Westminster Abbey: The History and How to See it

westminster abbey

There are few buildings in London with as much history and importance as Westminster Abbey. In terms of the royal history of Britain, it is the place where monarchs are both coronated and buried.

Beyond this, it has an even deeper and richer history than many people know. Westminster Abbey has a history stretching back over a thousand years, and it’s a fascinating place to learn about and explore. Staying at the Chilworth Hotel Paddington, you’re in a perfect spot to do this. So, with all that said, let’s take a brief overview of the history and tell you how you can see it.

The History

It was Edward the Confessor – back in the 11th century – who first laid the foundations for what we now know as Westminster Abbey. Seeking a royal church for his eventual internment, Edward began rebuilding the derelict St. Peter’s Abbey. Completed in 1065, Edward died only a week later and got his wish.

The site remained mostly the same up until 1245 when Henry III decided that he too wanted to use the site for his burial and set about rebuilding the abbey into a grand gothic-style church. Obsessed with Edward the Confessor, Henry III wished to be buried alongside his idol and realised this wish in 1272.

After Henry III, work continued, in various forms, up until 1517 when it was finally considered complete by then-monarch Richard II. The 16th century was a tough time for the abbey, with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Monasteries marking a downturn in the abbey’s fortunes. This was compounded by his daughter Elizabeth I when she made Westminster Abbey part of the Church of England and, thus, answerable to the Queen directly.

In the 18th century, the iconic towers of the abbey went up, under the watchful eye of Nicholas Hawksmoor and restoration took place across the 19th century. The abbey suffered some damage during World War Two from a German incendiary bomb, but today’s abbey is much the same as it was three hundred years ago.

How to See It

Taking a tour of Westminster Abbey is a unique experience, as it’s a journey through more than a thousand years of royal and religious history. But the guides on hand are more than capable of condensing all this rich history down into an enjoyable, thorough tour. Taking up any of Montcalm’s London Paddington hotel deals, you’re in an ideal position to make the trip.

Tours run six days a week – with Sundays reserved for worship at the abbey – and there are various start times throughout the day to select. It’s a good idea to book tickets ahead of schedule if you can, as the abbey is a very popular spot, and it’s a good idea you wear flat shoes to cope with the ancient, uneven floors.

Westminster Abbey is a beautiful, ancient place and somewhere you won’t forget once you’ve seen and experienced it.