30 November 2019

Religion & Politics

Generally regarded as controversial subjects to avoid I hope you find this religion and politics interesting.

Dean's Yard, Westminster, is a large secluded gated quadrangle of picturesque buildings surrounding a green upon which Westminster School pupils have legal rights to play football (they have some claim to having invented the modern game).
The East side consists of buildings occupied by Westminster School; the South by Church House, the headquarters of the Church of England; the West by several School buildings and Westminster Abbey Choir; and the North by the archway to the Great Sanctuary, Abbey offices and part of the Deanery.

From Dean's Yard we walked to the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. A Chapter House is a building or room that is part of a cathedral, monastery or collegiate church in which meetings are held. Built by the royal masons circa 1250 it was originally used by Benedictine monks who sat on stone benches around the walls for their daily meetings. It later became a meeting place of the King's Great Council and the Commons, predecessors of today's Parliament.
It's an octagonal building with a vaulted ceiling and a central column, it has beautiful stained glass windows around most of it, lovely medieval wall paintings and an original floor of glazed tiles. Photography wasn't allowed, I only managed these two.

In the covered entrance to the Chapter House you can see what is claimed
to be the oldest door in Britain, believed to date back to the 1050's

Almost next door to the Chapter House is the 11th century Pyx Chamber. It was built in the years immediately after the Norman Conquest, and is one of the oldest parts of Westminster Abbey. It originally formed part of an undercroft below the monks' dormitory. 
The name Pyx refers to small boxes containing the official samples of gold and silver coinage which were also kept here. New coins were annually tested against these samples in a public 'Trial of the Pyx' held in the Palace of Westminster.
For much of the Middle Ages and afterwards the chamber served as a strong room containing the king's valuables, safeguarded by these huge thick double doors with 6 locks.

Next stop. Just across the road from The Houses of Parliament is a lovely little building called Jewel Tower. It was built around 1365 to house Edward III’s treasures and was known as the ‘King’s Privy Wardrobe’. It was protected by a moat linked to the river Thames.

As it may have appeared in the 16th century

At the end of the 16th century the House of Lords began to use the Tower to store its parliamentary records. The Jewel Tower has also held some of the nation’s most important documents. The Act of Union, the Abolishment of Slavery, Charles l’s Death Warrant and many more were once safely kept inside The Jewel Tower. Visitors can see and read replicas of some of these important documents.

In 1869 the Jewel Tower was taken over by the newly formed Standard Weights and Measures Department which used it for storing and testing official weights and measures. The rising level of passing vehicular traffic made the tower increasingly unsuitable for this work, and by 1938 the department had abandoned it in favour of other facilities. In 1948 the building was placed into the care of the Ministry of Works which repaired and restored damage inflicted during the Second World War, the surrounding area was cleared and it was opened to tourists. It is now owned by English Heritage.

Westminster Palace (or Houses of Parliament) across the road, our next destination.
Westminster Hall is the oldest part of the Palace complex, finished in 1099. Photography was allowed here but it was very dark and there was building work and scaffolding all around. The original timber roof is beautiful. Shuttlecocks from Henry VIII's time have been found in the rafters! 

 The entrance to St Stephen's Hall
is on the site of the old Chapel of St Stephen's which was destroyed along with most of the rest of the building in a fire in 1834. It was used by the House of Commons  after the main chamber was bombed in the 2nd world war. 

Beautiful chandeliers and ceiling

The hall is lined with paintings and statues of famous parlimentarians and kings and queens. Through the other side of St Stephen's Hall is the Central Lobby where political journalists film their live reports. It's also full of statues, and the beautiful gilded ceiling has to be seen to be believed.

Photography wasn't allowed from here but I couldn't have got such a good shot of the Central Lobby as this postcard. Mosaics decorate what is said to be the widest stone-vaulted roof in the world measuring 18m wide and 23m high.

From here you make your way to the House of Lords on one side and the House of Commons on the other, along corridors lined with more paintings and statues.

The House of Lords (as one would expect) is more elaborate than the Commons 
There was no way I was going to be able to sneak photos here, everywhere was staffed by scary looking security people!

The Royal Gallery is stunning

The tour takes in the Member's Lobby, Peer's Lobby and the Robing Room where the Queen prepares for the State Opening of Parliament. She arrives up a short flight of stairs into the Robing room where she dons the ceremonial robes and the Imperial State Crown.

There is a nice shop and what looked like a very nice cafe, which unfortunately was closed for renovations at the time of our visit.

Be warm and well ~ 
Polly x


  1. That certainly was an interesting tour of places that I've never visited - and probably never will as I try to avoid London as much as possible.

    1. I still enjoy going into London, but after only a few hours I feel drained by the sheer number of people you have to navigate around to get anywhere.

  2. I was in London this spring and visited the Abbey and its grounds. A lovely place and I have enjoyed these photos.

  3. When we went to UK few years back, we didn't have much time in hand to take elaborate tour inside Westminster which wanted. I fulfilled my wish with your post. Thanks a lot.

    1. Thank you Krishna, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  4. This is gorgeous, Polly. And you can feel yourself being pulled back into history. I enjoyed the journey.

  5. Such beautiful photographs! This is perhaps the most welcome religion/political post I've ever encountered.

  6. This is the most stunning post, Polly. It's one place I didn't get to visit in England (among many!) and hope to next fall. Your photos are excellent and indeed, your history narrative is fascinating. Much I didn't realize. It looks like a wonderful day for you!

    1. Thank you Jeanie. Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament are definitely well worth visiting :-) x

  7. Oddly enough, I've never been in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. I see all the political activity on TV but I'd never seen the amazing ceilings and paintings and general embellishments of the other parts of the building. So thank you for that!

    The double doors with their six locks must have kept the valuables very safe. I think you'd need dynamite to get through those!

    1. Hello Nick, you are right about those doors, it would need a few hefty men to even open and close them!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...