The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4
The object that demands attention, in surveying the exterior of this building, is the principal entrance. This is at the west end,
|and, taken as a whole, makes rather a mean appearance. The great doorway is of considerable depth, and contracts inwards. The sides are composed of pannels, and the roof intersected with numerous ribs. On each side of the door are pedestals in empty niches, with shields in quatrefoils beneath them. A cornice extends over the whole, on which are niches separated by small buttresses: they are without statues, and their canopies are cones foliaged and pinnacled. Above those is a modern cantilever cornice, totally unfit for the design. The king's and other coats of arms adorn the frieze above it.|
Hence arises the great painted window; it has a border of pointed enriched pannels; a large heavy cornice over it; and a frieze inscribed A. R. GEORGII II. VIII. MDCCXXXV. The roof is pointed, and contains a small window, with tracery. great buttresses strengthen the towers, and are grand ornaments: with ranges of canopied niches (unfortunately deprived of their statues) on their fronts. Each tower has projecting wings, pannelled. The lower windows are pointed; those above them arches only, filled with quatrefoils and circles. It is from this part that the incongruity of the new design begins in a Tuscan cornice; then a Grecian pediment, and enrichments over the dial of the clock, a poor, tame window, pannels, and battlements. The truly great and excellent architect, sir Christopher Wren, reprobates irreconcilable mixtures in designing, thus:
The ancient front of the Jerusalem Chamber obstructs the view of the south tower; it has a square window, divided by an horizontal and upright mullions ; with a battlement repaired with bricks. The wall extends some distance westward, when it terminates in modernized houses, against whose end is the ruin of a great arch of decayed stone, abutting on the turning to , being the last remains of the Gate-house.
The architectural anomalies displayed in this front are peculiarly remarkable: and they are still more apparent in the towers than in the central division. This arises from the heightening of the towers and the other alterations made here, during the general repair, which was commenced in the reign of king William, anno , but not ended till several years after the accession of George II. The credit of completing the west front, as it anciently appeared, is due to the abbots Estney and Islip; but it was never entirely finished till the time of the latter sovereign.
says sir Christopher Wren, in his architectural report, addressed to bishop Atterbury,
The north side of the church has buttresses, each of gradations, with windows to the side aisles; and over them semi-windows, filled with quatrefoils. The buttresses are connected to the nave by slender arches; the wall finishes with battlements. The niches on the buttresses all remain, though there are but statues, which appear but little injured, and are certainly excellent figures. They represent abbot Islip, James I. and other sovereigns, probably Edward the Confessor and Henry III. What sir Christopher Wren said of the north side, upwards of years past, is strictly descriptive at this moment;
And so indeed hath the casing intended to repair it from the north transept to the towers, leaving a decayed, corroded, and weatherbeaten surface, half black, and half the colour of the stones. The front of the transept is less injured, because most of the heavy rains are from the west; and the north-east sides remain perfectly smooth and good, as sir Christopher Wren left them.
The great door is an arch sprung from large pillars on each side, whose capitals are singularly beautiful foliage. Within them is a range of circles inclosing stars on the roof, and on the sides arched pannels. The wall is of considerable thickness, adorned by columns on both sides, with the same number of mouldings. It is remarkable that all the tops of the doors are flat, both in this and the smaller arches. The space over the principal entrance has a vast circle of circles, within which is another of pointed pannels; and in a others, with the arms of Edward the Confessor, for a centre. In small circles at the bottom are portcullises. On either side of the great door the wall is formed into arches by handsome pillars; the lesser entrances to the aisles are pillars in depth, with ribbed roofs, and angels on the intersections; over the door are circles inclosing cinquefoils. Above the whole is a range of pierced arches. enormous buttresses secure the front, those at the angles terminate in octagons, and connect with the upper part of the walls, over the side aisles, by strong arches.
For nearly years, this must have been the principal entrance into the church, and all the stately processions associated with the rites of the Roman Catholic worship, all the pompous trains assembled to grace coronations, and the burials of our sovereigns, must have been ushered beneath its porch, to give interest to the solemnities within.
It is unnecessary to describe the windows, as their shape is the
|same as others in the church. The colonnade of arches, and deep recesses, have a fine effect, as well as the point of the roof, which is divided into pannelled arches, with circles and quatrefoils over them.|
Between the colonnade and the point of the roof is a beautiful rose window, which was rebuilt in .
All the chapels that project on the north east and south east are, in their designs, like the body of the church. The western wall of the north transept is rebuilding at the present time (A. D. ), under the judicious superintendence of Mr. Blore, the architect.
The repairs on the south side of the abbey still perfect. The chapter-house was injudiciously placed by the architect, as it hides all the south end of the transept; and it was certainly never sufficiently enriched to make it worthy of the intruder. It is an octagon, protected to the east by a vast pierced buttress, with very large pointed windows, now filled up; they had each mullion in the shape of the letter Y. Several windows of the common size are made in them, but appear very diminutive by comparison; those could have been introduced for no other reason than to save expence; so far they are to be preferred to the ancient. The front of the south transept is far less elegant than that of the north; this incongruity is rendered of little consequence by the confined nature of its situation, the library, chapter house, and cloisters being so immediately contiguous as to exclude all the lower part from public view. It is sustained by large buttresses, each terminating in a plain octagon tower, crowned by a ball. There is no porch, but over the place is a range of narrow pointed windows; above them are larger; and the next compartment displays the great rose or marygold window, which is very elaborate in tracery, and far superior to the in the opposite transept. In the early part of the present century it was found to be so craggy and ruinous, that the dean and chapter gave orders for its restoration, and the present window was constructed under the superintendence of Benjamin Wyatt, esq. by Mr. Thomas Gayfere. It is glazed with plain glass; in the centre, which is a quatrefoil, is the date of erection, . All the buttresses on the south side of the nave, for the length of the cloister, being in number, have their bases without the walls of the cloister, consequently it is only by their weight that they remain erect, and at the same time support the wall of the church by slender arches, whose insertions are so managed as to send all the pressure downward. This manner of
sir Christopher Wren says, was the work of a
How an unobstructed space close against the side of the church could have been otherwise procured, I cannot perceive; but, supposing it could, I do not see the architect's ignorance in acting as he has; for I really believe the specific
| gravity of each mass of abutment to be equal to double the pressure now experienced by it. But as conclusive evidence, he adds, that the walls above the windows were forced out inches, and |
This I do not deny; but query, what has caused the same derangement directly opposite, on the north side; where, I aver, the wall is actually in a waved line, and where the abutments are firm against the wall? I am afraid that against the cloisters, on every side, from repeated interments, there is no solid support for either walls or abutments. Whether, any settling has occurred from this circumstance on both sides of the church, it would be well worth consideration to enquire. The remainder of the buttresses, to the tower, are close to the wall. All the exterior walls of the edifice are embattled, and the roof is covered with lead. The central tower, which has a dwarfish, and unfinished aspect, was rebuilt after the fire here in . It has narrow pointed windows on each side, and the angles are finished octagonally.
The entrance of the cloisters is from Dean's-yard. Great part of the neighbouring walls are of the original buildings; and where our present ideas of convenience have not introduced sashed windows, or other alterations, they bear all the marks of venerable age and decay.
It cannot be denied that our plans of economy are hostile to large and enriched structures at the present day. It was different with our ancestors; they certainly did sacrifice comfort to splendour. Witness the vast halls in their mansions, which it is impossible ever could have been warm; with elevated windows never more than partially opened: thus retaining in them the humid vapours continually floating in our atmosphere from August to March.
To deny that our castles and baronial residences, our abbeys and cathedrals and many of the ancient parish churches, were grand, lasting, and sublime, is impossible; and to assert that we erect any thing equally excellent and durable now, is equally impossible. Therefore it is that I would preserve their ruins, and when practicable, restore them to their original design by repairs.
says Mr. Malcolm,
In describing the interior the object is the choir. The altar piece is very handsome of plaster, executed by Bernasconi; it consists of niches and pinnacles of pointed architecture; this was erected in the autumn of , the older screen having been removed at the coronation of his present majesty.
The former altar piece was of white marble, faintly veined with blue, and was a present from queen Anne, and removed from , for which it was designed by sir Christopher Wren. It consisted of a basement of the Tuscan order, in compartments; the middle semicircular, and largest; and was formed by pilasters, with their architrave, frieze, and cornice. On the frieze of a slight projection over the altar was inscribed,
is modern, formed into squares, lozenges, sexagons, stars, and crosses, of rich white and coloured marble. Descending steps of white marble, which cover part of the grand mosaic platform, we tread on the wreck of the most glorious work in England; venerable through age, costly in its materials, and invaluable for its workmanship. What must have been the beauties of this holy place soon after the completion of the church! the altar-piece, resembling in workmanship its transcendant back in Edward the Confessor's chapel; the shrine of that saint beaming with jewels, gold, and silver statues, and other offerings; the sides of the choir shewing glances of the numerous altars in the chapels, with the rich tombs on the right and left: and this pavement, sparkling with the bright rays of vast tapers, and ever-burning lamps. And hither did Henry VI. after making a public entry into London, come,
Abbot Ware's pavement is separated from the modern by a skreen of iron rails. The materials are lapis lazuli, jasper, porphyry, alabaster, Lydian and serpentine marbles, and touchstone. It was made at the charge of the abbot, and is said to have been purchased by him in France. An admirer of the arts must view it with the deepest regret. It was injured, no doubt, at the Reformation, when the high altar was removed, at its restoration by queen Mary, and afterwards almost demolished. The most irreparable attack was from the workmen at erecting the late altar-piece. The following description will shew its injuries; and even now,
since it has been the custom to the choir for money, it is trodden, worn, and dirtied, daily by hundreds, who are unconscious of its value, and I know barely look at it. Is it not a national treasure? When it is quite destroyed, can we shew such another? It may be seen over the rails adjoining; and may it in future be seen from thence only! The centre of the design is a large circle, whose centre is a circular plane of porphyry, spans and a quarter in diameter; round it stars of lapis lazuli, pea-green, red, and white, which, being of most beautiful colours, have been much depredated; those enclosed by a band of alabaster; and without, a border of lozenges, red and green; the half lozenges contain triangles of the same colours. A dark circle held brass letters, whose places may be seen, but now reduced to . The extreme lines of this great circle run into smaller circles facing the cardinal points; that to the east a centre of orange and green variegated; round it a circle of red and green wedges; without that, lozenges of the same colours; and completed by a dark border. To the north, the circle has a sexagon centre of variegated grey and yellow; round it a band of porphyry, and a dark border. The west circle nearly similar. The south, a black centre within a variegated octagon. A large lozenge incloses all the above circles, which is formed by a double border of olive colour; within which, on corner only, are circles intersecting each other, and each made by oval pieces inclosing a lozenge. The other parts vary in figure, but would take many pages to describe.
The above lozenge has a circle on each of its sides, to the north west, south west, north east, and south east. The contains a sexagon, divided by lozenges of green; within which are red stars. In the intersections red triangles. Green triangles form a sexagon round every intersection. The contains a sexagon; within it several stars of red and green, forming several sexagons, containing yellow star. The has a sexagon, formed by intersecting lines into sexagons and triangles; within the former, stars of red and green. The latter smaller triangles of red,
|green, and yellow. Tire last a sexagon, with within it, filled by stars of rays, green and yellow. The spaces within the great lozenge round the circles is composed of circles, stars, squares, lozenges, and triangles, whose component parts are thousands of pieces of the above shapes. The whole of the great lozenge and circles is inclosed by a square; the sides to the cardinal points. It has held other parts of the inscription, of which few remains are now visible.|
The outsides are filled by parallelograms and circles of considerable size, all divided into figures nearly similar to those described.
The design of the figures that were in it was to represent the time the world was to last; or the , according to the Ptolemaic system, was going about, and was given in some verses, formerly to be read on the pavement, relating to those figures:
Much of this exquisite work is lost, and a great portion is hidden by the steps. The north and south sides are replaced by lozenges of black and while marble. It was laid in the year ; and
|must have been the work of many years, as several of the pieces of marble are not more than - of an inch in length, and the largest not more than inches, except those particularized.|
This fine pavement is enclosed by a rich scroll-work railing; and, upon descending steps, we come to the lozenged black and white marble surface of the choir, made by Dr. Busby, the celebrated prebendary of , and master of the school, whose rigid discipline has
throughout all generations. At the east end of it are engraved the names of Richard Busby, , and Robert South, .
All traces of the interments beneath this part of the church are now gone; and are succeeded by pews for the scholars, and or private pews.
The pulpit is attached to the north-west pillar of the tower; and is supported by a clustered column, spreading into a sexagon. On each corner is a small pillar, terminating in a cherub. Within the pannels is a flower of leaves. A palm tree, of exquisite workmanship, supporting the sounding-board, whose top and sides are pinnacled. The lower is richly inlaid with dark wood.
The sides of the choir are of wood, and divided by slender columns with tasteful capitals into arches, adorned with foliage and pinnacles. The transepts are entered by a door on each side of the choir.
The enriched canopies of the stalls render them extremely beautiful. They are in number, besides those of the dean and the sub-dean at the west end, higher than the rest, and hung with purple cloth. Lower than those are the seats of others of the scholars.
Almost under the organ, by a descent of steps, we find a door on each side of the wainscot, with niches in the sides, and quatrefoils over them; together with pillars, arches, and pannels. Under the projection of the organ gallery are Grecian dentels and lozenges, with quatrefoils between them.
Directly under the organ is a Gothic ceiling. The centre is a rose surrounded by a quatrefoil. From the corners rise quarter circles, meeting a great circle round the quatrefoil; the quarters divided into rays.
The organ case has nothing to recommend it to particular notice; it is very plain and capacious.
The choir commences at the pillar from the east, and extends in length to the .
The roof is camarated, and very richly adorned with bright gilded ribs, key-stones, all varied in complicated scrolls; so also are the capitals of the pillars in the row of windows. The surface is coloured, and at irregular intervals crossed with grey. Round the key-stones are painted roses.
Mr. Malcolm very justly remarks, that
says Mr. Nightingale,
The sides of the tower, over the points of the great arches, have blank windows, nearly triangular; and each side small pointed windows. The ribs of the roof terminate in a circular recess. On the outside of this is a square, with blank shields on the sides. These ornaments are highly gilded. The capitals of the great pillars have projecting heads.
Behind the altar, is
 Letter to the Bishop of Rochester.
 Neale and Brayley's Westminster abbey, vol ii. p 9
 The entire height of this front to the top of the centre pinnacle, is 170 feet.
 Mal., Lond. Red.
 Mal. Lond. Red. i.93