HRH The Prince Of Wales Unveils Foundation Stone For New Tower

HRH The Prince of Wales visited Westminster Abbey today (Wednesday 14th December) to unveil the foundation stone for a tower which will take visitors into the Abbey’s new museum and galleries. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries are being constructed in the church’s medieval triforium, an internal gallery which runs 70 feet above the floor of the Abbey.

The tower now being built outside Poets’ Corner opposite the Palace of Westminster will be the principal entrance to the triforium - which has never been open to the public. The tower and galleries will be the most significant addition to the Abbey since Nicholas Hawksmoor’s iconic west towers were completed in 1745.

During his visit, The Prince of Wales also met employees from Daedalus Conservation, which included craftsmen working on the construction of the galleries and builders starting the 18-month-long construction of the tower.

The new tower housing a lift and staircase is sited discreetly outside Poets’ Corner between the 13th-century Chapter House and 16th-century Henry VII’s Lady Chapel. It has been designed by Ptolemy Dean Architects to reflect the Gothic architecture of the Abbey.  The design takes its inspiration from a pattern often found in the Abbey: a star shape derived from two rotating squares. The tower will be constructed from traditional materials used in the Abbey: stone, glass, lead and oak, whilst taking advantage of modern materials, including steel and concrete, to keep the new structure as slim and slender as possible.

The galleries, which are due to open in summer 2018, will display treasures and collections reflecting the Abbey’s rich and varied thousand-year history. They will also give visitors magnificent views to Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster as well as wonderful views across the Abbey which the poet John Betjeman described as ‘the finest view in Europe’.

The cost of the new tower and galleries is nearly £23 million, all of which is being met by fundraising. The Abbey has already raised £18 million from private donors and trusts and launches a public appeal today for the final phase of fundraising.  

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries are the final phase of the Abbey’s development plan, the 2020 Vision, which set an agenda to improve facilities for the Abbey’s two million worshippers and visitors. HM The Queen opened the Abbey’s Education Centre in May 2010 and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh opened the Cellarium café and terrace in October 2012. A new Song School for the Abbey’s world-famous Choir opened in 2015.

The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, said: ‘This is a most exciting development which will allow visitors to the Abbey to see so much more of our wonderful treasures and to grasp the richness of the history of this holy place which represents faith at the heart of the nation.’

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© 2017 The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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