UNESCO World Heritage Site, Royal Church and Mausoleum of the Great and the Good
Westminster Abbey is without question a highlight of a tour of London. It is the Royal church, where coronations of Kings and Queens take place, Royal weddings, Royal baptisms and for seventeen monarchs their final resting place.
The Abbey is our memories; we remember explorers, writers, scientists, naturalists and even politicians. Some have tombs and others’ memorial stones. With a tour of The Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, I’m sure you could learn all of Britain’s history in one day.
A highlights only guided tour of Westminster Abbey will take around 45 minutes. There is now the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries to see featuring never before seen items. We suggest our Royal London Tour, which is ideal for the first visit to London. Add on the Old City of London Tour and would have seen and toured the historical highlights of London.
The brief history of Westminster Abbey
Almost a thousand years ago, King Edward the Confessor founded his Royal Court upon the banks of the River Thames. The complex of buildings swallowed up a nearby Benedictine monastery to create a more substantial place of prayer. Consecration of the new church occurred in December 1065. Parts of this old structure survive, your tour guide will show you on your guided tour.
We have a real Game of Thrones story, the year of the three Kings, 1066 and all that. King Edward the Confessor dies, the throne passes to King Harold, who loses at the famous Battle of Hastings to the previously promised William the Conqueror. The victor, William, is crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.
During the 13th Century, King Henry III rebuilds the Abbey in the gothic style; columns soar to unimaginable heights. Vast amounts of Purbeck marble are hauled from southern England, artisans from Italy produce stunning floor mosaics, and English stonemasons toil year after year. The result being, one of the most beautiful places of worship anywhere, the Rolls Royce of gothic churches.
Restoration and building never end on such structures. But, in the 16th Century, King Henry (Tudor) VII’s completed his ambitious chapel. The new Tudor dynasty needed to show they were here to stay; the chapel does that by being one of the most beautiful chapels in the world. A showcase for the Tudor Royal family. Visitors gaze towards the intricate fan vault and wonder, is it stone or plaster? It is so detailed. It is a remarkable piece of stone masonry.
Westminster Abbey is where all Kings and Queens are crowned. Only two have not, in the last 950 plus years. Those are King Edward V; he was murdered at the Tower of London before the coronation could take place. The other is King Edward VIII, who relinquished the crown in 1936. The ceremony is a long and elaborate, the coronation regalia are used, known as the crown jewels, seen in the jewel house at the Tower of London.
The coronation chair is over 700 years old. It was made by the orders of King Edward I to enclose the Stone of Destiny (the Scottish throne). In the past schoolboys from Westminster carved their names on the back. Even a tourist managed to cut his name into the chair. A bomb knocked off a lump in the 1914, Suffragettes attack.
There are approximately 3,300 people laid to rest in the Abbey.
Apart from the seventeen monarchs, there are many graves of great interest in the Abbey. We will name a few. Probably one of the most admired storytellers, Charles Dickens, the first to introduce the modern cliff hanger, with The Pickwick Papers. Sir Isaac Newton, the mathematician and astronomer who explained to the world the laws of gravity, which, ultimately allowed NASA to get to the moon. The naturalist Charles Darwin, the friendly, curious man who published his theory of evolution by natural selection, explained in the book The Origin of Species (1859). The story of David Livingstone is an extraordinary one, the brave man of faith explored south Africa sharing the three ‘Cs’ of Christianity, Commerce, and Communication. His heart remains buried in Africa.
There are many others, too many to mention here. It is a joy to learn about their adventures and see the actual graves.
Monuments are wall tablets, stone slabs and memorials in stained glass. There are about 600 in the Abbey.
Poets corner has tombs of the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy. But, there are monuments to C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and yes, we have not forgotten him, Sir William Shakespeare.
The NEW Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries
The beautifully designed gallery displays unique treasures. See manuscripts, the real effigies of medieval King and Queens and the marriage certificate of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Touring and accommodation
The best places to stay in London are Mayfair, St James, and the Royal Borough of Kensington. If you are considering day tours from London, staying further west in Kensington makes sense. Harrods and Hyde Park are close. Staying in Mayfair and St James will give you easy access to Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and high-end shops. The theatre district called the ‘West End’ is a short hop too.
Our Tour Designers are here to customise your private tours of London and day tours from London. Tell us about you and your interests, and we will create a tailor-made tour. Our Royal Tour of London features the Westminster Abbey and will be customised for you.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of your Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. Merging Wales with England makes for a dynamic experience of mountains, stately homes and cosy country pubs.
Westminster Abbey, the Royal Church
The Abbey is a National Mausoleum of Great and the Good
- VIP Tours Available
- Resting Place of 17 Monarchs
- Place of Coronation for a Thousand Years
- See the Coronation Chair
- See the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries
- Enjoy Evensong
The Abbey Cloister, newly laid grass
The West Front of Westminster Abbey
The Abbey Cloister detail
Twin Towers of the Abbey
The Abbey Grounds