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Westminster Abbey submits plans for new access tower

Friday, 17th October 2014

Westminster Abbey submits plans for new access tower

Westminster Abbey today formally submitted a planning application to Westminster City Council to build an access tower to the Triforium, the first essential phase of a major new project.

The project represents the most significant addition to the fabric of the Abbey church since the construction of Nicholas Hawksmoor's west towers in 1745.

The Dean and Chapter of Westminster has major plans to create a new museum and exhibition space at the east end of the Abbey's Triforium which, by kind permission of The Queen, will be known as The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries.

The Triforium is a gallery which runs 70 feet above the floor of the Abbey and around almost all its internal walls. When Henry III began to rebuild the Abbey church in the 13th century, he planned to house chapels at the east end of the Triforium, but over the centuries this space has never been put to that use. The Triforium gives an entirely new perspective of the Abbey to the visitor, and a magnificent view along the whole length of the Abbey, described by John Betjeman as "the best view in Europe" but previously only seen by the public on TV broadcasts of major services.

The plan to open up the east end of the Triforium enables the Abbey to provide public access to these magnificent views of the Abbey itself and of its external surroundings, and to create a new and much larger museum and an exhibition space. There are many Abbey treasures and artefacts, such as the wonderful 14th century illuminated manuscript, the Litlyngton Missal, the 14th century Liber Regalis, which sets out the blueprint for the Coronation service, as well as royal funeral effigies, glass, silverware, stonework and vestments which could be put on permanent public display for the first time. There will also be an opportunity to take advantage of the latest interactive electronic access tools.

To allow all visitors safe and easy access to the Triforium, it will be necessary to construct a lift and a staircase outside the south transept of the Abbey church. The intention is that the new tower, which will be substantial but largely hidden from view, should be entirely in keeping with the historic fabric of the Abbey. The Abbey's Surveyor of the Fabric (consultant architect) Ptolemy Dean has designed a tower which reflects the Gothic architecture of the Abbey church.

The Abbey has already consulted widely on its plans – with, amongst others, the statutory bodies, the Palace of Westminster and local heritage groups.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said today:

This is a hugely exciting venture, the third in a major series of recent developments to our provision for visitors. Westminster Abbey holds a unique place in our country, the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world. We wish our visitors from all over the world to have the opportunity of exploring more fully its history and significance. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries will enable visitors to see many more of our hidden treasures, as well as the wonderful views, and to discover for themselves how the Abbey stands for faith at the heart of the nation.

Photography by Simon Kennedy 
Model by Hamnell-Armiger

The work can be tough, but even the cold and rain don’t bother me as I enjoy it so much. I love every day that I spend at the Abbey – just being here makes me smile.


Tim - Gardener

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