albert Museum specialises in fine and applied art. The most famous national collections of art include the National Gallery, facing Trafalgar Square, and, next door, the National Portrait Gallery. Contrasting with the essentially classical collections of these two galleries are the romantic, impressionist, and modern art collections of the Tate Gallery. Smaller galleries include the Courtauld Institute Galleries, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Hayward Art Gallery, and the Queen's Gallery.
Among the many centres of professional theatre in London are the National Theatre, home of the National Theatre Company; the Aldwych Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company in London until 1982, when it moved to the new Barbican Arts Centre; the Drury Lane Theatre; and the Royal Court Theatre. The city has five major symphony orchestras and a number of string and chamber orchestras, many of which are located in the South Bank area of the city.