It was a very crisp morning with a biting wind when we gathered outside the Beehive. Our EXECUTIVE coach arrived early and was nice and warm inside. Everyone was on time and we were soon on our way to London. Traffic was very slow on the journey to Oxford, but after that we had a reasonable drive.
Arriving in London we were dropped off in Tothill Street on the opposite side of Parliament Square from the Houses of Parliament. We then made our way to the Houses of Parliament. We had to enter as one group, the queue was quite long and the wait was approximately 20 minutes outside in the cold. Once through an airport style security check, we made our way to the Jubilee café, for a hot drink and cake. Our guides and our local MP (Robert Courts) were waiting for us in Westminster Hall, from where our tour was to start.
Robert was quite surprised at the large group from his constituency. He welcomed us all with handshakes and a short speech. He told us about the Hall, and what we would see on our tour. He was very keen to have a group photograph with us. Our guides then separated us into two groups, and away we went. The guides were very thorough describing the history and functions of each part of the building that we visited. These included, The House of Lords, the House of Commons, the Queens robing room, the Divisions Lobby (the NO’s), and the original house of Commons where Parliament used to meet before King Charles II had the present chamber built and made available to the common herd. The present House of Commons is a rebuild as the chamber was destroyed by a bomb during World War II. What was complete news to many of us was that at the time of the Queen’s Speech, a hostage is kept in Buckingham Palace until the Queen returns safely. This is usually the deputy chief whip of the governing party and is a throw-back to the times of the Gunpowder Plot. The history, statues, busts, paintings etc, cover the entire history of our nation from long before parliament was formed until the present day. A most interesting visit and well worth the time for anyone to visit at their leisure.
After our visit, it was free time. We could either visit the shop, go visit Westminster Abbey, or have lunch.
Westminster Abbey was amazing. It appears very different to when we see it on TV for special events, as the red carpet, chairs, fancy bits and bobs are only brought out when needed.
The Abbey is steeped in more than a thousand years of history. Benedictine monks first came to the site in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship, which continues to this day.
The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066. The first King crowned in the abbey was William the Conqueror on Christmas Day 1066. The Abbey is also the final resting place of seventeen monarchs. The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country, with the medieval shrine of an Anglo-Saxon Saint (Edward the Confessor) still at its heart.
A treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and other artefacts, Westminster Abbey is also the place where some of the most significant people in our nation’s history are buried or commemorated. Taken as a whole the tombs and memorials comprise the most significant single collection of monumental sculpture anywhere in the United Kingdom.
We left for home at 4 p.m. The journey was trouble free, reaching Carterton just after 6.30. I think all agreed, a very interesting day out, enjoyed by all. Henry and Pam