I recently stayed at Rydges in Kensington, London and nipped into town to check out Westminster Abbey. I love everything about it – the building, the history, Poet’s Corner, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and the fact that it is a ‘working’ church with several services a day.
This visit I sought out the wall inscription for O Rare Ben Johnson (it should read ‘Jonson’) – he was a contemporary of Shakespeare and is the only person buried standing up in a wee plot near the inscription. Standing at the base of the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, go to the wall at the left and go about hallway along. The Unknown Warrior was the last body interred in the Abbey (1920) but there have been ashes laid to rest since then.
The most recent memorial stone in Poet’s Corner belongs to Ted Hughes (Dec 2011). The first scribbler interred was Geoffrey Chaucer in 1400 and since then – Robert Browning, Samuel Johnson (“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life…”), Alfred Lord Tennyson, Laurence Olivier and Thomas Hardy. When Hardy died, in 1928, his ashes went to Poet’s Corner and his heart buried in the grave of his first wife, Emma, in Stinsford.
Charles Dickens is also there – he stipulated in his will that he be buried with no pomp or ceremony and so it was - the grave was dug at night by the Abbey's Clerk of Works and on the following day, June 14th 1870, at 9.30am three coaches arrived in Dean's Yard at the south of the Abbey with the hearse. Only twelve mourners attended, made up of family and close friends, together with the Abbey clergy and Dickens was buried in the almost empty and silent Abbey. Rudyard Kipling is his next door neighbour.
From the Cloisters you can head to the Cellarium Café for a delightful lunch.
In the 14th Century, the Benedictine monks stored their food and drink in this cellar and now tastefully refurbished it continues the tradition of offering hospitality. It was officially opened by Prince Phillip last month. As opposed to Rare Ben Johnson, I had the rare roast beef and fine beans with ginger & soy dressing for £9.50 (AUD$15).