Westminster Abbey really is the gift that keeps on giving, I spend so much of my time guiding there, but there is always something new to see or discover.
But just when you think you’ve seen it all, Boom! The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries and I am in awe, all over again.
Opened a couple of weeks ago, this space known as a triforium runs around the Abbey’s interior, 16m above floor level.
You enter it by the Weston Tower, the first significant bit of building work since Hawksmoor finished off the two towers at the main West entrance in 1745 and wonderfully described as ‘a Gothic space rocket to a secret realm’ Practically invisible from outside, its huge leaded windows afford you the most wonderful views across to the stained glass windows, grotesques and pinnacles and flying buttresses of the abbey as you climb up the oak stairs, although there is an elevator should you prefer.
You then enter the triforium at the top, via a small bridge and the first thing you see are one of my favourites, the half size plaster casts of the 20th Century Martyrs that were added to the main entrance as part of the clean-up process around 20 years ago.
However the list of exhibits is superb, objects such as the Liber Regalis (the handbook of how a coronation should be run, the coronation chair used for the crowning of Mary II, wooden effigies of kings and queens used in their funeral services, the altarpiece Henry III, the King responsible for the starting the rebuild operation back in 1200s, wax effigies of the great and good of the time wearing original clothes that look as vibrant today as they did several hundred years ago (how on earth did they manage that!).
There is even a stuffed parrot that belonged to the Duchess of Richmond and Lennox in 1702, and x-ray examination has determined that this really is the original, and oldest stuffed bird in the UK – anyone else just gone to You Tube to check out Monty Python's dead parrot sketch?
But the absolute wow factor has got to be the views, right up the nave to the main entrance as well as looking directly onto the tomb of Edward the Confessor, the most significant piece of burial real estate in the Abbey. Surrounded as he is by Edward I, Henry III and V, Richard III and some of their wives, he is the reason that the Abbey was built.
I really did have to catch my breath as I imagined all of the 28 coronations, weddings and funerals that took place here and what I would have seen if I had stood in the exact same spot for all of them. Is it just me, or sometimes do you want to be able to go back in time SO badly, just for a minute to experience something like this?
Anyway, I could go on for ages (I often do!), but trust me when I say, there is no better way to spend £5.00 in London that to visit this triforium treasure trove (see what I did there 😉)
Even better, drop me a line and let’s go visit together.