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Westminster Abbey (Collegiate Church of St Peter, Parliament Square) - part three
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Westminster Abbey (Collegiate Church of St Peter, Parliament Square) - part threeUntil the end of the 16th century, monuments in the abbey were few. There were the great royal tombs, but relatively few others, and they were all of kinsmen of the monarchs, of royal officials or of members of the foundation. In the late Elizabethan and early Stuart decades, huge monuments started to appear. Lord Hunsdon (died 1596), Lord Chamberlain, was accorded one in St John the Baptist's chapel. King James erected in the early 1600s the monuments to his predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I (to the designs of Maximilian Colt) and to his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots (by Cornelius Cure), both with considerable architectural canopies; they stand in Henry Vll's chapel. During the 17th century monuments without royal connections rapidly increased. From 1744, they were erected at parliamentary expense to war heroes. By that time, the abbey was crowded with monuments. Mention might be made here of Arnold Quellin's memorial to Thomas Thynne, which has a carving to show his murder in the Haymarket in 1682. The statue of Shakespeare in Poets' Comer (in the south transept) was carved by Peter Scheemakers in 1749 to William Kent's design. The two very prominent monuments that flank the entrance to the choir were carved by Michael Rysbrack to William Kent's designs. The one on the left (1731) is of Sir Isaac Newton, and the other (1733) is of the 1st Earl Stanhope. In the nave nearby, there are interesting brasses to 19th-century architects by their contemporaries. Sir George Gilbert Scott (died 1878) has a brass by G. E. Street, and Street himself (died 1881) was given one by G. F Bodley. A recent brass is Earl Mountbatten's by Christopher Ironside (1985), near the west door. Two further memorials separated by 800 years merit a mention. The earlier one is that of Gilbert Crispin, Abbot, who died in 1117 or 1118, and consists of a worn figure with a crozier, in the south walk of the cloister. The other is that of the Unknown Warrior, who was buried at the west end in 1920: a commemoration of the First World War that was introduced in many countries.

Westminster Abbey (Collegiate Church of St Peter, Parliament Square) - part three

The north transept is crowded with statues of statesmen. Gladstone's distinctive features stand out second from the right.


Westminster Abbey (Collegiate Church of St Peter, Parliament Square) - part three

The tomb of King Henry III, who rebuilt the abbey in the 13th century, seen from the Confessor's chapel.


In contrast to the monuments, there are fewer furnishings to discuss, but some are of the first importance. Near St Edward's shrine, there is the abbey's best-known ancient furnishing: the coronation chair of 1308, made of oak, with a tall gable at the back, and intended to house beneath it the Stone of Scone, which King Edward I had captured in Scotland. The pavements around the shrine and in the sanctuary are important Cosmati works commissioned by Abbot Ware in 1268. Sir George Gilbert Scott was responsible for the present high altar and the west face of the reredos. The choir-stalls, which occupy part of the crossing and part of the nave, are by Edward Blore, 1844-8. The great chandeliers of Waterford glass were donated in 1965.

Westminster Abbey (Collegiate Church of St Peter, Parliament Square) - part three

Shakespeare's quizzical statue, designed by William Kent and carved by Scheemakers, stands out in Poets' Corner.


The abbey church is a stupendous survival, but it needs to be remembered also that buildings from the mediaeval monastery survive to the south, including the whole cloister, minor parts of the Confessor's buildings and the chapter house, which Sir George Gilbert Scott restored. The buildings house, among other things, the important library and a worthy museum.

Westminster Abbey (Collegiate Church of St Peter, Parliament Square) - part three

The nave looking west from Edward the Confessor's Shrine, with Yevele's Perpendicular west window in the background. The great height of the interior is clearly shown in this view.



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