UK Travel Guide

Top 10

Westminster Abbey

Tradition has it that the Abbey was founded in or about the 7th century; however records show its origins lie in the Benedictine monastery which stood on this site circa 970AD. This was enhanced and enlarged by Edward the Confessor a devout Christian who ascended the throne in 1042. This Anglo-Saxon monarch who rebuilt the church along Norman lines passed away just a few days after the church was consecrated on 25 December 1065. His body was buried behind the High Altar and he became the first king to be buried at Westminster. There are now more than 3000 people buried or memorialized in the Abbey including many kings, queens, poets and other notable figures. The first coronation took place on Xmas day 1066 with the crowning of William the Conqueror (William I) and since then every monarch with the exceptions of King Edward V ( 1483) and Edward VIII (1936) have been crowned there. The Norman Abbey built by Edward the Confessor survived until 13th century when Henry III had it demolished and rebuilt in a new architectural design. Over the next couple of centuries further additions and changes were made but it has largely remained the same for the last three to four hundred years but there have been minor alterations modifications and additions carried out in the last two centuries. The Abbey is apart from its magnificent architecture also rather special in that it is not a cathedral nor parish church but a ‘Royal Peculiar’. This means that it falls under the jurisdiction of a Dean and Chapter, subject to the sovereign. There is so much to see at the Abbey not only its design structure and stained glass windows but items such as the Coronation Chair which was used by Edward I in the 13th century and by every monarch since for their coronation, and also the organ first played in 1723, the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the Abbey museum located in the Norman undercroft, the College Gardens dating back some 900 years, the Cloisters and Chapter Library. Services are held regularly in the Abbey whose function is dedicated to worship and prayer and visitors are welcomed to participate whenever able. The Abbey has over 3 million visitors each year whose entrance fees contribute to the upkeep and running of the Abbey which receives no state aid. Sometimes the Abbey is closed for special events, so it is wise to check. Tours are also available at an additional charge and the times vary according to the season. Tours commence Summer season. April-October Monday-Friday: 1000, 1030, 1100, 1400, 1430, 1500 (not Friday) Saturday: 1000, 1100, 1230 Winter season. November-March Monday-Friday: 1000, 1100, 1400, 1500 (not Friday) Saturday: 1000, 1100, 1230 St Margaret's Church, which stands just outside the North door, is open daily. Admission is free.