11/21/14

Day 4 - Part 4 - The Supreme Court

After a very late lunch, we started walking and seredipity gave us the Supreme Court...it was never on our radar, but it began to rain a little bit and we looked up and there it was...and open for tours, since Court wasn't in session...and for free!

- official guide:  In 2009 the Supreme Court replaced the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the UK but is now explicitly separate from both Government and Parliament. It hears appeals on arguable points of law of the greatest public importance for the whole of the UK in civil cases and for England, Wales and Northern Ireland in criminal cases.
 
Now I don't know for certain, but I do suspect, that this court is way fancier than ours...take the front of the building for a start...
built 1903-1916
see what I mean?  The front of the building is absolutely covered in sculpture...
The Middlesex Guildhall is the masterpiece of both the architect James Gibson and...the sculptor Henry Charles Fehr (1851-1940), ...the third courthouse building to be erected on the site of Westminster Abbey's old Sanctuary Tower and Belfry since 1807... this is a "highly symbolic location, chosen to represent the United Kingdom's separation of powers, with judiciary and legislature balanced on opposite sides of Parliament Square."  The Victorian Web.


King John with the Barons at Runnymede, where he affixed his seal to the Magna Carta.
a closer look at two of the Barons
Lady Jane Grey being offered the crown by her father-in-law, the Duke of Northumberland. Her husband stands next to her. These three would all be considered traitors, and beheaded
Henry III

 
 The entrance is pretty normal, since it's just plain and filled with the security station, but once you get inside, it is still very interesting...

11/18/14

Day 4 - part 3

After Westminster Abbey, we went to look for the Westminster Archives - that's where the Parish records for St. Margaret are kept and Dave wanted to get a copy of the records from the microfiche...
 
Again, cool things to see on the way...


I mean, really cool...I got a glimpse of this out of the corner of my eye and went "what the heck??"

She's painting him to match the background...when she's finished, you can take a photo of him and he'll blend in!  Talk about your camouflage!
















Too bad we didn't have time to wait for her to finish!

It wasn't far before we found the Archives...
and while Dave pulled records, I took a nice nap sitting in the chair next to him...

next up - the English Supreme Court...

11/14/14

Day 4 - Westminster Abbey - part 2

As you follow the route of the Abbey (they make it hard to double-back), you come outside into a cloister that leads you to the Chapter House and Pyx Chamber.  And you can take pictures here...which I think is confusing...I think it's just as historic as the Abbey, but maybe because it's not an active worship place, photos are okay?  Doesn't matter, because it was a relief to be able to take SOME pictures!

The Chapter House (built by Henry III ~1250) was one of the largest English chapter houses and served as the formal meeting place for the monks of the Abbey, but also was the assembly place for the king's "Great Court" (the predecessor of Parliament).  A crypt beneath the Chapter House contained a royal treasury, which extended into an adjacent room known as the Pyx Chamber.  After the dissolution of the Abbey in 1540, the Chapter House and Pyx Chamber were used as a repository for important government records (precursor of the Public Record Office) and remained as such until 1863....English Heritage Guide Book.





 
 
 
You don't realize how dim it is inside the Abbey until you step out into the cloister...
 
 
They say that this is the oldest door in Britain..it's oak and dates from the 11th century
The oldest door is on your right as you go up the steps of the inner vestibule to the Chapter House...
 
Of course, all of the original stained glass is gone (most of it by the time the18th century rolled around)...and new windows put up in 1882 were largely destroyed by Germain air raids in 1941.  The current windows were installed in 1951 and include re-glazed Victorian panels and coats of arms of benefactors and important historical figures associated with the Chapter House from the 13th to the 19th centuries.  The southwest window contains tiny scenes relating to the history of WWII.  We took lots of pictures of the windows, but here are a few to give you an idea...


 
As nice as the windows were, it was the 19th century reproduction floor tiles which captured my attention - both in the vestibule and in the sacristy room off the cloister...
again, it's probably the quilter in me, but I LOVE these and would put them in my house in a heartbeat!





 
There are remnants of painted walls - my favorite portion being those from the late 15th century with captions...
a Ro...(now a Roe Deer)...
that Dromidary!
that Kameyl!
And, of course, there was sculpture, too...


Part of the grouping of the Annunciation on either side of the entrance archway - this statue of Mary is considered to be one of the finest of English Gothic sculptures
Christ in Majesty in the center of the entrance arch
is a Victorian insertion

And the Cloister was adorned with a lot of memorials...some far more contemporary than others...

What a great morning!


11/11/14

Day 4 - Part 1 - Westminster Abbey - outside


Deciding to wait in line anyway, after breakfast we headed for Westminster Abbey - but, low and behold! the line was relatively short - we weren't even at the 15 minute mark! I guess it pays to be there before it opens...


But even that time went quickly since there was a lot to see on the outside of the building...


 




No pictures allowed inside, of course, and that's both a bad and a good thing - bad because the place is covered in sculptures, tombs, heraldry and absolutely oozes in history...good because it's a huge site and we would have still been in there at closing time taking pictures!  There are plenty of pictures online, so take some time to look around there.

It was very cool to see the tombs and effigies of Elizabeth I, the Marys, the Henrys, the Edwards.  It was nice to visit the final resting place of so many historical and literary and, well, just important, people. And to know that people have been worshipping there since before the Norman Conquest and you are walking in the same spaces - whew!

The Abbey is very overwhelming and you can quickly go into sensory overload.  I can see how it might have impressed the masses when it was built...I think it still does.

There are few places to sit down, so the crowd tends to keep moving - and the Abbey has a good number of volunteer docents - people to tell you about a space or just help out - I really needed to sit down by the time we reached Henry VII 's Lady Chapel, so I asked a gentleman how far it was to the next place to sit down; he said "you need to sit?  not a problem!" and went and pulled out a folding chair and set it down just inside the doorway, but out of traffic flow - I mean, how nice was he?!?  And it was awesome to just sit in the chapel and wallow in its sumptuous nature, and know that just around the corner to my left were the remains of Elizabeth I...THE Elizabeth I, THE English Queen...(as though there isn't one now, and I wasn't also surrounded by a vast number of English royalty!),  It was thrilling.

All in all, it was a great couple of hours (based on the time of the last outside photos and the first photos in the cloister and Chapter House.

Next up - The Chapter House and Pyx Chamber