Westminster Abbey tour with our social programme

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Earlier in the week we took a group of students to the historic Westminster Abbey, Jamie from our social programme tells us about the place and the trip.

If you’re a member of the royal family, you’ll know that Westminster Abbey is the number one place to get married in London. And even if you’re not, it’s a place where you can get a real taste of how some Londoners in the past would have spent their life and perhaps more appropriately, their afterlife.  

This week the Social Programme took a group of students on a tour of one of Britain’s most iconic sites. Having started off from the school and walked past a number of London’s oldest pubs on the way, the students themselves began to wonder if they were missing out on an afternoon of Britain’s favourite pastime – drinking!

However, when they arrived at the Abbey in the great shadow of Big Ben - or as some students were quick to point out, the tower which holds Big Ben - it was clear they were about to learn a great deal more than they ever could from a pint of beer.

What is an Abbey?

Westminster Abbey tour exterior

The afternoon was full of excited questions, which began almost immediately, at the entrance to the Abbey. One of our Brazilian students asked “But what is the difference between a Cathedral and an Abbey?

After finding the Social Programme assistant unable to offer more than “I think it’s something to do with Religion” the answer came from the very informative guide who clarified that it was indeed to do with the Abbey’s status as a monastery before the Reformation.

After clearing that up, the students were taken aback by the beauty and architecture of the Cloister area of the Abbey, the green spaces especially gleaming thanks to the amazing weather London was enjoying.

Many pictures were taken and a rather lively debate about the different translations for Stained Glass Windows took place, prompted by the stunning examples within.

16 weddings and a lot more funerals

Eventually the group moved into the nave, the scene of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. The students were excited to be able to go right up to the altar and walk the very same walk that Kate did on her wedding day.

Since 1100 there have been at least 16 royal weddings at the Abbey.

Westminster Abbey interior










It’s not all about grand royal celebrations though, the Abbey also houses monuments and tombs to some of Britain’s most celebrated monarchs. The tomb of Henry VII was a particular highlight for the students as its vast expanse of space meant it wasn’t as crowded as some of the other exhibits.

The questions naturally continued ranging from the rather obscure “What would they have been wearing when they were buried?” to the rather more manageable “What does CCTV stand for?”

The trip ended with the students wandering out into the early evening sunshine,full of knowledge and wonder at the spectacle of Westminster Abbey and a little slice of English history.

Westminster abbey students










Get out and about with the IH London social programme

Our social programme has daily events and excursions to suit all tastes and is a great way to discover London.

Recent highlights include international football matches, Harry Potter film studio tour, blockbuster shows at the British Museum, opera, ballet and West End musicals, afternoon tea and nights in the London’s best pubs.

We also have regular weekend trips around the UK and over the English channel to France. Find out more by visiting our social programme desk on the ground floor between 12.00 and 14.00 or take a look at the latest programme activities on our website.