Prince Charles was at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday to unveil a foundation stone for the new tower which is being built to allow visitors access to the new Queen’s Diamond Jubilee galleries.
These galleries are being constructed in the Triforium, an internal gallery dating back to medieval times which runs the length of the Abbey. Access by visitors to the Triforium is a first, and the galleries within it will show examples of the Abbey’s rich and varied thousand-year history.
The new tower, which will be the first since the iconic towers designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor were added in the middle of the eighteenth century, will be built between the thirteenth-century chapter house and sixteenth-century Lady Chapel built by Henry VII. Like the towers which were built in Gothic Revival style, the new tower has been designed to reflect the magnificent Gothic Architecture of the Abbey. It will be an amalgamation of traditional materials like Portland Stone, glass, lead and oak together with modern materials such as concrete and steel to ensure the new tower is as slim and slender as possible.
The galleries are the last stage of a development plan for improving the facilities for the two million visitors and worshippers who flock to the Abbey every year. In addition to displaying the accumulated artefacts, the views that visitors will see across both Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster and indeed across the Abbey itself are truly magnificent. They were described by the Poet, John Betjeman as being the finest views in Europe, and it is from just outside Poets Corner that the new tower will rise.
The first stage of the plan was the Abbey Education Centre which was opened by the Queen in May 2010, followed by the Duke of Edinburgh opening the Cellarium café and terrace in October 2012. The latest addition was a new Song School for the Abbey’s world famous choir which opened last year. These current works are estimated at £23 million, and so far £18 million has been raised from private donors and trusts, an appeal was launched for the remainder from the general public so all the works to the galleries and new tower will have been paid for by donation.