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