Westminster Abbey

Abbey + Environs




The first reports of the abbey are based on a late tradition claiming that a young fisherman called Aldrich on the River Thames saw a vision of Saint Peter near the site. This seems to be quoted to justify the gifts of salmon from Thames fishermen that the abbey received in later years. In the present era, the Fishmonger's Company still gives a salmon every year. The proven origins are that in the 960s or early 970s, Saint Dunstan, assisted by King Edgar, installed a community of Benedictine monks here. Between 1042 and 1052 King Edward the Confessor began rebuilding St Peter's Abbey to provide himself with a royal burial church. It was the first church in England built in the Romanesque style. The building was not completed until around 1090 but was consecrated on 28 December 1065, only a week before Edward's death on 5 January 1066. A week later he was buried in the church, and nine years later his wife Edith was buried alongside him. His successor, Harold II, was probably crowned in the abbey, although the first documented coronation is that of William the Conqueror later the same year. Construction of the present church was begun in 1245 by Henry III who selected the site for his burial. The abbot and monks, in proximity to the royal Palace of Westminster, the seat of government from the later 12th century, became a powerful force in the centuries after the Norman Conquest. The proximity of the Palace of Westminster did not extend to providing monks or abbots with high royal connections; in social origin the Benedictines of Westminster were as modest as most of the order. The abbot remained Lord of the Manor of Westminster as a town of two to three thousand persons grew around it: as a consumer and employer on a grand scale the monastery helped fuel the town economy, and relations with the town remained unusually cordial, but no enfranchising charter was issued during the Middle Ages. The abbey built shops and dwellings on the west side, encroaching upon the sanctuary. This all allowed the distinctive layout of London to evolve as two areas, Westminster and the City, grew and joined.


Westminster diocese was dissolved in 1550, but the abbey was recognised (in 1552, retroactively to 1550) as a second cathedral of the Diocese of London until 1556. The already-old expression "robbing Peter to pay Paul" may have been given a new lease of life when money meant for the abbey, which is dedicated to Saint Peter, was diverted to the treasury of St Paul's Cathedral. Until the 19th century, Westminster was the third seat of learning in England, after Oxford and Cambridge. It was here that the first third of the King James Bible Old Testament and the last half of the New Testament were translated. The Westminster Abbey Museum is located in the 11th-century vaulted undercroft beneath the former monks' dormitory in Westminster Abbey. This is one of the oldest areas of the Abbey, dating back almost to the foundation of the Norman church by Edward the Confessor in 1065. This space has been used as a museum since 1908. The exhibits include a unique collection of royal and other funeral effigies (funeral saddle, helm and shield of Henry V), together with other treasures, including some panels of medieval glass, 12th-century sculpture fragments, Mary II's coronation chair and replicas of the coronation regalia. There also are effigies of Edward III, Henry VII and his queen, Elizabeth I, Charles II, William III, Mary II and Queen Anne. Later wax effigies include a likeness of Horatio, Viscount Nelson, wearing some of his own clothes and another of Prime Minister William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, modelled by the American-born sculptor Patience Wright. During recent conservation of Elizabeth I's effigy a unique corset dating from 1603 was found on the figure and is now displayed separately. A recent addition to the display is the late 13th-century Westminster Retable, England's oldest altarpiece, which was most probably designed for the High Altar of the Abbey. Although damaged in past centuries, the panel has been expertly cleaned and conserved. In 2018 the a new museum will open in the Abbey's medieval triforium. A Touch Tour is available for visually impaired visitors in large-print or Braille. They also provide large-print and Braille versions of the Welcome Leaflet for visitors to the Abbey, a Braille booklet covering St Margaret's Church and tactile maps in Braille of the Abbey. If you would like to do a Touch Tour of the Abbey we recommend booking the services of a volunteer guide. Some areas of the Abbey are unavoidably inaccessible to people permanently confined to wheelchairs. Therefore, they offer free admission to such visitors and their carers. Visitors should enter via the North Door, where there is a small ramped step. They have their own wheelchairs that are freely available to use. Speak to a Marshal on your arrival and they will arrange it. If you prefer to use your own wheelchair, you will have access to most areas of the Abbey.


Location : 20 Deans Yard, Westminster SW1P 3PA

Transport: St James Park (District Line, Circle Line). Westminster (Jubilee Line, District Line, Circle Line). London Buses routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C1 stop nearby.

Opening Times: Monday to Friday 09:30 to 15:30.

Opening Times: Saturday 09:30 to 13:30. Sunday closed.

Tickets : Adults £20.00   Children £9.00  Concessions £17.00.

Tickets : Physically disabled and Carers Free

Tel: 020 7222 5152