Westminster Cathedral

Cathedral in/near Westminster, existing between 1903 and now

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Cathedral · Westminster · SW1P ·
August
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2014

The ’Metropolitan Cathedral of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ’ is the mother church of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.


The site on which the cathedral stands in the City of Westminster was purchased by the Diocese of Westminster in 1885. Westminster Cathedral is the largest Catholic church in England and Wales and the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster.

In the late 19th century, the Catholic Church’s hierarchy had only recently been restored in England and Wales, and it was in memory of Cardinal Wiseman (who died in 1865, and was the first Archbishop of Westminster from 1850) that the first substantial sum of money was raised for the new cathedral. The land was acquired in 1884 by Wiseman’s successor, Cardinal Manning, having previously been occupied by the second Tothill Fields Bridewell prison.

After two false starts in 1867 (under architect Henry Clutton) and 1892 (architect Baron von Herstel), construction started in 1895 under Manning’s successor, the third archbishop, Cardinal Vaughan, with John Francis Bentley as architect, and built in a style heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture.

The cathedral opened in 1903, a year after Bentley’s death. One of the first public services in the cathedral was Cardinal Vaughan’s requiem; the cardinal died on 19 June 1903. For reasons of economy, the decoration of the interior had hardly been started and still much remained to be completed. Under the laws of the Catholic Church at the time, no place of worship could be consecrated unless free from debt and having its fabric completed. The consecration ceremony took place on 28 June 1910, although the interior was never finished.

The whole building, in the neo-Byzantine style, covers a floor area of about 5,017 square metres; the dominating factor of the scheme, apart from the campanile, being a spacious and uninterrupted nave, 18 metres wide and 70 metres long from the narthex to the sanctuary steps, covered with domical vaulting.

As in all Catholic churches, there are the Stations of the Cross to be found along the outer aisles. The ones at Westminster Cathedral are by the sculptor, Eric Gill, and are considered to be amongst the finest examples of his work.

Despite its relatively short history compared to other English cathedrals, Westminster has a distinguished choral tradition. It has its origin in the shared vision of Cardinal Vaughan, the cathedral’s founder, and Sir Richard Runciman Terry, its inaugural Master of Music. Terry prepared his choristers for a year before their first sung service in public. For the remainder of his tenure (until 1924) he pursued a celebrated revival of great quantities of Latin repertoire from the English Renaissance, most of which had lain unsung ever since the Reformation. Students at the Royal College of Music who would become household names were introduced to their heritage when Charles Villiers Stanford sent them to the cathedral to hear "polyphony for a penny" (the bus fare). This programme also required honing the boys’ sight-reading ability to a then-unprecedented standard.

In 1977, as part of her Silver Jubilee celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II visited the cathedral. Although there was no religious service (the visit was to a flower show) it was highly symbolic as the first visit of a reigning monarch of the United Kingdom to a Catholic church in the nation since the Reformation.

On 28 May 1982, the first day of his six-day pastoral visit to the United Kingdom, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the cathedral.

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I grew up in bessborough place at the back of our house and Grosvenor road and bessborough gardens was a fantastic playground called trinity mews it had a paddling pool sandpit football area and various things to climb on, such as a train , slide also as Wendy house. There were plants surrounding this wonderful play area, two playground attendants ,also a shelter for when it rained. The children were constantly told off by the playground keepers for touching the plants or kicking the ball out of the permitted area, there was hopscotch as well, all these play items were brick apart from the slide. Pollock was the centre of my universe and I felt sorry and still do for anyone not being born there. To this day I miss it and constantly look for images of the streets around there, my sister and me often go back to take a clumped of our beloved L

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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1750s
The 1750 Rocque map is bounded by Sudbury (NW), Snaresbrook (NE), Eltham (SE) and Hampton Court (SW).
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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1800s
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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1830s
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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1860s
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VIEW THE WESTMINSTER AREA IN THE 1900s
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Westminster

Westminster - heart of government.

While the underground station dates from 1868, Westminster itself is almost as old as London itself. It has a large concentration of London’s historic and prestigious landmarks and visitor attractions, including the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Historically part of the parish of St Margaret in the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex, the name Westminster was the ancient description for the area around Westminster Abbey – the West Minster, or monastery church, that gave the area its name – which has been the seat of the government of England (and later the British government) for almost a thousand years.

Westminster is the location of the Palace of Westminster, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The area has been the seat of the government of England for almost a thousand years. Westminster is thus often used as a metonym for Parliament and the political community of the United Kingdom generally. The civil service is similarly referred to by the area it inhabits, Whitehall, and Westminster is consequently also used in reference to the ’Westminster System’, the parliamentary model of democratic government that has evolved in the United Kingdom.

The historic core of Westminster is the former Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey was built. The Abbey became the traditional venue of the coronation of the kings and queens of England. The nearby Palace of Westminster came to be the principal royal residence after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and later housed the developing Parliament and law courts of England. It can be said that London thus has developed two distinct focal points: an economic one in the City of London; and a political and cultural one in Westminster, where the Royal Court had its home. This division is still very apparent today.

The monarchy later moved to the Palace of Whitehall a little towards the north-east. The law courts have since moved to the Royal Courts of Justice, close to the border of the City of London.

The Westminster area formed part of the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex. The ancient parish was St Margaret; after 1727 split into the parishes of St Margaret and St John. The area around Westminster Abbey formed the extra-parochial Close of the Collegiate Church of St Peter surrounded by—but not part of—either parish. Until 1900 the local authority was the combined vestry of St Margaret and St John (also known as the Westminster District Board of Works from 1855 to 1887), which was based at Westminster City Hall on Caxton Street from 1883. The Liberty of Westminster, governed by the Westminster Court of Burgesses, also included St Martin in the Fields and several other parishes and places. Westminster had its own quarter sessions, but the Middlesex sessions also had jurisdiction. The area was transferred from Middlesex to the County of London in 1889 and the local government of Westminster was reformed in 1900 when the court of burgesses and parish vestries were abolished, to be replaced with a metropolitan borough council. The council was given city status, allowing it to be known as Westminster City Council.

The underground station was opened as Westminster Bridge on 24 December 1868 by the steam-operated Metropolitan District Railway (MDR) (now the District line) when the railway opened the first section of its line from South Kensington. It was originally the eastern terminus of the MDR and the station cutting ended at a concrete wall buffered by timber sleepers. The approach to the station from the west runs in cut and cover tunnel under the roadway of Broad Sanctuary and diagonally under Parliament Square. In Broad Sanctuary the tunnel is close to Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s church and care was required to avoid undermining their foundations when excavating in the poor ground found there.

The station was completely rebuilt to incorporate new deep-level platforms for the Jubilee line when it was extended to the London Docklands in the 1990s. During the works, the level of the sub-surface platforms was lowered to enable ground level access to Portcullis House. This was achieved in small increments carried out when the line was closed at night.
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