London’s old buildings
London’s rich architectural heritage is cared for by several organisations. Many properties are open to the public.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for conserving and enhancing England’s historic built environment. It designates Ancient Monuments and decides which buildings should be given listed status. The DCMS is also directly responsible for maintaining Apsley House, Somerset House and the former Royal Naval College in Greenwich. The department has links with the National Trust, English Heritage and Hiistoric Royal Palaces.
The National Trust’s London properties include
o remains of a Roman Bath in the Strand
o Carlyle’s House in Chelsea
o Ernv Goldfinger’s 1930s modernist home in Hampstead
English Heritage oversees several sites of interest in the capital, including Kenwood House, London Wall, Eltham Palace and the Wellington Arch.
Historic Royal Palaces is contracted by the DCMS to manage the care and conservation of treasures such as the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Kew Palace and the Banqueting House, Whhitehall.
Using proceeds from the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund has spent more than three-quarters of a billion pounds on renovating and preserving historic buildings in England, Scotland and Wales. London buildings benefiting from funding include:
o Somerset House
o the Royal Al
o the Coliseum theatre (home to the English National Opera)
o buildings at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
London is home to several .world heritage sites. Six of the capital’s most important cultural landmarks received this international recognition:
o Kew Gardens
o the Tower of London
o the Palace of Westminster
o Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church
o Maritime Greenwich
Ashby de la Zouch Castle
Ashby Castle forms the backdrop to the famous jousting scenes in Sir Walter Scott’s classic novel of 1819, Ivanhoe. Now a ruin, the castle began as a manor house in the 12th century and only achieved castle status in the 15th century, by which time the hall and buttery had been enlarged, with a solar to the east and a large, integral kitchen added to the west. Inn 1474, Lord Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain to Edward IV, constructed the chapel and the keep, Hastings Tower – a castle within a castle.Ashby has hosted royal visitors – notably Mary, Queen of Scots, twice imprisoned here, and James I, who attended masques and lavish entertainments. Ashby suffered a dramatic Civil War siege in the 1640s, after which the tower was blown in two. Now, visitors can climb the 24-metre (78 ft) tower, which offers superb views of the town and surrounding countryside. An un
The Old Royal Naval College
The old Royal Naval College is the great baroque masterpiece of English architecture, set in landscaped grounds on the River Thames in the centre of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. The UNESCO designation recognises the site as being of “outstanding universal value”, as Greenwich comprises the finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble in the British Isles.
Greenwich Hospital was established in 1694 by Royal Charter for the relief and support of seamen and their dependants and for the improvement of navigation. Sir Christopher Wren planned the site, described as “one of the most sublime sights English architecture affords”, and during the first half of the eighteenth century various illustrious architects, such as Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh, completed Wren’s grand design. The elaborate ceiling and wall paintings in the Great Hall (known as the “Painted Hall”) were executed by Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726. The Chapel was restored by James “Athenian” Stuart after a fire in 1779.
In 1869 the Hospital was closed, and in 1873 the complex of buildings became the Royal Naval College, where officers from all over th
The Greenwich Foundation was established in 1997 as a registered charity to look after these magnificent buildings and their grounds for the benefit of the nation. A 150 year lease for the buildings was signed in July 1998. In the Autumn of 1999 the University of Greenwich began teaching here and, in October 2001, it was joined in by Trinity College of Music.
History of the Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster was the principal residence of the kings of England from the middle of the 11th century until 1512. In medieval times kings summoned their courts wherever they happened to be. But by the end of the 14th century the court in all its aspects – administrative, judicial and parliamentary – had its headquarters at Westminster.
Although the Lords were accommodated in the Palace, the Commons originally had no permanent meeting place of their own, meeting either in the chapter house or the refectory of Westminster Abbey. After the Chantries Act 1547 abolished all private chapels, the Royal Chapel of St Stephen within the Palace of Westminster was ha
The Commons assembled in St Stephen’s until 1834 when the Palace was burned down. This fire destroyed almost all of the Palace except Westminster Hall, the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel, the adjacent cloisters and the Jewel Tower.
The present Houses of Parliament were built over the next 30 years. They were the work of the architect Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) and his assistant Augustus Welby Pugin (1812-52). The design incorporated Westminster Hall and the remains of St Stephen’s Chapel.
The House of Commons Chamber was destroyed in a German air attack in 1941. It was rebuilt after the Second World War, taking care to preserve the essential features of Barry’s building – the architect was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The new Chamber was completed in 1950.
Layout of the Palace of Westminster
After coming through the public entrance – St Stephen’s Entrance – the approach to the Central Lobby of the Palace is through St Stephen’s Hall from St Stephen’s Porch at the southern end of Westminster Hall. Central Lobby, a large octagonal hall, is the centrepiece of the Palace. When waiting to see their MP, members of the public wait here. The Central Lobby is a great masterpiece of Victorian art.
From the Central Lobby, corridors lead northward to the House of Commons Lobby and Chamber and southward to the House of Lords. Beyond the House of Lords are the ceremonial rooms used at the State Opening of Parliament – the Queen’s Robing Room and the Royal Gallery – reached by a separate entrance under the Victoria Tower. The Royal Gallery is 33 m long, 13 m high and 13 m wide (110 ft x 44 ft x 44 ft). The Queen processes through it on her way to the Chamber of the House of Lords on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament. It is also often used when members of the two Houses meet together to hear addresses by visiting heads of State or Government.
To the north of the House of Commons are the residences of the Speaker and the Serjeant-at-Arms, and various offices for ministers and officials. Beyond them is one of the most famous features of the Palace – the huge bell Big Ben housed in the Clock Tower. Big Ben came into operation in 1859 and weighs 13.7 tonnes.
The Site and its Royal Associations
The site of the Houses of Parliament was known in early mediaeval times as Thorney, the island
of briars. It was a low, marshy area; the River Thames being much wider and shallower than at
present. Two tributary rivers entered it from the north bank: a little further upstream was the
Horse ferry which was a shallow ford at low tide.
There were positive considerations for choosing this fen as a site for a Royal Palace. It was
sufficiently far from London (with whose citizens Kings sometimes found themselves in
disagreement), adjacent to the river for ease of transport of people and goods and next to the
great church refounded by Edward the Confessor (c1065). Indeed, it is said that Thorney had
been a royal residence and a religious site in the reign of King Canute (1016-1035). During the
construction of the first Abbey building, Edward also set up residence in Thorney, to an area
generally to the east of the Church. Although nothing remains of this Saxon palace, it was
Edward’s residence here that directly gave rise to the present location of Parliament and also to
the division of the capital into the trade and business centre, the City, and the administrative
area, based upon Thorney, which became known as Westminster, the church in the West.
Edward was succeeded by William the Conqueror (1066-1087) who, having established his first
stronghold at the Tower, later moved to the Westminster Palace. Although William probably
made changes to the site, it is from the reign of his son, William Rufus (1087-1100), which the
first surviving buildings on the site date, including Westminster Hall, the Great Hall, built at the
northern end of the Palace and still standing today after 900 years of continuous use. The
existence of this Hall, which at that time was the largest in Europe, helped to make Westminster
the ceremonial centre of the kingdom.
The Palace was one of the monarch’s principal homes throughout the later Middle Ages and for
this reason the institutions of Government came to be clustered in the Westminster area. Royal
Councils were sometimes held in Westminster Hall but Parliament never met there on a regular
basis. To the east and south of the Hall lay the domestic apartments of the mediaeval Palace.
The Kings worshipped in St. Stephen’s Chapel and their courtiers in the crypt chapel below.
When in residence at Westminster, the King was attended by his court. The Royal Council of
bishops, nobles and ministers also assembled here. The special, later form of this Council,
which came to be known as Parliament, was the forerunner of the present House of Lords.
From the mid-13th century it became increasingly usual to summon knights from the shires and
burgesses from the towns. In the 14th century they began to meet together, apart from the
Lords, and from this assembly evolved the modern House of Commons. The future architectural
development of the Palace was therefore inextricably bound up with its role as the meeting place
both of Parliament and of the Courts of Law.
During the Middle Ages, it was often not possible to accommodate the whole of Parliament
within the Palace. The State Opening Ceremony would be held in the King’s private apartment,
the Painted Chamber. The Lords would then retire to the White Chamber for their discussions,
but the Commons at this time did not have a recognised home of their own. On occasions, they
remained in the Painted Chamber but at other times they held their debates in the Chapter
House or the Refectory of Westminster Abbey.
There have been numerous fires on the site. It was after such a fire in 1512 that Henry VIII
decided to abandon the Palace as a residence and move to Whitehall Palace. The Canons of St
Stephen’s, the religious order which had held the services for the royal family, were dismissed in
1547 and by 1550 St Stephen’s Chapel had become the first permanent home of the House of
The other rooms vacated by the royal family were occupied by Members and Officers of both
Houses. The site thus came to develop as a Parliamentary building, rather than a royal
residence. However, it and its successor remained a Royal Palace, with the official title the
Palace of Westminster.
Westminster Hall and the other Medieval Survivals
Westminster Hall, of which the walls were built in 1097, is the oldest surviving building on the
site. Its floor area is about 1,547 sq m (1,850 sq yds) and it is one of the largest mediaeval
halls in Europe with an unsupported roof. The roof was originally supported by two rows of
pillars, but the present magnificent hammerbeam roof was designed in the reign of Richard II
(1377-1399). The mason/architect of the 14th century rebuilding was Henry Yevele and the
carpenter/designer of the roof was Hugh Herland.
During this period the Hall, with its many shops and stalls, selling wigs, pens, books and other
legal paraphernalia, became one of the chief centres of London life. It housed the courts of law
and was the place of many notable state trials: William Wallace (1305), Thomas More (1535),
the Gunpowder Plot conspirators (1606), Charles I (1649), and Warren Hastings (1788-95).
Westminster Hall was also the traditional venue for Coronation banquets. The Hall is now used
for major public ceremonies.
Among events there have been the presentation of Addresses to the Queen on the Silver Jubilee
in 1977, the Golden Jubilee in 2002, to mark 50 years since the end of World War II in 1995,
and the opening of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in 1986. A similar event took
place in 1988, to mark the tercentenary of the Glorious Revolution, and in 1989 the Inter-
Parliamentary Union’s Centenary Conference was held there. In 1995, the Government
organised a ceremony to mark 50 years of the United Nations. On these occasions, the Hall is
brightly lit and decked with flowers and coloured hangings, and presents an altogether different
public face from its normal, rather sombre, appearance.
It is also the place where lyings in state, of monarchs, consorts, and, rarely, very distinguished
statesmen, traditionally takes place, the most recent having been those of King George VI in
1952, Queen Mary in 1953, Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen
Mother in 2002.
An exhibition to commemorate Westminster Hall’s 900th anniversary was held in the summer of
1999, the ‘Voters of the Future’ exhibition was held there between April and September 2000
and an exhibition commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot in 2005. A
refreshment facility for the public, the Jubilee Café, opened in May 2002. The café is situated
near the North Door of Westminster Hall and opens out on to New Palace Yard.
The other mediaeval buildings on the site are not accessible to the public. These are the Chapel
of St Mary Undercroft, which is the lower part, at ground level (not subterranean) of the former
Chapel of St Stephen, which was built between 1292 and 1297 as a magnificent showpiece
based on the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. The upper part of St Stephen’s, destroyed in 1834, had
been the Commons Chamber from 1547. The Cloisters were built between 1526 and 1529.
Much restored, they are used as offices and writing rooms and include an oratory, the lower part
of which is the private office of the Serjeant at Arms.
The Jewel Tower, now on the other side of Abingdon Street, was formerly the muniment room
(storage of land/title deeds) of the Palace, and is now administered by English Heritage. Since
1992, the tower has been the setting for a permanent exhibition on the history and work of
Parliament, called Parliament Past and Present. The tower and exhibition are open to the
public. [There is an admission charge].
The Fire of 1834 and Rebuilding
On 16 October 1834, the mediaeval palace with its later additions was virtually entirely
destroyed by a fire, which started by the overheating of a stove. It was decided to redevelop the
site comprehensively; not keeping to the original layout of buildings. A public competition was
won by Charles Barry and provided for the retention of Westminster Hall, the Crypt and Cloisters.
In the execution of the design and building, Barry was assisted by Augustus Welby Pugin,
particularly in the matter of detail, fittings and furniture. The site was extended into the river by
reclaiming land, and now covers about 8 acres.
The new Palace was begun in 1840 and substantially completed by 1860, but only in 1870
actually finished. It is in the Gothic style and its adoption for the parliamentary buildings was an
influence on the design of public buildings such as town halls, law courts, and schools
throughout the country. The effect on the imaginations of the public and 19th century architects
of the huge new building towering over the three-storey yellow brick terraces and ramshackle
half-timbered houses of mid-Victorian Westminster was enormous.
The Bombing of 1941
On 10 May 1941, the Commons Chamber was destroyed by bombs and a subsequent fire. To
replace the devastated Chamber, a new block was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. A steelframed
building, it effectively incorporates five floors, two of which are taken by up the Chamber.
Both above and below it are offices. The new air-conditioned Chamber was used for the first
time on 26 October 1950. In Parliament 1939-50 (produced by the House of Commons Library
and available for purchase from The Stationery Office)1 explains and illustrates the bombing and
Brief Description of the Palace
The building is on four main levels. The ground floor river front houses offices, private dining
rooms, bars and meeting rooms; the first or principal floor the Chambers, Libraries, and dining
rooms. The second or Committee floor is given over on the river front to Committee rooms, as is
the third or Upper Committee floor. At either end are houses for the Speaker and Lord
Chancellor (the remnant of a number of private apartments once provided) and there are two
great towers, the Clock Tower (often called Big Ben) and the Victoria Tower. The very distinctive
Central Tower is built over the Central Lobby.
Along the whole length of the building, at ground level parallel to the river, is a roadway leading
into several courtyards, with a further line of courts on the west side. The arches over the
roadway are made to the dimensions of horse-drawn carts, and are difficult to traverse with
modern delivery lorries.
From St Stephen’s Porch and Hall, the main entrance, a member of the public enters the Central
Lobby, or Octagon Hall, which is the centrepiece of the building. To the north the Members’
Lobby and House of Commons; to the south, and thus in a straight line, the Peers’ Lobby, House
of Lords and Royal Gallery and Robing Room. In general, the Lords end of the building is more
ornate than the Commons, with red furnishings, and much gilt and brasswork. By contrast, the
Commons’ accommodation is definitely austere, as befitted its period of construction, the late
1940s. The colours used in the two Chambers are discussed in Factsheet G10.
A good deal of internal restoration has taken place over the last thirty or so years, including the
reinstatement of Barry and Pugin’s original designs and details wherever possible. Carpets and
wallpaper have had to be made especially for the purpose. A complete rebuilding of the House
of Lords Chamber ceiling was necessary in the early 1980s.
Among the parts of the Palace inaccessible to the public are the two Houses’ Libraries (ten
rooms on the principal floor), Ministers’ rooms (under the Chamber and to the west of Speaker’s
Court), dining rooms, departmental offices, etc. There are four acres of green, laid to lawns. The
Terrace of the Palace, which was raised by some 4ft in 1970-71, extends along the whole river
front. Two prefabricated pavilions are erected here in the summer months.
Old Palace Yard, by St Stephen’s Entrance, and the cobbled New Palace Yard, under which is
the House of Commons car park, opening from the corner of Bridge Street and St Margaret’s
Street, are reminders, in their names, of the earliest times. New Palace Yard was laid out as a
garden, with a fountain that commemorates the Silver Jubilee of 1977. In October 2002 an
analemmatic sundial, the Parliamentary Golden Jubilee gift to The Queen, was installed in Old
Palace Yard. (Analemmatic sundials use the shape of a person to cast the necessary shadow)
Statues and Works of Art
Many works of art are displayed in the Palace. Notable among the statues are the modern
bronzes of Churchill, Lloyd George and Attlee, in the Members’ Lobby; and a marble statue of
Gladstone in the Central Lobby. Barry, the architect of the Palace, is commemorated by a large
marble statue at the foot of the main staircase leading to the Committee floor. There are
numerous frescoes and mural paintings as well as a most extensive collection of free-hanging
pictures of subjects connected with British, particularly Parliamentary, history. A series of
reconstructions of the paintings which were found in the old St Stephen’s Chapel in the early
19th century are on the Terrace Stairs. Many of the items of furniture and fittings of the Palace,
in which the design and influence of Augustus Welby Pugin is clearly seen, can be classed as
works of art in their own right. The fine mediaeval statues of kings at the south end of
Westminster Hall were conserved in 1992/93.
Stone Restoration and Conservation
The Palace was faced with Anston stone, a magnesian limestone. However the alkaline stone
suffered badly because of the atmospheric pollution of London, especially in the 19th and early
20th centuries, with its reliance on the burning of coal, and consequent acidification of the rain.
The decision was therefore taken in 1928 to replace the worst decay, and a general programme
of masonry replacement on the perimeter was finished in 1960.
Many of the statues placed round the outside of the building had decayed badly and, from 1962,
many have been replaced. A new programme of stone-cleaning and restoration was started in
1981: the north, west, and south fronts, the river front and Clock Tower being finished by
1986. The Victoria Tower, whose cleaning was completed in 1993, was the last part of the
exterior to be dealt with. Of the inner courts the Speaker’s Court was the first to be tackled;
work started in January 1994. An exhibition on the Restoration Programme was mounted in
Westminster Hall from January – April 1994.
The House of Commons has taken over other nearby buildings as its functions and staff have
increased. These include the two Norman Shaw Buildings, 3 Dean’s Yard
(now vacated) and 7 Millbank. It expanded further, into numbers 35-47 Parliament Street,
renamed the Parliament Street Building, in 1991. A new Parliamentary
building, designed by Michael Hopkins and called Portcullis House, was completed in Autumn
2000 on the site of numbers 1 and 2 Bridge Street, St Stephen’s House, St Stephen’s Club and
Palace Chambers. The new building has provided additional committee rooms, refreshment
facilities and Members now all have their own offices for the first time.
Control of the Houses of Parliament, as a Royal Palace, was vested in the Lord Great
Chamberlain as the Queen’s representative. In 1965, however, control passed to the Speaker,
for the House of Commons part of the building, and to the Lord Chancellor, for the Lords’ part.
The Lord Great Chamberlain retains joint responsibility with the Speaker and Lord Chancellor for
the Crypt Chapel and Westminster Hall. The Parliamentary Estate is cared for and maintained
(since 1992) by the Parliamentary Works Directorate of the Serjeant at Arms Department. The
title to the outbuildings was transferred from the Department of the Environment following
passage of the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992.
The Palace is very much a living community, whose citizens are not only Members, but their
personal staffs, maintenance and cleaning personnel, and permanent House staff, who work in
many different offices and departments. The Palace is not, however, simply a place for work.
There are a number of social clubs and groups, places for recreation, sitting and talking,
sleeping, eating and drinking. It is not, therefore, simply a huge office block peopled from 9 to 5
and at other times absolutely deserted – indeed, it has a resident population, for there are still
some apartments for officers and staff of the Houses. It was designed as, and remains,
something of a village.
Some statistics relating to the Palace
Length of River Front 265.8m* 872ft
Height of roofline 21.3m 70 ft
Dimensions of Terrace 206.7m x 10m 678 ft x 33 ft
Area of masonry (superficial) 83,610 sq m 900,000 sq ft
Length of North Front 70.7m 232 ft
Length of South Front 98.2m 322 ft
Area of site: 3.24 hectares approx 8 acres
Length of passageways: about 3 miles 4.8km
Clock Tower Height 96.3m 316 ft 12.2m square 40 ft square
Central Tower Height 91.4m 300 ft 22.9m across 75 ft across
Victoria Tower Height 98.5m 323 ft 22.9m across 75 ft square
Flagstaff on Victoria Tower Height 22.3m 73 ft
St Stephen’s Hall 29m x 9.1m 95 ft x 30 ft
Royal Gallery 33.5m x 13.7m 110 ft x 45 ft Height 13.7m 45 ft
Lords Chamber 24.4m x 13.7m 80 ft x 45 ft Height 13.7m 45 ft
Peers’ Lobby 11.9m x 11.9m 38 ft x 38 ft Height 10m 33 ft
Central Lobby 18.3m 60 ft across octagon Height 22.9m 75 ft
Members’ Lobby 13.7m x 13.7m 45 ft x 45 ft
Floor of Chamber 20.7m x 14m 68 ft x 46 ft
Across Galleries 31.4m x 14.5m 103 ft x 48 ft
Height 14m 46 ft
Distance between red lines on carpet 8 ft 2½ ins 2.5m
Commons Library (6 rooms) 79.3m x 9.1m 260 ft x 30 ft
(main rooms each – 16.8m x 9.1m (55 ft x 30 ft))
Lords Library (4 rooms) 51.8m x 9.1m 170 ft x 30 ft
Crypt Chapel of 27.4m x 8.5m 90 ft x 28 ft Height 6.1m 20 ft
St Mary Undercroft
*(Metric figures are rounded to one decimal place)
Length 73.2m 240 ft
Width 20.7m 68 ft
Height 28.0m 92 ft
The Great Clock
Hands: Minute (copper) Length 4.3m (14 ft) Weight 101.6kg (2 cwt)
Hour (gunmetal) Length 2.7m (9 ft) Weight 304.8kg (6 cwt)
Pendulum: Total Length 4.4m (14 ft 5 in)
Length of Roman numerals: 61cm (2 ft)
Minute squares: 30.5cm (1 ft)
Number of panes of glass 312
in each clockface
Big Ben (the Great Bell) Weight 13.8 tonnes 13 tons 10 cwt 99 lb
Note E: Hammer Weight 203.2kg 4 cwt
1 Note G sharp Weight 1 ton 1 cwt 23 lb 1.07 tonnes
2 Note F sharp Weight 1 ton 5 cwt 30 lb 1.28 tonnes
3 Note E Weight 1 ton 13 cwt 69 lb 1.71 tonnes
4 Note B Weight 3 tons 10 cwt 69 lb 3.59 tonnes
Time between Strikes:
From start of chime to 12th strike = 95 seconds
Big Ben: From 1st strike to 12th strike 54 seconds, 5 seconds between strikes
Saint’s and Royal tombs discovered after 1,000 years
Ancient Royal crypt revealed in Abbey foundations
What is believed to be the original ancient burial tomb of one of our most revered British Saints, Edward the Confessor, has been discovered at Westminster Abbey – exactly 1,000 years after his birth. The discovery comes as part of an unprecedented archaeological study at the Abbey using radar that has also revealed a series of Royal tombs dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries and historical secrets related to Royal burials.
Delighted archaeologists came across the forgotten, under-floor chambers when, as part of a larger conservation programme, they were using the latest ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technology to investigate the construction of the Abbey’s priceless Cosmati mosaic pavement, dating back to 1268, in front of the High Altar.
Their work has also identified other tombs, under the Shrine, in an area of the Abbey never before surveyed and on which no known records existed.
Details of what has been found
Main chamber: under the pavement behind the present (Henry III’s) High Altar, a tomb where Henry III is believed to have been temporarily laid to rest in 1272. This was an empty chamber at that time as it had previously held the body of Edward the Confessor before the Saint’s remains were disinterred and transferred a few feet up and across to the Shrine in 1163, amidst much ceremonial. In 1290, Henry’s remains were moved to his own sumptuous tomb in the North Ambulatory, again just a few feet away. In the same year Eleanor of Castile (Queen of Edward I) died suddenly and was temporarily placed in the old tomb while her own burial place in the North East corner of the Chapel was being prepared.
The radar picked up two distinct features that are bound to generate considerable academic excitement. First, adjoining the Shrine, and presumably continuing underneath it, is a substantial chamber with an arched or vaulted roof. This lies directly below the present Shrine altar. The east-west dimension of the chamber cannot be measured due to the position of the present Shrine. The width is in the order of 2m, and the radar has defined the curvature of the vault as c. 1m in radius. The floor of the chamber lies c. 1.75m below the present floor.
The second discovery is a rectangular feature, immediately adjoining the chamber on the west, and of about the same width. It has the characteristics of a pit for access to the main chamber, the filling of which appears on the radar screen as a series of horizontal layers of different materials. These may be interpreted as alternate layers of soil and rubble carefully packed in the pit, a well-known medieval practice adopted to prevent subsidence.
Under the Altar steps: Here, the evidence suggests two shallow tombs, side by side: one has an arched roof, the other is flat-topped. Another unknown tomb was found north of the Altar, lying partly in the sanctuary and partly under the stone screen erected in 1441.
Floor of the Shrine Chapel, under the Purbeck Marble pavement: Several hitherto unknown graves sealed beneath the Cosmati pavement that surrounds the Confessor’s Shrine. There are single tombs flanking the Shrine to north and south, and a line of what appear to be diminutive graves – potentially royal children – across the east end.
West Front of Westminster Abbey
The view of the West Front of Westminster Abbey is one of the best known in the world. The gothic lower part was completed in the fifteenth century; the towers, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor in a more classical style, were added at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Both parts of this imposing facade had niches which were evidently intended for statues but were never filled. The comprehensive restoration of the exterior of the Abbey (a twenty-five-year programme completed in 1995) provided the opportunity for their original purpose to be fulfilled. In 1992 the six niches high up on the towers were filled with conventional figures of saints. In 1995 four allegorical figures were placed in the niches on either side of the Great West Door: Mercy, Truth, Righteousness and Peace. These traditional virtues (from Psalm 85 verse 10) represent the values for which countless innocent men and women have been prepared to give their lives.
There remained the row of ten niches immediately over the door. It was decided to use these, not just to commemorate saintly or worthy figures from the past (as is the case with most of the Abbey’s statuary), but to proclaim a message of which too few people are aware: the twentieth century has been a century of Christian martyrdom. The cost of Christian witness, and the number of Christians willing to die for what they believed (alongside others of different religious faiths or none), has been greater in this century than in any previous period in the history of the church.
These ten statues are of individual martyrs; but they are intended to represent all those others who have died (and continue to die) in similar circumstances of oppression and persecution. They are drawn from every continent and many Christian denominations. They include victims of the struggle for human rights in North and South America, of the Soviet and Nazi persecutions in Europe, of religious prejudice and dictatorial rule in Africa, of fanaticism in the Indian subcontinent, of the brutalities of the Second World War in Asia and of the Cultural Revolution in China. In these and other similar circumstances during this most violent of centuries thousands of men and women have paid with their lives for their faith and their convictions. Those represented here have left their testimony to the ultimate cost of Christian witness and to its enduring significance.
Models for the statues were carefully designed by Tim Crawley from such records and photographs as exist of each of the martyrs and the figures have been carved from French Richemont limestone by him and, under his general direction, by Neil Simmons, John Roberts and Andrew Tanser. Two of these sculptors had already worked on some 300 pieces of stone carving which needed replacement during the restoration of Henry VII Chapel in 1990-95. With these ten statues of modern figures in gothic niches they have now fulfilled one of the most demanding and important sculptural commissions of our time.
The statues were unveiled by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of H.M. The Queen, H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh and church leaders and representatives from many parts of the world on 9 July 1998.
A full account of each of the martyrs may be found in The Terrible Alternative, edited by Andrew Chandler (Cassell, 1998), available at the Westminster Abbey shop and other booksellers.
Three hundred acres of botanical delights grace Kew Gardens, which lies on the south bank of the Thames River between Richmond and Kew in the suburbs of south-west London. If you’re a stickler for accuracy you might like to note that the proper way to refer to Kew is in the plural, i.e. Kew Gardens, not Kew Garden. This is due to the fact that centuries ago there were two estates here, Kew Estate and Richmond Estate. These estates were combined to [eventually] form the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The gardens are “Royal” because for many years the estates that now form the gardens were owned by members of Britain’s royal family. King George II and Queen Caroline lived at Ormonde Lodge, on the Richmond estate. Their son and heir, Prince Frederick, leased the neighbouring Kew estate in the 1730s.
After Frederick’s death in 1751 his widow Augusta began a small 9 acre botanic garden, calling on assistance from Lord Bute and architect William Chambers, who created several garden buildings, including the present Orangery, Pagoda, and Ruined Arch. Then in 1760 George III inheirited Richmond estate. George called in the popular garden architect Capability Brown to create a landscaped park. In 1772 King George also inheirited Kew estate when his mother died.
Under George III, or more properly, under his unofficial director Joseph Banks, Kew Gardens flourished. Banks dispatched botanical collectors across the globe to gather rare, unusual, or simply interesting botanical specimens. Under Banks, Kew Gardens became a depository of the world’s plant species and a centre of botanical research. After both Banks and George III died in 1820 the gardens fell into dsrepair. They languished for several years until they were handed over to the state in 1840. The royal family donated some surrounding land, bringing the total area of the gardens up to 200 acres.
In 1841 the first official director of the Botanical Gardens was named, so that year is generally regarded as the foundation of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Sir William Hooker was the man charged with running the gardens, and he was responsible for founding the Museum, the Department of Economic Botany, the Library, and the Herbarium.
In 1848 the Palm House was added, followed in 1860 by the Temperate House. Both of these huge greenhouses were the work of Decimus Burton. The Palm House is a wonder of glass and iron, and its design influenced that of other glass and metal structures during the Victorian period, including the Crystal Palace erected for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Further bequests of land led to the expansion of Kew, and it reached its current size of 300 acres in 1902.
The gardens today present an enjoyable mix of landscaped lawns, formal gardens, and greenhouses. Equally important, Kew functions as a botanical research centre and maintains the largest plant collection in the world. The various greenhouses display plants from across the world in climate controlled environments, while Kew Gardens Gallery houses art and photographs illustrating botanical themes. Queen Charlotte’s Cottage (open only in summer) is a pretty summerhouse lying alongside a lake. The Chinese Pagoda is arguably Kew’s most recognizable structure.
Also worth noting is Evolution House, a small glass building housing displays on the evolution of plant life on earth. The Grass Garden has over 600 varieties of grasses, and the Wood Museum explains the manufacture of paper and shows examples of inlaid wood cabinetry. Kew remains one of the world’s premier public gardens.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London is the oldest palace, fortress and prison in Europe. History has it that King Edward of England backed down on his promise to give the throne to William, Duke of Normandy and ended up giving the throne to Harold Godwinson, his English brother in law.
William, quite angry, sent his army across the English Channel to conquer England and on October 14, 1066 he met Harold at Hastings. The Duke’s Norman warriors won the battle, and later that year on Christmas day Wiiliam was crowned king.
William decided he needed a stronghold to keep the unruly citizens of London in line. The site upon which William chose to build his fortress was the very same site upon which Claudius, the Roman Emperor, had built a fortress more than a thousand years before that and traces of the Roman wall are still seen within the Tower grounds.
The addition of other smaller towers, extra buildings, walls and walkways, gradually transformed the original building into the splendid example of castle, fortress, prison, palace and finally museum that we enjoy today.
The Tower began its life as a simple timber and stone enclosure. The original structure was completed by the addition of a ditch and palisade along the north and west sides. This enclosure then received a structure of stone, which came to be called The Great Tower and eventually The White Tower, as we know it today.
Around the year 1240 King Henry III made the Tower of London his home. He whitewashed the tower, widened the grounds to include a church, and added a great hall and other buildings. The Normans called the tower ‘La Tour Blanche’ [White tower].
The White Tower formed the basis of a residential palace and fortress suited for a king or queen. As history has shown to its occupants, the Tower of London became the perfect all-purpose complex. The Tower of London has been used as a fortress to protect a prison, used to imprison (for many an accused, it was the last sight they saw on earth), as a home for kings and queens, and as a royal mint and treasury.
Originally, the caps at the top of the four turrets were conical, but were replaced by the present onion-shaped ones in the sixteenth century. It was Henry III that renamed the entire area the Tower of London to White Tower. Although he used it as a prison, he continued to use it as a palace and entertained guests and many came with gifts of animals. These gifts were kept near the drawbridge where he built Lion Tower; a zoo where visitors would be greeted by roaring beasts.
Today it houses the Crown Jewels and is keeper to the Royal Ravens. The ravens are flightless birds due to the fact their wings are clipped and this tradition points to the superstition that the English still believe dating back from time of Charles II that when there are no longer ravens in the Tower both the White Tower and the Commonwealth of England would fall.
The Tower was a dynamic and changing project for the kings of England, king after king built upon the Tower adding walls and smaller towers (thirteen inner and six outer) and finally encircling it was a moat whose water was delivered by the Thames River.
Today the official title of the Tower is still ‘Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London’ although there isn’t actually a Tower of London. It is not quite known when the name was first used but through the ages Tower of London has become the accepted term of description for the entire complex.
The Tower of London is a combination of buildings begun during the time of William the Conqueror. Originally built as a fortress, to keep hostile Londoners at bay it was also used to sight approaching enemies on the Thames River. It has been used as a palace, a library, a mint, a treasury, a bank, an arsenal and an observatory. The most famous reputation is that of a prison.
There are several towers within the Tower of London, the oldest part of the building and the most conspicuous being the White Tower [which was named during the 13th-century when Henry III had it whitewashed}. This is the central keep built by William the Conqueror and completed by his sons William Rufus and Henry I.
The walls of the White Tower are 15 feet thick and it is 90 feet high. Of interest is that one of the Four Corners (turrets) contained the first royal observatory. The White Tower currently contains the Chapel of St. John, one of the few unchanged areas where the Royal Family and the court worshipped and where the knights of the Order of Bath spent their Vigil the night before the king or queen was crowned. The White tower also contains an exhibition of arms, armor and torture instruments.
The Middle Tower was built in the 13th century and the archway, together with Byward Tower and Bloody Tower were defended by portcullises (spiked like gates), two of which are still there. The Bloody Tower was originally known as the Garden Tower. [The name Bloody Tower, however, is only traced back to 1571] It was here that two little princes Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, were supposedly murdered in 1483 with orders from Richard Duke of Gloucester, who was subsequently crowned Richard III.
Many years later, during the reign of Charles II, two sets of bones of young boys were found under a stairway (the presiding king ordered the bodies buried in Westminster Abbey) and thus the name Bloody Tower came about due to treachery and murder within its walls.
In 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh became a prisoner here – the period during which he wrote his History of the World, but he was kept “prisoner” in what was considered “comfortable circumstances”. He was released in 1616 and died in 1618 when James I had him beheaded.
The Wakefield Tower is where Henry VI (founded Eton and Cambridge University) was brutally murdered. In 1471, during the time of the ‘Wars of the Roses’ – England’s medieval civil war, he was stabbed to death while praying. The Wakefield Tower housed the Crown Jewels from 1879-1967 but it is now an empty tower.
Important prisoners were kept in Beauchamp Tower, where the inside walls are still covered with graffiti and inscriptions carved by the prisoners. The most elaborate is a memorial to the five Dudley brothers, one of whom was Lord Guilford Dudley, husband of Lady Jane Grey – the pair was executed in 1554.
The Tower Green is where two of Henry III’s queens and several other people at his request were beheaded. It was a rare honor to be beheaded inside the tower; most people were executed outside on Tower Hill, so the crowds who enjoyed such events could get a better view.
The Traitor’s Gate was originally known as Water Gate but the name was changed when it began to be used as a landing place for traitors. This is where the prisoner boats arrived, many hoping they would be ransomed or pardoned.
In more modern times, German spies were executed in the courtyards during the two World Wars, and in 1941, Hitler’s deputy – Rudolph Hess, was actually imprisoned in the Tower.
The Jewel House is where you’ll find the Crown Jewels, a collection of gold, silver, precious stones and other royal regalia. The Chapel Royal and St. Peter ad Vincula is the oldest chapel royal in England. It is in this chapel that most of those who died on Tower Hill and six of the seven executed on Tower Green were laid to rest under flagstones without ceremony.
Between the Chapel and Tower Green is a small paved area where a scaffold was erected for beheadings. The six people beheaded on the site were three queens of England: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Lady Jane Grey.
The Queens House built around 1530, probably by the second queen of England and mother of Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn . She lived there only 18 days as a prisoner while awaiting execution and was beheaded on Tower Green for alleged infidelity. It is used now as the Council Chamber and it is here that Guy Fawkes was interrogated before being tortured on the rack in the White Tower and signing a confession incriminating his fellow conspirators. Adjoining the Council Chamber is a room in which William Penn (who founded Pennsylvania) was once a prisoner.
The Martin Tower was built by Henry III and is famous as the scene of Colonel Thomas Blood’s attempt to steal the crown jewels. King Edward’s son returning from abroad interrupted him and his accomplices.
The Salt Tower is another tower built by Henry III about 1235. Later it was used as a prison for Jesuits. It also contains a number of inscriptions, the most notable one being a complicated diagram for casting horoscopes cut into the stone wall . In several places on the walls a pierced heart, hand and foot have been carved signifying the wounds of Christ- with a cross and H the sign of the Jesuits.
The Bell Tower was built in the 13th century. In the past when the bell at its top was rung in alarm, drawbridges were raised, the portcullises were dropped and gates were shut. The only time the bell is now rung is in the evening to warn visitors that it is time to leave. Prisoners were kept in the tower.
One of the most famous was Sir Thomas Moore, who was at one time a close friend of Henry VIII. More refused to acknowledge the validity of Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon or acknowledge him as supreme head of the Church, and in consequence he was imprisoned there in 1534. He was executed in July 1535 and buried in St. Peters Chapel.
Later, one of Henry’s own children was imprisoned there – princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) In 1554 Elizabeth was held by her half sister Mary I on suspicion of being concerned in a plot against the throne.
The National Gallery
The National Gallery in London is home to one of the greatest collections of western European painting in the world. More than 2300 paintings embrace the years between 1250 and 1900. The entire collection is on display in four wings on the main floor where they are arranged by period: 1250-1500, 1500-1600, 1600-1700, and 1700-1900. In addition paintings are displayed on a lower floor. To help the visitor manage the large number of paintings and galleries, various trails and audio guides are provided.
Monet, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci are just three of the renowned artists represented. Van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” and John Constable’s “The Hay Wain” are part of the collection. Other painters represented include Rubens, Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
One section of the Gallery called Puzzling Pictures contains pictures with some aspect of history or unusual subject that raises questions. Pictures can give clues to the culture and decorative arts of the time as well as to the inventions of the period. This is an interesting approach to the pictures that is recognized in the Gallery.
The collection is not static. Acquisitions are added whenever possible, and private collectors loan their paintings to the Gallery. The Gallery also puts on exhibitions. “Painting the Family” was one such exhibition. By studying a group of paintings, many clues to family life over the centuries are discovered. In 2002 special exhibits will include one on Madame de Pompadour and one on dress and drapery in painting.
The Gallery mounts touring exhibitions to cities throughout Britain. Study courses and lectures are also available at the Gallery. Scientific methods of today uncover much information. Curators and conservators at the Gallery study pictures to learn about the painter, his methods, and materials.
The National Gallery was born in 1824 when the House of Commons bought a collection of 38 paintings from a banker, John Julius Angerstein, who then opened his home for viewing the collection. As the collection grew through donations and purchases, the need for a permanent and larger gallery was answered in 1831 with a building in Trafalgar Square, a spot accessible to all levels of society. The location was the former home of the King’s Mews.
A new wing (the Gallery’s dome is here) containing seven more rooms was added in 1876. In 1907 construction began on still more galleries, and they were opened in 1910. The three mosaic pavements on the gallery floors were laid in 1928. The gallery was further extended in 1972 with the addition of 12 rooms. The most recent addition was in 1991 when the Sainsbury wing opened. Recently refurbished, its 16 rooms display artwork arranged by artist or school.
The National Gallery was the target of several bombings during World War II. Fortunately, the government had foreseen this possibility and evacuated the paintings to various locations. In 1940 they were re-collected and stored in a slate mine, Manod Quarry, near Ffestiniog, Wales. 200 feet of solid rock protected them.
The National Gallery is a must see for art students and a mecca for lovers of western European painting.
Abbey Tour – The Choir
The choir was originally the part of the Abbey in which the monks worshipped, but there is now no trace of pre-Reformation fittings, for in the late eighteenth century Henry Keene, the then Surveyor, removed the thirteenth-century stalls and designed a smaller Choir. This was in turn destroyed in the mid-nineteenth century by Edward Blore, who created the present Choir in Victorian Gothic style and removed the partitions which until then had blocked off the transepts.
It is here that the choir, of twenty-two boys and twelve Lay Vicars (the name given to the men of the choir), sings the daily Services.
The Chapel containing the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor, lies east of the Sanctuary at the heart of the Abbey. It is closed off from the west by a stone screen, probably of 15th century date, carved with scenes from the Confessor’s life. Work is in progress to conserve the floor of this chapel and during this time public access is restricted.
An earlier shrine had been erected in 1163, after the Confessor had been canonised. When Henry III rebuilt Edward’s Abbey he prepared a new shrine, bringing workmen from Italy. Peter the Roman was the chief artist. On 13 October 1269 the body was brought in solemn procession to its new resting place. The shrine seen today is only a shadow of its former self. It originally had three parts: a stone base decorated with Cosmati work, a gold feretory containing the saint’s coffin, and a canopy above it, which could be raised to reveal the feretory or lowered to cover it. The shrine was decorated with gold images of kings and saints. Many sick people came to the shrine to pray for a cure and the steps in the recesses of the shrine base are worn away by the knees of pilgrims (the illustration shown is by David Gentleman). At the Reformation the shrine was dismantled and stored by the monks, although the gold feretory was taken away. The Confessor’s body was buried in another part of the Abbey. In the reign of Mary I the shrine was rebuilt. The Purbeck marble base was re-assembled but little care was taken to match the carvings and designs which decorated it. In absence of a feretory the coffin was placed in a hollow in the top part of the stone base, where it still remains. The wooden canopy has been restored and re-painted.
Around the shrine are the tombs of Henry III, Edward I, Eleanor of Castile, Edward III, Philippa of Hainault, and Richard II with his queen Anne of Bohemia. To the east, under his chantry chapel, lies Henry V. There are two small tombs to Margaret, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VII. A brass on the floor covers the grave of John of Waltham, Bishop of Salisbury.
The chapel has a Cosmati floor, similar to that in front of the High Altar. The present altar dates from 1902. For many centuries the Coronation Chair was housed in this chapel but is now located just outside, near the Lady Chapel steps.
The opening of the Tate Centenary Development on 1 November 2001 completes the launch of Tate Britain, begun in March 2000. The Development was announced in 1997 – the Centenary year of the Tate Gallery, as it was previously known. It provides Tate Britain with ten new and five refurbished galleries as well as the dramatic new Manton Entrance on Atterbury Street providing visitors with full access, new visitor information points, a cloakroom, toilets and a shop.
The architects John Miller + Partners have ensured that the new and refurbished spaces and other visitor facilities beautifully enhance one of London’s great public galleries. Equally the landscape architects Allies and Morrison have made certain that the new public space around the building creates a sensitive environment which also enhances access for visitors. The gallery has remained open while all this work has been carried out.
With the creation of Tate Modern and Tate Britain the original Tate building on Millbank has been able to revert to its original remit of housing the national collection of British art, from 1500 to the present day. Henry Tate’s vision of a national gallery devoted exclusively to the national school has now finally been fully realised. The new and refurbished galleries have dramatically enlarged the space available at Tate Britain to show works from the collection, as well as allowing the gallery to present an unprecedented programme of exhibitions and educational initiatives on themes connected to British art, in all its aspects, both historic and contemporary.
Tate Britain is showing Collections 2002-1500: BP Displays at Tate Britain, an entirely new presentation of the national collection of British art featuring masterpieces by the key figures of British art including Van Dyck, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Blake, Constable, Turner, the Pre-Raphaelites, Sickert, Nicholson, Moore, Hepworth, Bacon, Hockney and Gilbert and George. (In the period since the Second World War the displays will be rotated on a nine monthly cycle to show over time the full scope of the collection). Alongside the displays is a comprehensive programme of special exhibitions and projects. Tate Britain also continues to be the home of the Turner Prize.
As well as the physical transformation of Tate Britain, the Centenary Development includes important progress in the provision of digital information about the Tate Collection in the form of the Insight project, which offers access to 50,000 British works in the Tate Collection through the Tate website.
I think London architecture is very interesting . And more information about this you can find in the internet ore go in London . That’s all.