This is the oldest continuously used dining room in London. It was part of the building of the new Abbot's House, together with the Jerusalem Chamber, by Litlyngton. It is not open to the public.
The hall was built by Abbot Litlyngton and finished in 1376 when the windows were glazed. It was used for dining by the household and guests of the Abbot, who would preside from the raised dais at the far end. Heating was provided by a fire on a hearth in the centre of the hall - this continued as the source of heating until 1847. Most of the roof is original, including the louvre or lantern in the centre to let out the smoke. The hall was originally hung with tapestries and the wainscot was added in 1733.
At the Reformation the hall was used by both the Dean and Chapter and the King's Scholars of Westminster School. The School performed an annual Latin play here until 1730. Above the high table are painted large coats of arms of the Abbey and the two colleges closely connected with the School ie. Christ Church, Oxford and Trinity College, Cambridge.
The gallery at the south end, perhaps for musicians, dates from the mid 17th century. In the 17th century the Abbey clergy no longer required the hall as a dining area and it was used solely by the School, whose main dining hall it remains to this day. But the Dean and Chapter still use it on special occasions such as the Collegiate Dinner. It survived bomb damage during the Second World War. The hall was restored in 1972.
I’ve worked here for over thirty years and have seen many of the major services - it’s strange to realise that you are in a small way part of history.