Expect much excitement at Westminster Abbey from 11 June, when one of London’s most magnificent buildings unveils its first major structural addition in more than a quarter of a century.
So does this modern addition to the side of this historic landmark class, architecturally? Just the opposite, we think. Called the Weston Tower, its design was inspired by star-shaped symbols that can be found around the Abbey, and its final look matches the overall style of the building.
This is only half of the story however, because the Weston Tower contains both a staircase and an elevator that lead to something really special in the roof. Sixteen metres (52 feet) above the ground, you’ll discover a new museum inside the medieval triforium, which is a part of the Abbey that has never been open to the public before.
Thanks to its height and famous round windows, this space offers panoramic views of the surrounding area including the Palace of Westminster, better known as the home of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
The new museum inside the triforium (the name given to an elevated church gallery such as this) is called The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, while its four displays collectively tell the story of Westminster Abbey using more than 300 objects. For example, the exhibition’s Worship and Daily Life section includes the Westminster Retable, which is England’s oldest altarpiece and dates back to 1259. Elsewhere, you’ll find a children’s guidebook, entitled The Gigantick History of Westminster Abbey, which was created in 1742.
The church’s most famous moment in recent years was as the venue for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, so you can also see the couple’s 2011 marriage license on display. When the time comes, Westminster Abbey will also host William’s coronation as king, just as it has for every English monarch since 1066. England’s one-and-only joint coronation for William III and Mary II took place here in 1689, with Mary’s Coronation Chair at the ceremony being another exhibition highlight.
You may be surprised to learn that the Abbey is neither a cathedral nor a parish church, which means that it is not under the control of the Church of England. Instead, it was officially designated as a ‘Royal Peculiar’ by Elizabeth I in the 16th century. Clearly, this Peculiar marvel of a building occupies a unique position in the London landscape, so don’t miss this special new chapter in its long history.