And what would Westminster Abbey be without its famous organ. Used for the first time during the coronation of King George VI, it has since become a staple of the Abbey, along with the Anglican choir, who can be heard singing during daily worships. A must visit if visiting London, Westminster Abbey represents the Royal family every bit as much as Buckingham Palace.
Westminster Abbey London Private Guided Tours
Westminster Abbey is a Gothic church in London. It is most commonly known for being the burial site for deceased monarchs and is sometimes even referred to as “Britain’s Valhalla” – a reference to the Norse afterlife. But it’s not all doom and gloom; for coronations are also held at Westminster Abbey and have been since William the Conqueror became King of England in 1066.
Built in 960, it was rumoured a man named Aldrich, a fisherman, had a vision of Saint Peter – one of the twelve apostles of Christ – near the grounds. In 1042, the Abbey, then named St Peter’s Abbey, was rebuilt by King Edward the Confessor (whose title was deemed upon him due to his pious nature) due to wanting a royal burial place. And it was completed just in time, too, for he died only one week after construction was completed in 1066. Talk about good timing.
Similar to a lot of London in World War Two, Westminster Abbey suffered damage during the Blitz. Incendiary bombs, designed to start fires, set the roof alight. Although many of the fires were extinguished, the ARP (Air Raid Precaution Members) were unable to parts of the roof, but despite falling debris, they were able to evacuate some of the priceless furniture which remains in the Abbey to this day.
Westminster Abbey was the first English church to be built in Romanesque style and drew influence from the cathedrals springing up in FRance at the time. The building we see today dates mainly from the reign of Henry III and stands at 31 metres tall (101 feet) or about twice the size of the Hollywood sign. The main tower is taller still, at 69 metres (225 feet). The stonework came from quarries from Reigate in Surrey and Caen in France. The three master masons supervising the work were John of Gloucester, Henry of Reyns and Robert of Beverley. Later additions include the Lady Chapel in the early 16th century and the completion of the West Towers in Portland stone, to a design by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1745.
Restoration work of the weathered Reigate sandstone was carried out by Sir Christopher Wren. The exterior of the Lady Chapel was extensively restored under James Wyatt and mason Thomas Gayfere at the start of the 19th century. The Chapter House was restored in the middle of the 19th century by Sir George Gilbert Scott and later in the century John L. Pearson carried out restorations including the stonework of the rose window. Further restorative work in the 1970s, 80s and 90s was undertaken.
There have been a number of Royal weddings at Westminster Abbey, mainly televised and viewed by millions worldwide. In 1947, then Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) married Lt Philip Mountbatten, making him the Duke of Edinburgh. That’s one way to climb the military ranks. Prince William also married at Westminster Abbey, one year before the Olympics, in 2011 to Catherine Middleton.
As well as the obvious royal heritage of the Abbey, Black heritage is celebrated with the recent installation of 10 statues of 20th century individuals who died for their beliefs including Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Dr King, who was assinated in Memphis in 1968, is depicted with outstretched hands welcoming a young girl. The installation of the statues honouring Christian martyrs marks the completion of a 25 year renovation project and a must-see site for any London Black History tour.
Follow in the footsteps of the Great and the Good in the heart of Westminster, from Royal London to "TheatreLand" and the famous West End... Not to be missed!
Visit London's popular attractions in a one day chauffeur-driven drive round tour with an experienced tour guide.
Visit London's popular attractions in a one day private chauffeur-driven tour with an experienced tour guide.