The great glory of Westminster is, of course, the Abbey. Antjient tradition claims that St. Peter founded the first church here but the Abbey’s 900 years of existence since its dedication go back to Edward the Confessor. Henry III rebuilt the earlier church and the present building dates from his reign. If you have never visited the Abbey before, try to go in slowly and look about carefully. For the immediate effect, as you follow the wonderfully vaulted roof along the length of the nave, is a startling4 and breathtaking beauty. There is an element of greatness here that is not just concerned with size and height.
Many visitors to the Abbey are attracted to Poets’ Corner, with its memorials to great men of letters. Many outstanding statesmen, painters, writers and poets are buried there. Among them are Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and others. Chaucer, who is buried in the Abbey, is remembered here. So are Spenser, Dryden, Ben Jonson, and Milton. There are also memorials to Shakespeare, Burns, Byron, Walter Scott, Thackeray and to the American poet Longfellow. A full length statue of Shakespeare by Scheemakers was erected in 1741, and just opposite is a monument to the actor David Garrick. He is aptly shown parting the curtains. Dr Johnson is represented with a magnificent bust by Nollekens, and there is a remarkable rendering of Blake’s life-mask by Epstein.
Nearly all English kings and queens have been crowned in Westminster Abbey.