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What Is the Banqueting House?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Cartwright
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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Banqueting House is an historic building located in London, England. The building is made up of storage areas and one great room suitable for public gatherings. Banqueting House was part of the complex of buildings that made up the palace of Whitehall from 1530 until 1698. Originally built to house performances, the hall was principally used as a reception and ceremonial space by the British Royal family.

Inigo Jones, one of the most prominent English architects of his day, designed the present Banqueting House for James I. The design was one of the first Palladian style structures built in Great Britain. Palladian style architecture was modeled on the work of Andre Palladio, one of Italy's greatest architects during the Renaissance.

Banqueting House replaced earlier structures built on the same site as an entertainment and special occasion venue There are storage areas on the bottom floor and a single large room, with a few associated service areas, on the upper floor. The great room is two stories high and from the outside the building appears to have three stories. A painted ceiling and very large windows add to the majestic appearance.

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The building is a property of the Queen of England, as representative of the nation. It is maintained and managed by Historic Royal Palaces, which also maintains Kensington Palace and other historic palaces. The building is open to the public for tours, concerts and community events, as well as classes, workshops and lectures, and can be also rented as a banquet or entertainment venue.

A prior permanent banqueting house had replaced a temporary Elizabethan structure after James I ascended to the throne. That building burned in 1619 and was rebuilt on the same site to the plan of Inigo Jones. The new building was used as a public reception and function room by British monarchs from Charles I through William and Mary. It was a Banqueting House that Charles I was executed in 1649 and that was where Charles II and Parliament first met when the monarchy was restored in 1660.

In 1698 the rest of the buildings that made up Whitehall palace burned, and Banqueting Hall was converted to use as a chapel. The chapel closed in 1890; from 1893 to 1962, the building was used as a museum by a private organization. In 1962 it was returned to the national government, restored to its former look and opened to the public.

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