Tag Archives: Edward the Confessor

The consecration of Westminster Abbey (1065)

Edward the Confessor's body being brought to the abbey for burial in 1066

Westminster Abbey was consecrated on this day  in 1065 …

A monk of St Bertin’s Abbey wrote of its construction:

“Outside the walls of London … stood a monastery [founded by Bishop Dunstan under King Edgar the Peaceable and] dedicated to St Peter, but insignificant in buildings … .  … The king [Edward the Confessor], therefore  … gave his attention to that place, for it both lay hard by the famous and rich town and also was a delightful spot, … [and] … decided to have his burial place there [he was to die on January 5th, 1066].  Accordingly, he ordered that out of the tithes of all his revenues should be started the building of a noble edifice, worthy of the Prince of the Apostles; so that, after the transient journey of this life, God would look kindly upon him, both for the sake of his goodness and because of the gift of lands and ornaments with which he intended to ennoble the place.  And … there was no weighing of the costs, … so long as it proved  worthy of … God and St Peter”.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul (Westminster Abbey)

On this day in 1540, the Abbey Church of St Peter Westminster was made a Cathedral with its own See.   Not long afterwards, it was incorporated into the Diocese of London, and much of its estate was sold off to pay for repairs to St Paul’s – hence the expression, “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.  It is now a “Royal Peculiar”.

The abbey was originally founded, as the Benedictine monastery of St Peter, by the Bishop of London, Dunstan, under the Saxon King Edgar, in 960, on what was then Thorney Island – according to legend, on the site of a church founded by Sebert in around 604 (the same year that St Paul’s was founded).  It was rebuilt under Edward, “The Confessor”, in the years up to 1065, rebuilt again,  in the Early Gothic style, under Henry III, in the mid thirteenth century, and extended, in the Late Gothic style, under a succession of kings, including Henry VII, in the late fourteenth to early sixteenth (in part by the master mason Henry Yevele).

1 - Henry III's thirteenth-century north entrance with Rose Window

3 - Henry III's thirteenth-century Chapter House (left) and Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel (right).JPG

4 - Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel

5 - Wonderful grotesques on Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel  .JPG

The present structure is essentially surviving thirteenth- to sixteenth- century,


6 - Hawksmoor's eighteenth-century west towers.jpg

7 - Twentieth-century martyrs' memorial

although with some eighteenth-century additions in the form of  the west towers,  by Hawksmoor, and some twentieth-century  additions and restorations.

There are a great many important monuments in the interior, including those of no fewer than seventeen monarchs.  An equally large number of important state occasions have been held in the abbey, including all of the Coronations since that of the first Norman King, William I, the Conqueror, in 1066.  The fore-runner of Parliament, the “Great Council”, first met in the Chapter House here in 1257, only later moving to nearby Westminster Hall.

5 - Wonderful grotesques on Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel  .JPG


Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Village green and church.JPG

Havering-atte-Bower was first recorded as such, or more accurately as Hauering atte Bower,  in 1272, from the Old English personal name Haefer, and ingas, meaning settlement, and the Middle English bour, meaning bower, or royal residence (Havering was first recorded as Haueringas in the “Domesday Book” of 1086).  It essentially remains to this day an isolated small village on the top of a high hill on the north-eastern edge of London, commanding fine views over  the surrounding countryside and encroaching built-up areas.  Historically part of the county of Essex, the village has been  part of the London Borough of Havering since   1965.

The village is steeped in royal history.

Havering Palace.JPG

In the eleventh century, Edward the Confessor  built a hunting lodge here that over the years evolved into Havering Palace, a royal residence used by a succession of kings and queens in the later Medieval to early post-Medieval periods, before being demolished in the seventeenth century (some materials salvaged from it were used in the construction of Bower House in the early eighteenth).

There was also once another royal residence, called Pyrgo Palace, a little to the east, which had been  bought by  Henry VIII in the post-Medieval period,  as a replacement for the then-declining Havering Palace, and which was eventually demolished in the eighteenth century.

Pyrgo Park (1).JPG

Pyrgo Park (2).JPG

Pyrgo Park (3).JPG

Pyrgo Park occupies the site today.

Church of St John the Evangelist (Havering Church)


The present church of St John was built in the nineteenth century, on the site of a previous church that had itself once been one of the chapels in Havering Palace.

The Purbeck Marble font dates back to the early Medieval period.


Another in the occasional series on “Far-Flung Lost London” …

Greensted lies in rural Essex, a brisk hour-and-a-half’s walk east  of Epping, itself at the eastern extremity of the Central Line.   The name derives from the Old English for a clearing in a wild-wood (of which Epping and Hainault Forests are the tattered remnants).

Interestingly, in 1837, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, on their return from their unjust deportation to Australia, were granted farm tenancies in and around Greensted; and in 1839, one of them, James Brine, married the daughter of another, Thomas Standfield, in Greensted Church.   While in Greensted, the Martyrs founded a Chartist association.   This  did not go down well with the locals!  The vicar denounced  them from the pulpit, and reported them to the Home Office; and the “Essex Standard” derided them in the press, and wrote of them as “dabbling in the dirty waters of radicalism and publishing pamphlets to keep up the old game”.  Eventually the squirearchy evicted them from their land, and forced them to seek out new livelihoods and lives elsewhere (five out of the six of them in London in Ontario in Canada).

Greensted Church

“At the wild-wood’s heart

These  thrice-three hundred winters

This scant sanctuary”.

Greensted Church, the Church of St Andrew, purports to be  the oldest wooden building still standing in Europe, and the oldest wooden church anywhere in the world.

The original  church on the site was probably built at least as long ago as the middle of the seventh century, at which  time St Cedd set about converting the East Saxons to Christianity from his base at Bradwell.  Sadly, though, the only remaining physical evidence as to the existence of this church  is in the form of post-holes discovered during an archaeological excavation in 1960.

Work began on the present structure  in the middle of the eleventh century, in the Late Saxon period,  in wood (*); and continued into the Medieval and post-Medieval, in stone and brick (with  minor additions and restorations also in the nineteenth century, between 1837-48, and further restorations in the twentieth, between 1987-90).   Remarkably, much of the Saxon nave  still stands, incorporated into later extensions.  The wooden Saxon nave was evidently originally windowless, aside from some small “eag-thyrels” or eye-holes, and a single larger “niche”, known by many as  a lepers’ “squint”.  Scorch-marks can still be seen  on some of the wall timbers, suggesting lighting  by wall-mounted lamps.   Adze-marks can also still be seen on some timbers.

(*) Dendrochronological evidence acquired in 1995 indicates that the trees used in the construction of the church were felled between 1060-63.  This would have  been  during the reign of the last-but-one Saxon King, Edward the Confessor (the last was the ill-fated Harold, who acceded to the throne on Edward’s death early in 1066, before being killed fighting the invading Normans at the Battle of Hastings later the same year).