The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 5 Westminster Abbey

Ambulatory and Choir Chapels 2

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The CHAPEL OF ST. PAUL is the easternmost chapel of the north Ambulatory. On the right as we enter is the once splendid but now much mutilated tomb of Lord Bourchier (died 1431), standard-bearer to Henry V., which forms part of the chapelscreen. To the right of it, Lord Cottington (died 1652), a monument by Fanelli, with a bust of Lady Cottington (died 1633) by Hubert Le Sueur. Adjoining, on the site of the altar, Countess of Sussex (died 1589), founder of Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge, which has restored the monument. In the centre of the chapel: colossal statue, by Chantrey, of James Watt (1736-1819); Sir Giles Daubeny (died 1508), lord-lieutenant of Calais under Henry VII. (the alabaster effigies of Sir Giles and his wife, the former in the full insignia of the Garter, illustrate the costume of the time). Archbishop Ussher (1581-1666) is buried behind Daubeny's tomb. To the right of the exit, bust of Sir Rowland Hill (1795-1879), champion of penny postage, by Keyworth. In the ambulatory, opposite the exit from this chapel, we note the Grate of Queen Eleanor's tomb (see below), an admirable specimen of wrought-iron work, made in 1294 by Thomas of Leighton. To the left, above, spanning the ambulatory, is the CHANTRY OF HENRY V., which encroaches upon the east end of the Confessor's Chapel. On the arch above the ambulatory are carvings representing Henry's coronation. We ascend by a short flight of wooden steps to the tomb of Henry V. (1387-1422), a slab of marble on which rests his now shapeless effigy, originally covered with silver-gilt plates but robbed of these and of the solid silver head in the reign of Henry VIII. The body of Katherine of Valois (died 1437), Henry's 'beautiful Kate,' originally interred in the old Lady Chapel, now also rests here. Above Henry's tomb is the chantry proper, where masses for the king's soul were said. On a beam still higher are a shield, saddle, and helmet, probably made for Henry V.'s funeral. This chantry practically forms part of the CHAPEL OF ST. EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, once the most gorgeous as it is the most sacred part of the church. Here rest the bodies of five kings and six queens, under tombs which still show traces of the jewels and mosaics and painted canopies which once made this chapel a blaze of colour. In the middle of the chapel stands the mutilated Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor (died 1066), erected by Henry III. in 1269, and still showing traces of the original mosaics. The upper part, now of wood (1557) and covered with a pall given by Edward VII, in 1902, was originally a golden shrine decorated with jewels and gold images of saints, all of which disappeared at the Dissolution. In the recesses of the base sick persons used to spend the night in hope of cure. A few pilgrims still visit the shrine on St. Edward's Day (October 13th). On the north side of the shrine are the beautiful Gothic Tombs of Henry III. (died 1272) and his daughter-in-law Eleanor of Castile (died 1290), wife of Edward I. The design of the former has been attributed to the Italian designer of the Confessor's shrine; but both the beautiful bronze effigies, the earliest cast in England, are by William Torel, a goldsmith of London. The canopy over Eleanor's tomb dates from the 15th century, when the old one was destroyed by the erection of Henry V.'s Chantry. On the other side of the chantry, Philippa (died 1369), wife of Edward III., with the white marble effigy of the queen by John of Liege, sculptor to the king of France. The elaborate tomb of Edward III. (died 1377) has niches in which were statuettes of his twelve children, six of which remain; the early Perpendicular wooden canopy is fine. The last tomb on this side is that of Richard II. (died 1400) and his first wife Anne of Bohemia (died 1394), which is in the same style as that of Edward III. It is profusely decorated with delicately engraved patterns, among which may be distinguished the broom-pods of the Plantagenets, the white hart, the rising sun, etcirca; the beautiful paintings in the canopy represent the Trinity, the Coronation of the Virgin, and Anne of Bohemia's coat-of-arms. Opposite this tomb is the plain altar-tomb, without effigy, of Edward I. (died 1307); in 1774 his body (6 feet 2 inches long) was found to be in good preservation, dressed in royal robes with a gilt crown. At the west end is a carved screen of the time of Edward IV., with scenes from the life of Edward the Confessor. In front is part of the ancient mosaic pavement. Here stands also the old Coronation Chair, enclosing the famous 'Stone of Scone,' carried off from Scotland by Edward I. in 1297, on which every subsequent English monarch has been crowned. Beside it are the State Sword (7 feet long) and Shield of Edward III. The Stone of Scone, on which the Scottish kings were crowned from time immemorial down to John Baliol, was regarded as the palladium of Scottish independence, and its character is supposed to have been vindicated when James VI. of Scotland became also James I. of England in 1603. A long but quite mythical history attaches to this block of reddish sandstone from the west coast of Scotland. It is traditionally identified with Jacob's pillow at Bethel, afterwards the 'Lia Fail' or 'Stone of Destiny' on the sacred hill of Tara, in Ireland; and it is suggested, with more probability, that it may have been the pillow of St. Columba in Iona, removed thence to Scone by Kenneth II. about 840. The chair, which is of oak, originally decorated with gilt gesso and glass mosaic, was made by Master Waller of Durham for Edward I.; the lions are comparatively modern. The chair has left the Abbey but twice - when Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector in Westminster Hall, and when it was removed for safety to the crypt below the Chapter House in 1915. The heart of Prince Henry of Cornwall, nephew of Henry III., murdered in 1271 in a church at Viterbo, was long preserved in a golden vase near the shrine of the Confessor, and Dante places in hell the sacrilegious murderer (the younger De Montfort) who cleft' the heart that still upon the Thames is honoured'. Behind the wooden steps by which we leave the chapel (on its north side) the mosaics on Henry III.'s tomb are well seen. Opposite the stair is the door of the very small CHAPEL OF ST. ERASMUS, above which is a fine piece of carving from the old Lady Chapel. To the right in the Chapel of St. Erasmus, now merely a passage into the next chapel, the door of which was blocked by a tomb, is a squint. To the right in the CHAPEL OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST are several 15th century tombs of abbots. A slab in the floor marks the grave of the Earl of Essex (1591-1646), the only important member of Cromwell's party whose body was not removed at the Restoration. The elaborate tomb of Lord Hunsdon (1524 ?-96), cousin and lord chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth, is the tallest in the Abbey (36 feet). The ancient tomb by the north-east wall, of two Grandchildren of Edward I., dates from the first years of the 14th century and has been moved more than once. In the centre is a large monument to Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter (1542-1623), son of Lord Burghley, with his effigy and that of his first wife; his second wife refused to accept the less honourable position on his left hand and was buried in Winchester Cathedral. The CHAPEL OF ABBOT ISLIP is in two stories, the lower one of which is not shown to the public. It contains the remains of Abbot Islip's tomb (died 1532). On the carved screen and many other places appears the abbot's rebus: an eye with a slip of a tree or a man slipping from a branch. The Wax Figures exhibited on the upper floor are eleven in number. It used to be the custom to show the embalmed bodies of royal persons at their funerals; the actual bodies were sometimes replaced by life-like effigies of moulded leather, wood, or (at a later period) wax. Some of the wooden figures may be seen in the Norman Undercroft. The oldest figures here are those of General Monk and Charles II., the one of Queen Elizabeth being a copy, made in 1760, of the original; others represent William III., Mary II., and Queen Anne. The figures of the Earl of Chatham and Nelson are not funeral effigies but were added to attract visitors. In the ambulatory opposite Abbot Islip's Chapel we note the backs of the tombs of Edmund Crouchback and Aymer de Valence. The two fine brasses here date from the end of the 15th century. The three chapels of ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, ST. MICHAEL, and ST. ANDREW, now thrown into one, occupy the east aisle of the north transept, but the screens dividing them from it and from each other have made way for modern tombs. At the entrance to the chapels is an inartistic monument to General Wolfe (1727-59), who fell at the capture of Quebec. To the left, as we enter, Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), lost in the search for the North-West Passage, by Noble, with a fine inscription by Tennyson. To the right, Sir Francis Vere (1560-1609), a distinguished soldier of Queen Elizabeth. This is the finest of the post Reformation monuments and is modelled on that of Count Engelbert II. of Nassau (died 1534), at Breda; on the upper slab of black marble lies the knight's armour, showing that he did not die on the field of battle. Lady Elizabeth Nightingale (died 1731), a skilful but theatrical sculpture by Roubiliac, which attracts much attention. Some of the old carved spandrels that still remain on this wall deserve note. The large tomb in the next chapel, with its handsome statues, is that of Lord Norris (1525 ?-1601) and his wife (neither buried here); the only one of their six sons who survived them may be distinguished by his attitude. On the far side of this tomb is a small door in the east wall, probably used as a private entrance from the palace. On the north wall, Sir James Young Simpson (1811-70; buried in Edinburgh), who first used chloroform as an anaesthetic, by Brodie. Mrs. Siddons (1755-1831), as the Tragic Muse, by Chantrey after Reynolds. Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829; buried in Geneva), inventor of the safety lamp. John Kemble (1757-1823), the actor and brother of Mrs. Siddons, as Cato, designed by Flaxman. To the right beyond the first pillar, Admiral Kempenfelt (1718-82), who went down in the 'Royal George', by Bacon.