I’ve just been to church – not any old church but a cathedral – and not just any old cathedral but an Abbey, Westminster Abbey to be exact.
As churches go, Westminster Abbey is a pretty impressive building dating from the twelfth century. Its contents are impressive as well. It is, for example, custodian of the coronation chair on which all English and British monarchs since the fourteenth century have been seated at the moment of coronation. The chair is well protected in a glass case.
Westminster Abbey also has an impressive guest list. Just about everyone who is anyone is buried there. Walking down the aisle I stepped over the graves of Isaac Newton, Thomas Telford and quite a few others famous names from history.
However, the really impressive, stand-out feature of Westminster Abbey is its diverse range of banqueting and events facilities.
To find them you need to enter Westminster Cathedral from the rear through Dean’s Yard.
The first option is three ground floor cloisters overlooking the Garth. Each cloister will seat up to 80 guests for a dinner – or they can be combined for a larger event. All that is needed to create a truly memorable evening is a simple lighting system to highlight the magnificent architectural features. An elaborate set would be an unnecessarily expensive distraction.
Up the stairs takes you to the Chapter House, another fourteenth century construct and the original meeting room for Parliament. This is a fabulous circular room with loads of natural daylight plus the original mediaeval tiled floor. ‘White drinks’ receptions only allowed in this room to reduce the risk of damage. Capacity is around 120 guests for a reception.
Then it is into the Cellarium used by the Monks in the fourteenth century to store their food and drink. Again, a beautiful room with a vaulted ceiling and seating up to 80 guests on round tables for a dinner. The Cellarium Terrace is a contemporary room alongside with great views across the Abbey’s gardens.
Talking of the gardens, the College Garden is available for a limited number of weeks in the year for private events. At 900 years of age it is thought to be the oldest cultivated garden in the British Isles, and the views all around are breathtaking. Pitch your marquee in the grounds and a memorable dinner for up to 240 guests is virtually guaranteed.
If you really want the ‘icing on your cake’ arrange an evening tour of Westminster Abbey itself as a ‘starter’ for an event or private dinner.
However it is not all jaw dropping spectacular rooms at Westminster Abbey. Up the stairs again to Cheyneygates, a room located above the cloisters. This room also has plenty of natural daylight and in another setting could be described as memorable but alongside the magnificence of its near neighbours, it looks merely ordinary but functional nonetheless. It is ideal for a breakfast meeting or a day meeting for up to 36 delegates.
Then it is back through the archway entrance to Dean’s Yard and you are pitched back into the hubbub which is central London in peak-visitor mode. A visit to Westminster Abbey is truly a trip to a parallel universe.
From 9th November Westminster Abbey is launching ‘Wednesday Lates’ to include a highlights tour of the Abbey and a special dinner in the Cellarium Café and Terrace. Guests will see the Coronation Chair as well as Poet’s Corner, Lady Chapel and the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
Westminster Abbey is a member of the Unique Venues of London consortium and The Westminster Collection of venues.