Inside Westminster Abbey’s Hidden Gallery • The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries

Alex Landon Alex Landon - Editor

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey’s triforium is poised to get a lot more visitors…

They say good things come to those who wait. But if you’ve been waiting to get a glimpse inside Westminster Abbey’s old triforium, you’ve missed a hefty chunk of human history in the process: 700 years, in fact! Luckily, your wait is over, as the hidden gallery opened for public viewing this summer – for the first time since it was built, way back in the 13th century. Patience is a virtue, you know…

Westminster Abbey
Photo: @theattinghamtrust

For many years, the triforium was essentially Westminster’s attic, used as storage space or as a spillover viewing gallery for coronations (one ticket, found during the renovation and now part of the display, was from the 1702 coronation of Queen Anne). It even served as the BBC’s outpost during Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, as Richard Dimbleby narrated the affair to a captive TV audience.

Westminster Abbey
Photo: @westminsterabbeylondon

Now rebranded as The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, the space has undergone a £22.9 million refit to get it ready for the viewing public. This meant building an entirely new access tower housing the lift, since the original stairs are pretty snug (people were just a bit smaller back then). Having said that, the adventurous amongst you can make the climb and feel like the monks of old.

Westminster abbey
Photo: @westminsterabbeylondon

Once inside, you’ll find 300 objects, telling the conjoined stories of the Abbey and the monarchy. The treasures to be found here include the coronation chair of Queen Mary II, the marriage license of William and Kate, the Liber Regalis (essentially the rulebook of royal coronations), and a full replica set of the crown jewels. In short, a whole lot of bling.

Westminster Abbey
Photo: @westminsterabbeylondon

You can also catch a glimpse of the Westminster Retable, which happens to be the oldest surviving altarpiece in England. Amongst the more niche offerings are the ‘ragged regiment’, which are wooden effigies of dead monarchs, and – for reasons lost in the dust of history – the Duchess of Richmond’s stuffed parrot.

The new gallery will be the perfect addition to what is already so beautiful.

It’s a stunning addition to Westminster Abbey, which was admittedly a pretty big deal already. But the ace up this place’s sleeve is the view back across the nave, described by poet John Betjeman as the best in Europe. All in all, it seems like it was worth the wait. Having said that, lets all keep our fingers crossed that Big Ben isn’t shuttered away for quite as long, shall we?

Location:  entrance to the gallery is next to Poet’s Corner. Nearest station is Westminster. See it on Google Maps.
Opening hours: 10am-4pm (Monday to Friday), 9:30am-3:30pm (Saturday). Closed on Sundays.
Entry: you’ll have to pay the usual £20 to get into Westminster Abbey, and then £5 on top of it to reach these galleries.
More information: on their website.

Featured image: @westminsterabbeylondon

Also published on Medium.