A relic of early Stuart England, the Banqueting House is the only building that survives of the Palace of Whitehall, the residence of 16th and 17th century English monarchs. Built to replace a wooden banqueting house that had burned down, the hall built during the reign of Charles I, was a large three stories high square room used for royal receptions, ceremonies and as a place to stage masques, a form of entertainment famous for their fantastic sets and dancing. It was a novel building for its time and stood out as it was the first neo classical building to be built in England. Now it is a much treasured heritage structure.
What sets the building apart are its ceiling canvasses which were painted by the famous Flemish artist Rubens. The huge size of the paintings and the glowing colours give the beautifully proportioned interior a sense of grandeur. Natural light streaming in through large windows and the tall Corinthian columns add to the magnificence of the room. Masques were not enacted in the hall after the installation of the canvases as it was feared the pyrotechnics employed would damage the paintings. This has left them intact to this day. The dimly lit vaulted space of the basement of the building is said to have been designed as a drinking den for James I and his cronies and after his death was used as a gambling den. It is still a great place to have a party.
While the Banqueting House hosts a range of evening and day time activities, it is also one of London’s most sought after event venues due to its central London location and dazzling, grand spaces both above and below ground. Today, it continues to serve the purpose for which it was meant, a grand event space.
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