Visit to WESTMINSTER ABBEY 10 October 2019
3 Feb 2020 - 10:57 BY Anne Masters
Between 1042 and 1052, Edward the Confessor begun constructing a burial church for himself, shortly after it was consecrated he died in 1066. Later in 1245 the gothic Abbey was built by Henry III as a burial place for monarchs and was significantly expanded between 1503 and 1512 when the chapel of Henry VII was added, with it’s the magnificent pendant fan vault ceiling. The Abbey is now the final resting place for 17 monarchs and has been the coronation church since 1066.
Our group met Blue Badge Guide Jacqueline Heywood on a sunny autumn morning. We were guided down Whitehall, stopping at Horse Guard Parade to watch the changing of the guard and then along St. James’s Park to the Abbey. During our short walk we were entertained with interesting facts and anecdotes about the buildings and monuments we passed, road closures and protesters causing us no hindrance.
After refreshments in the Cellarium Café, we entered the Abbey and our guide imparted facts and stories while showing us around with knowledge and humour. At St. George’s Chapel we heard about the graffiti on the coronation chair and how the Stone of Scone was stolen, then admired the WWI memorial tablet. We paid our respects at the grave of the unknown warrior, saw the marble monument to the 1st Earl of Stanhope, who is buried at his family seat at Chevening, and the memorial to General Wolfe who was born in 1727 at Westerham.
The history of our Kings and Queens was recounted as we passed their tombs. In the Lady Chapel a stone records the burial place of Oliver Cromwell, whose body was dug up, dragged to Tyburn Gallows and beheaded. We saw the place where Dr Livingstone and Thomas Hardy were interned…except for their hearts which were removed. The former buried under a Mupundu tree in Africa, the latter eaten by his cat! We marvelled at the stained glass windows including the David Hockney window celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s reign depicting a country scene in vibrant colours. We looked around Poets Corner with the graves of Chaucer, Dickens, Kipling, C.S. Lewis, amongst many. As we left we passed by the oldest door in Britain dating back to the time of Edward the Confessor, before emerging back into the 21st century a lot wiser than when we had entered.
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