Westminster Cathedral

Cathedral in/near Victoria, existing between 1903 and now

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Cathedral · Victoria · SW1P ·
August
9
2014

The ’Metropolitan Cathedral of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ’ is the mother church of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The site on which the cathedral stands in the City of Westminster was purchased by the Diocese of Westminster in 1885. Westminster Cathedral is the largest Catholic church in England and Wales and the seat of the Archbishop of Westminster.

In the late 19th century, the Catholic Church’s hierarchy had only recently been restored in England and Wales, and it was in memory of Cardinal Wiseman (who died in 1865, and was the first Archbishop of Westminster from 1850) that the first substantial sum of money was raised for the new cathedral. The land was acquired in 1884 by Wiseman’s successor, Cardinal Manning, having previously been occupied by the second Tothill Fields Bridewell prison.

After two false starts in 1867 (under architect Henry Clutton) and 1892 (architect Baron von Herstel), construction started in 1895 under Manning’s successor, the third archbishop, Cardinal Vaughan, with John Francis Bentley as architect, and built in a style heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture.

The cathedral opened in 1903, a year after Bentley’s death. One of the first public services in the cathedral was Cardinal Vaughan’s requiem; the cardinal died on 19 June 1903. For reasons of economy, the decoration of the interior had hardly been started and still much remained to be completed. Under the laws of the Catholic Church at the time, no place of worship could be consecrated unless free from debt and having its fabric completed. The consecration ceremony took place on 28 June 1910, although the interior was never finished.

The whole building, in the neo-Byzantine style, covers a floor area of about 5,017 square metres; the dominating factor of the scheme, apart from the campanile, being a spacious and uninterrupted nave, 18 metres wide and 70 metres long from the narthex to the sanctuary steps, covered with domical vaulting.

As in all Catholic churches, there are the Stations of the Cross to be found along the outer aisles. The ones at Westminster Cathedral are by the sculptor, Eric Gill, and are considered to be amongst the finest examples of his work.

Despite its relatively short history compared to other English cathedrals, Westminster has a distinguished choral tradition. It has its origin in the shared vision of Cardinal Vaughan, the cathedral’s founder, and Sir Richard Runciman Terry, its inaugural Master of Music. Terry prepared his choristers for a year before their first sung service in public. For the remainder of his tenure (until 1924) he pursued a celebrated revival of great quantities of Latin repertoire from the English Renaissance, most of which had lain unsung ever since the Reformation. Students at the Royal College of Music who would become household names were introduced to their heritage when Charles Villiers Stanford sent them to the cathedral to hear "polyphony for a penny" (the bus fare). This programme also required honing the boys’ sight-reading ability to a then-unprecedented standard.

In 1977, as part of her Silver Jubilee celebrations, Queen Elizabeth II visited the cathedral. Although there was no religious service (the visit was to a flower show) it was highly symbolic as the first visit of a reigning monarch of the United Kingdom to a Catholic church in the nation since the Reformation.

On 28 May 1982, the first day of his six-day pastoral visit to the United Kingdom, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the cathedral.


Main source: Wikipedia
Further citations and sources


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Victoria

The railways largely replaced the canals as a means of transport. Uniquely for a main line station, Victoria station was built on top of one.

Before the railway arrived in 1862, this area - like the area immediately south of it - was known as Pimlico. The Grosvenor Canal ended in a large basin here.

Victoria station’s origins lie with the Great Exhibition of 1851, when a railway called the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway came into existence, serving the site of the exhibition halls which had been transferred to Sydenham from Hyde Park. The terminus of that railway was at Stewarts Lane in Battersea on the south side of the river. In 1858 a joint enterprise was set up to take trains over the river: it was entitled the Victoria Station and Pimlico Railway; and was a mile and a quarter in length. The railway was owned by four railway companies: the Great Western (GWR); London & North Western (LNWR); the London, Brighton and South Coast (LBSCR); and the London Chatham and Dover Railways (LCDR). It was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1858.

The station was built in two parts: those on the western side, opened in 1862, with six platforms, ten tracks and an hotel (the 300-bedroom Grosvenor) were occupied by the Brighton company; whilst adjacent, and in the same year, the Chatham company were to occupy a less imposing wooden-fronted building. The latter’s station had nine tracks and was shared by broad-gauge trains of the GWR, whose trains arrived from Southall via the West London Extension Joint Railway through Chelsea. The GWR remained part owner of the station until 1932, although its trains had long since ceased to use it. Each side of the station had its own entrance and a separate station master; a wall between the two sections effectively emphasised that fact.

At the start of the twentieth century both parts of the station were rebuilt. It now had a decent frontage and forecourt, but not as yet a unified existence. Work on the Brighton side was completed in 1908 and was carried out in red brick; the Grosvenor Hotel was rebuilt at the same time. The Chatham side, in a Edwardian style with baroque elements, designed by Alfred Bloomfield, was completed a year later. The two sections were eventually connected in 1924 by removing part of a screen wall, when the platforms were renumbered as an entity. The station was redeveloped internally in the 1980s, with the addition of shops within the concourse, and above the western platforms.

The station was now serving boat trains, and during WWI it became the hub of trains carrying soldiers to and from France, many of them wounded. After the war the Continental steamer traffic became concentrated there, including the most famous of those trains, the Golden Arrow. The area around the station also became a site for other other forms of transport: a bus station in the forecourt; a coach terminal to the south; and it is now the terminal for trains serving Gatwick Airport.

Victoria is also well-served by London underground. The sub-surface Circle and District Lines opened on December 24, 1868; and the Victoria Line line came to Victoria Station with the third phase of construction of the line - the station’s platforms were opened on March 7, 1969, six months after the Victoria line had started running in outer London.
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