WESTMINSTER, comprising the parishes of St. Margaret and St. John, it is a city and metropolitan borough locally in the Kensington division of Ossulstone hundred, county Middlesex, about 1½ mile S.W. of St. Paul's cathedral. It is a place of great antiquity, having been, as is said, the site of a temple to Apollo in the Roman times; but the present city dates from the beginning of the 7th century, when Sebert, king of the East Saxons, erected the Abbey church on Thorney Island, then a marshy spot, almost surrounded by water, and named it "West Mynstre," in contradistinction to the East Minster, or St. Paul's, which had been previously founded by Ethelbert. The city of Westminster, as it is correctly called, by reason of its containing the abbey, which is a cathedral church, includes the whole of the court portion of the metropolis, extending along the N. bank of the Thames for about 3½ miles-viz:, from Temple Bar in the E. to beyond Kensington Palace in the W., and has a varying breadth of from half a mile to 2 miles. Its boundaries are the city of London proper on the E. and N.E., the Thames on the S. and S.E., Oxford Street on the N., and an irregular line on the W., running from Kensington gardens towards Chelsea Hospital.
In 1851 it contained 24,755 houses, inhabited by a population of 241,611, and in 1861, 26,286 houses, inhabited by 254,623. As a borough it has returned two members to parliament since the reign of Edward VI., and is governed by a high-steward, with a high-bailiff of his appointment, but both holding office for life, and by 16 burgesses, each having jurisdiction, over a separate ward, similar to that exercised by an alderman of London. It has access across the Thames with the Surrey side by the Suspension, Waterloo, Westminster, and Vauxhall bridges, and contains Hyde Park, the Green Park, St. James's Park, and Kensington Gardens, also Buckingham Palace, the town residence of her Majesty, St. James's Palace, where drawing-rooms and receptions take place, the Houses of Parliament, the Abbey, the Supreme Courts, Chelsea Hospital, the Victoria railway stations, besides the more important government offices, and the town residences of the principal nobility and gentry, a fuller description of which has already been given under the article [London]. [See Genuki London pages]
[Description(s) from "The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland" (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]
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