28th October 1216. Many Years A-Building: Westminster Abbey.

It was William the  Conqueror who gave the marshy site to Geoffrey de Mandeville to be later bequeathed to the monks of Westminster Abbey.

Thorney Island

Thorn-ey, Thorn Island showing early Abbey and Parliament buildings by the Thames.

The new Westminster Abbey didn’t like ‘Athena spring fully grown and armed from the head of Zeus’, as it took hundreds of years to become what we see now.

It began in 1245 when Henry III wished to create a shrine to Edward the Confessor which required the pulling down of the eastern part of the old Abbey founded by the Confessor in 1065.

However after the foundation of the Lady Chapel money ran out, so the French Gothic building by Henry’s death had only one bay completed, which used up an entire year’s royal revenue and helped to trigger a rebellion by the king’s impoverished barons.

After King John had died there was a rush to have Henry crowned as the French Louis VIII held London, so Today in 1216 the boy king was brought from Devizes Castle to St Peter’s Abbey, later Gloucester Cathedral, and crowned with his mother’s chaplet, a band of gold made from a necklace.

It is ironic that Henry behind the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey was never to be crowned there.

In the grand design, Henry was an early advocate of expensive glass for his structure, at a time when the principal patron of the arts was monarchy which basked in the reflected glory.(1)

After Henry’s death in 1272, work was still uncompleted by the end of his son’s reign in 1307 as Edward I didn’t share his father’s reverence for Edward the Confessor.

The result was that the loftier new work was joined to the old for over a century, when work was resumed as money became available, when the mason appointed in the late 14thc under Richard II, Henry Yevele son of a Uttoxeter, Staffordshire freeholder, completed the job.

The junction, demonstrating the long hiatus between the older construction, and the less costly and elaborate new, can still be seen west of the quire.


Reconstruction of Abbey 1585 by Peter Jackson.

Reconstruction image of Abbey 1585 by Peter Jackson.

By Tudor times we have the Lady Chapel of Henry VII replacing that of the 13thc, in the perpendicular style, in contrast to the early Gothic of the rest of the building.

Not until the familiar west towers, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, who followed Wren’s advice about not mixing styles, do we see the Abbey of today. 


Tudor image of Abbey, and by the river the old Parliament buildings.

(1) The master-masons were: Henry of Reyns; John of Gloucester and Robert of Beverley.

Ref: wikipedia.org.westminster_abbey.

Ref: westminster-abbey.org/our-history/Pic of Thorney Island.

Ref: homes2.btconnect.com/Pic by Peter Jackson.

Ref: Pinterest.com/Pic of Tudor Image.


Tags: , , ,

About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: