The Chapter House, Westminster Abbey, City of Westminster

The Chapter House, Westminster Abbey, City of Westminster

The Chapter House, Westminster Abbey, City of Westminster

My friend, Aidan, described Westminster Abbey as English history written in stone, which as good as a description as I could think of. And English, as the Kings and Queens of that country, later of Great Britain are buried here.

Anyway, I had a fabulous time at the Abbey, and already planning a return for the details I missed.


Of all the churches and cathedrals in London, the one I wanted to visit and photograph was Westminster Abbey. But, the Abbey didn’t allow photography didn’t go. And then a few weeks back, my friend, Aidan, started to post shots from inside, and as it turns out, photography, in most areas of the Abbey, is now allowed. So it was a case of when we would visit, not "if", and once we had a free weekend, I began to plan and book.

£25 to go in, each. £10 each for the new museum. And £15 each for a hidden highlights tour. It wasn’t cheap, but then if you’re going to do it, do it well!

All chores were done Friday, including shopping, so we were free to catch the quarter to eight train from Dover. On the way we called into the garage to pick up some stuff to eat on the train, so we were set.

Saturday was also the last day of British Summer Time (BST), as the clocks would go back early on Sunday morning, then five long winter months would begin.

So, better make most of the daylight.

We were early for the train, so we ate breakfast on the platform, then once the train pulled in, I picked my favourite seats and we settled down for the hour run into London. THe one thing I hadn’t planned well was the weather, and some rain was expected during the morning.

The train wasn’t busy, and most people wore masks, though enough didn’t to make one wonder if the message about COVID really hadn’t got through. But then with Johnson as PM, we shouldn’t be surprised.

We get off at Statford, and the rain was falling heavily even before we left the Essex marshes behind and entered the long tunnel. But at Stratford, day had become night and the rain fell in what is called stair-rods. I hoped that if we walked slowly through the shopping centre it might have eased by the time we needed to cross over the bridge to the regional station, but the rain was falling just as hard.

And there was no way to avoid it, so we just pulled our collars up and walked as quickly as possible.

Which is why, by the time we arrived at the other side, we were wet little hobbitses.

A quick walk to the Jubilee Line platforms, catching the next train out, we took seats and sat there, gently steaming.

Twenty minutes later, we arrived in Westminster, no dryer, really, taking the four flights of escalators to the surface, where outside it had, atleast, stopped raining for now.

Demonstrations are now outlawed in Parliament Square, so it was quiet, once you got to the other side of the road, its a five minute walk past the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament), and round to the entrance of the Abbey.

Amazingly, there was no queue, and once inside the doorway I show my e tickets, they were scanned and we were allowed in. There was a one way system round the Abbey, so I began the first circuit with the 50mm lens, thinking I would go round again with the wide angle, and a third time with the big lens to snap detail.

That was the plan.

Westminster Abbey is where the Kings and Queens of England and Britain have been crowned. Also, where until Henry V11 thought otherwise, they were buried too, so the chancel is jammed with tombs of many famous and infamous figures from history, from Edward the Confessor to William and Mary, most tombs are grand, some less so. As well as Kings and Queens, minor royals and members of the nobility also were either buried here, or had monument erected. As have military figures, and famousnames from the arts.

It really is quite remarkable.

That and the Abbey itself, in parts dating from just before the Norman COnquest, to a rebuilding just after to the 13th Century when Henry III pulled the old Abbey down and started to rebuild it, until he ran out of money.

But it was completed, and since then had filled up with monuments, so many, I lost count and gave up trying to record them all. Instead, marvelling at their range and beauty.

I walked down the nave, through the arch into the Quire, and it was as breathtaking as expected, then round the Chancel looking and photographing the tombs of the Kings and Queens, round Henry VII’s chapel.

And then repeating it with the wide angle lens, taking shots of the various chapels and tombs, all the while keeping an eye on the time as we were to go to visit the new gallery musuem at 11, and then a guided tour of some normally off limit places at half past.

Neither of these allowed photography, which is a great shame as the views from the gallery were stunning down the length of the Nave and then the ancinent chain library and the sanctuary of Henry VII’s chapel where we could reach out and touch the shrine of St Edward the Confessor.

The museum had dozens of funeral effigies of the Kings and Queens, some made I’m sure to look better than they did in real life, but others had a degree of realism about them. The one of Queen Mary seemed pregnant, while the one for Queen Elizabeth Ist had a tight corset, so she would have appeared in death as she had as a young woman.

There were carvings, ceremonial cloaks, replicas of the Crown Jewels, and so much more, but we had run out of time, as we had to get to the other side of the church for the hidden secrets tour.

Us and three other couples joined our guide as he showed us the latest escavations revealing the area where monks used to prepare for services. This is hidden behind screens now, and will soon become the site of a new visitor’s centre. The trenches were filled with uncvered skeletons and bones, all human of course, and these will all either be rebuuried here or some other Christian place.

Next we went to the Dean’s quarters where we saw where he prepared for services, and were allowed into, but not allowed to photograph the Jerico Room, before being allowed outside for a while, then walking around the cloisters, back into the chancel and into Henry’s chapel to see the tombs and shrine. Envious looks rained down on us as we climbed the wooden steps into the usually closed area, and then only the people in the gallery above could see us.


Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom’s most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and a burial site for English and, later, British monarchs.

The building itself was originally a Catholic Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral and seat of the catholic bishop. After 1560 the building was no longer an abbey or a cathedral, after the Catholics had been driven out by King Henry VIII, having instead was granted the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar"—a church responsible directly to the sovereign—by Queen Elizabeth I.

According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the seventh century at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present church began in 1245 on the orders of King Henry III.[4]

Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have occurred in Westminster Abbey.[4][5] Sixteen royal weddings have occurred at the Abbey since 1100.[6]

The Abbey is the burial site of more than 3300 persons, usually of prominence in British history: at least 16 monarchs, 8 Prime Ministers, poets laureate, actors, scientists, military leaders, and the Unknown Warrior. As such, Westminster Abbey is sometimes described as "Britain’s Valhalla", after the iconic hall of the chosen heroes in Norse mythology.

Between 1042 and 1052, King Edward the Confessor began rebuilding St Peter’s Abbey to provide himself with a royal burial church. It was the first church in England built in the Romanesque style. The building was completed around 1060 and was consecrated on 28 December 1065, only a week before Edward’s death on 5 January 1066.[9] A week later, he was buried in the church; and, nine years later, his wife Edith was buried alongside him.[10] His successor, Harold II, was probably crowned in the abbey, although the first documented coronation is that of William the Conqueror later the same year.[11]

The only extant depiction of Edward’s abbey, together with the adjacent Palace of Westminster, is in the Bayeux Tapestry. Some of the lower parts of the monastic dormitory, an extension of the South Transept, survive in the Norman Undercroft of the Great School, including a door said to come from the previous Saxon abbey. Increased endowments supported a community that increased from a dozen monks in Dunstan’s original foundation, up to a maximum of about eighty monks.

The abbot and monks, in proximity to the royal Palace of Westminster, the seat of government from the later 13th century, became a powerful force in the centuries after the Norman Conquest. The Abbot of Westminster often was employed on royal service and in due course took his place in the House of Lords as of right. Released from the burdens of spiritual leadership, which passed to the reformed Cluniac movement after the mid-10th century, and occupied with the administration of great landed properties, some of which lay far from Westminster, "the Benedictines achieved a remarkable degree of identification with the secular life of their times, and particularly with upper-class life", Barbara Harvey concludes, to the extent that her depiction of daily life provides a wider view of the concerns of the English gentry in the High and Late Middle Ages.[13]

The proximity of the Palace of Westminster did not extend to providing monks or abbots with high royal connections; in social origin the Benedictines of Westminster were as modest as most of the order. The abbot remained Lord of the Manor of Westminster as a town of two to three thousand persons grew around it: as a consumer and employer on a grand scale the monastery helped fuel the town economy, and relations with the town remained unusually cordial, but no enfranchising charter was issued during the Middle Ages.[14]

The abbey became the coronation site of Norman kings. None were buried there until Henry III, intensely devoted to the cult of the Confessor, rebuilt the abbey in Anglo-French Gothic style as a shrine to venerate King Edward the Confessor and as a suitably regal setting for Henry’s own tomb, under the highest Gothic nave in England. The Confessor’s shrine subsequently played a great part in his canonization.

The following English, Scottish and British monarchs and their consorts are buried in the Abbey:

Sæberht of Essex (d. c. 616) [possibly]
Edward the Confessor (d. 1066) and Edith of Wessex (d. 1075)
Henry III of England (d. 1272) [his wife, Eleanor of Provence, is buried at Amesbury Priory]
Edward I of England (d. 1307) and Eleanor of Castile (d. 1290)
Edward III of England (d. 1377) and Philippa of Hainault (d. 1369)
Richard II of England (d. 1400) and Anne of Bohemia (d. 1394)
Henry V of England (d. 1422) and Catherine of Valois (d. 1437)
Edward V of England (d. c. 1483) and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York (d. c. 1483) [possibly]
Also known as the Princes in the Tower. In 1674, the remains of two boys were exhumed from the Tower of London and at the orders of Charles II, they were interred in the wall of the Henry VII Lady Chapel.
Anne Neville (d. 1485), wife of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales [m. 1470–71; buried at Tewkesbury Abbey] and of Richard III [m. 1472–85; buried at Leicester Cathedral]
Henry VII of England (d. 1509) and Elizabeth of York (d. 1503)
Edward VI of England (d. 1553)
Anne of Cleves (d. 1557), former wife of Henry VIII [buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle]
Mary I of England (d. 1558)

Elizabeth I of England as shown on her tomb
Mary, Queen of Scots (d. 1542), mother of James VI & I of England and Scotland [brought from Peterborough Cathedral in 1612]
Elizabeth I of England (d. 1603)
In the 19th century, researchers looking for the tomb of James I partially opened the underground vault containing the remains of Elizabeth I and Mary I of England. The lead coffins were stacked, with Elizabeth’s resting on top of her half-sister’s.[9]
James VI & I of England and Scotland (d. 1625) and Anne of Denmark (d. 1619)
The position of the tomb of King James was lost for two and a half centuries. In the 19th century, following an excavation of many of the vaults beneath the floor, the lead coffin was found in the Henry VII vault.[9]
Charles II of England and Scotland (d. 1685)
Mary II of England and Scotland (d. 1694) and William III of England and II of Scotland (d. 1702)
Anne, Queen of Great Britain (d. 1714) and Prince George of Denmark, Duke of Cumberland (d. 1708)
George II of Great Britain (d. 1760) and Caroline of Ansbach (d. 1737)




Built by the royal masons in 1250, the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey was originally used in the 13th century by Benedictine monks for their daily meetings. It later became a meeting place of the King’s Great Council and the Commons, predecessors of today’s Parliament.

A beautiful octagonal building with a vaulted ceiling and delicate central column, it offers rarely seen examples of medieval sculpture, an original floor of glazed tiles and spectacular wall paintings.

The 11th century Pyx Chamber also has a medieval tiled floor, and was used as a monastic and royal treasury. It contains a 13th century stone altar which survived the Reformation.…

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