Westminster Abbey is a UK attraction that has often found itself central to the nation's life; the kings, queens, writers, warriors and other eminent figures connected with, or buried in, this 700-year-old structure reads like a who's who of British history. Despite attracting over a million visitors a year, Westminster Abbey still functions as a working place of worship, and is host to everything from lectures to musical recitals, from daily services to state occasions such as royal funerals and coronations.
The Abbey in its present form began to take shape in the 13th century, but the site has been used as a place of worship since before 960AD when it was the site of a Benedictine monastery. In the 1040s King Edward the Confessor decided to enlarge the monastery in the name of St Peter the Apostle – the resultant place of worship soon became known as the ‘West Minster’ in order that it be distinguished from St Pauls – the ‘East Minster’. It then lent its name to the immediate area that still bears the moniker to this day – Westminster.
Since those times, the Abbey has enjoyed the patronage of royals and is neither a church, nor a cathedral but is a ‘royal peculiar’ with a Chapter and Dean answerable only to the monarch and not a synod. Every British monarch since William the Conqueror in 1066 (Edward V and Edward VIII who were never crowned) has been crowned in Westminster Abbey.
However, Westminster Abbey was designed not just as a place of worship and coronation of kings and queens, but also as a place of burial – over 3,000 people are buried at the Abbey, with a staggering 600 monuments and wall tablets – the most important collection of monumental sculpture in the UK - and over three thousand people are buried here. Notable figures buried at Westminster Abbey include Queen Elizabeth I, Charles Dickens, William Blake, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Geoffrey Chaucer; the list is exhaustive.
Visitors to Westminster Abbey can take the audio tour in one of eight different languages, the highly popular Verger’s Tour, or are free to just wander around alone, soaking up the history that emanates from every nook and cranny of this fantastic UK attraction.
Westminster Abbey is conveniently located for the visitor to access many other popular London attractions such as Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Cathedral, Whitehall and Downing Street, the Cabinet War Rooms, St James’s Park, and Buckingham Palace.
Westminster Abbey is usually open to visitors from Monday to Saturday (10:30 – 16:30) throughout the year. On Sundays and religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas, the Abbey is open for worship only. Entry is free for those wishing to participate in services.
Who is buried at Westminster Abbey?
Edward I (Longshanks), Henry III, Henry V, HenryVII, Elizabeth I, Mary I (Bloody Mary), Mary Queen of Scots, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens,
London Attractions within walking distance:
Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, London Eye
Family (x4) £28.00
The Verger’s Tour is an extra £3.00 per person.
St James's Park (District and Circle Lines) and Westminster (Jubilee, District & Circle Lines)
Bus: Routes 11, 24, 148 or 211
Westminster Abbey is located at 20 Dean's Yard, London SW1P 3PA tel: +44 (0) 20 7222 5152