Westminster Abbey

(23/10/10)

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With less than a month to go before we leave London for good, Bridge and I wanted to check out anything in London that we hadn't already seen, the only thing we could thing of was Westminster Abbey! I went there many years ago, but Bridge never has. Also, one of my ancestors is buried there, Matthew Prior (1664-1721).

I was also lucky enough to go with my Cuzzy Matt (also related to Matthew Prior), Steve (Matt's mate) and Jen.

Firstly, we rocked up to the main entrance:

I asked an old dude hanging outside the main entrance how I would go about finding where Matthew Prior would be buried. He told me to go around to the west entrance and tell one of the "red coats" that I was wanting to get inside and see an ancestor, so we did. The dude in the pic below (with David and I) was awesome, he said "no worries!" and radioed one of the "green coats" inside that we were coming in and that they would sort us out, saving us 15 a head! Chur:

Of course I took a snap as soon as I walked in, which you're not supposed to do and I was told off (nicely I might add):

The green coat people were awesome as well, another old bloke whipped out his book, looked up Matthew Prior and lead us past a few barriers and through a few roped off areas to Poets Corner where we found his plaque!

He let us take a bunch of photos:

A little history on Matthew Prior, taken from http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/prior.htm

Matthew Prior
1664-1721
 
Matthew Prior is buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. (At the feet of Edmund Spenser, as he requested.) There is also a monument to him featuring a bust by Antoine Coysevox.

As a boy Prior was spotted reading Horace in one of his uncle's pubs by Lord Dorset who subsequently paid for him to be educated at Westminster School. After Westminster Prior went on to St John's College Cambridge.

In 1690 he was appointed Secretary to Lord Dursley at The Hague - which was the start of his career as a diplomat. His poem The Secretary (1696) draws upon this experience. In 1711 he was sent to Paris and played a key role in the negotiations which led in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).
Following the death of Queen Anne in 1714, he was recalled to England and was imprisoned for over a year.

In 1718 Tonson published a folio edition of his Poems on Several Occasions. This collection attracted many subscriptions and Prior made in excess of 4,000. This secured his financial position and enabled him to  co-purchase the estate of Down Hall in Essex. Sadly he died unexpectedly a few months later, before taking up his new role as Tory squire.

Prior is chiefly remembered for his brilliant pieces of light verse such as: Jinny the Just, My noble, lovely, little Peggy and Answer to Chloe Jealous.
However, he also wrote some longer more serious poems e.g. Carmen Seculare (1700) and Solomon on the Vanity of the World (1718).
Prior once said that his career as a diplomat had relegated poetry to being the "amusement" of his life rather than the "business" of it.

Be to her virtues very kind;
Be to her faults a little blind;
Let all her ways be unconfin'd
And clap your padlock - on her mind.
From An English Padlock

So basically, he first came of note by being found in a pub, learned poetry (no doubt to impress the ladies) and spent some time in jail. In the minds of Matt and I that pretty much cemented that fact that we were related to the guy.

A bunch more information can be found on Wikipedia about Matthew Prior.

Here's a close-up of the plaque:

Here's the wall were the plaque is mounted (bottom centre):

After checking out the plaque and being rather stoked that we were given a guided tour straight to the location, we were left by the Green coat to check out the rest of the Abbey:

Now here's where it gets interesting and pretty darn typical of a Baker\Bennett adventure. Some other guy came up to Matt, Steve and I and said "can I see your tickets please?!" I told him that we were invited in via the west Gate by the Red coats and lead to our ancestors grave by the green coats and that now we were just checking out the rest of the Abbey were he was buried. His response was "WELL, you're NOT allowed to view the rest of the Abbey, only the grave! Everyone else here has paid 15 to come in, how would you feel if you were in their shoes?!!!" I responded with "Well, to tell you the truth, if I saw people that were invited in to visit the grave of their ancestor, I wouldn't give two hoots that they paid nothing and I had to pay 15, but hey, you're the rule maker, not me!". His response was "Yeah". OK then, I'm in a nice bloke mood, I'll go with this without fuss.

So he lead us off to the exit near the centre of the Abbey, at this stage Bridge and Jen had wandered off elsewhere, which was great as they could check out the rest of the place. As we got near the exit and the guy motioned for us to exit, I told him "ahem, no bloody way, my wife's in here and I'm not leaving without her". He could probably tell by the look I gave him that it was a hopeless battle to fight me on that, so he left me with another red coat, looking quite smug that he was a big man in his little role in life.

We were also stoked, firstly because we were in the centre of the Abbey and could happily make out the rest of the place while Bridge and Jen checked out everything else. Secondly, we struck up a conversation with the red coat that we were left with, who asked us where we were from. After telling him NZ, he said "oh, there's a rather famous NZer buried here, you know who he is?" we had no idea, until he said "hint, he split the atom" where Steve yelled out "RUTHERFORD!" and he said "yep, you wanna see where he's buried?!" of course, we said yes. He then led us through a few fenced off areas to the plaque were Ernest Rutherford was buried which you can't really see if you're general public. We were stoked and the guy let me take a photo:

The bloke also said that is colleague was a bit over eager on enforcing the rules, but he was right in that we should've brought a ticket.

Be then Bridge gave me a call and said she was outside one of the other exits, which just so happened to be on the side of the Abbey we hadn't explored yet, so off we trotted to get over there, when Matt spotted a Bennett who was buried there! Of course, we had to take another sneaky photo:

And finally after our wee adventure and run in with the "law" we exited the building (back out of the west entrance after finding that the other exit was bloked by a gate, forcing us to wander all the way through the Abbey again, muah ha ha ha!):

Was well over due for lunch time then:

So we wandered past Big Ben:

Over Westminster Bridge to get some lunch:

Taking some snaps on the way, of course.

Here's an example of a normal snap against an HDR (High Dynamic Range) picture.

Firstly, HDR off:

And HDR on:

And a nice panorama pic Bridge took:

Westminster Abbey, full of drama, awesomely helpful and wonderful people, one dickhead and heaps of dead people!

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By Tony Baker: email