What are the oldest buildings in the UK?

·3-min read
Low Angle View Of Westminster Abbey Against Blue Sky, London, England.
Westminster Abbey was consecrated in 1065. (Getty)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series.

There are buildings standing in Britain which are eight or even 10 times older than the United States, which was founded just 245 years ago. 

Mousa Broch, which still stands on the Scottish island of Shetland, is a roundhouse thought to have been built in 300 BC during the Iron Age. 

But there are some buildings built almost 1,000 years ago which are still in daily use – such as Westminster Abbey, consecrated on this day in 1065. 

The abbey has been extended since it was built, but some of the central structure remains the same as it was when it was consecrated by Edward the Confessor. 

Mousa Broch in Shetland. (Getty)
Mousa Broch in Shetland. (Getty)
Westminster Abbey at sunset (Getty)
Westminster Abbey at sunset (Getty)

Other similarly ancient buildings in London include the Westminster Hall area of parliament, which was built in 1016, and the White Tower in the Tower of London, which dates from 1078.

Westminster Abbey was consecrated after Edward the Confessor (son of Ethelred the Unready) made a vow while in exile to make a pilgrimage to St Peter’s in Rome if he was restored to his throne. 

Edward was released from his vow by Pope Leo IX, after advisers convinced him that it was not a good idea to make the pilgrimage – and he swore instead to build a church dedicated to St Peter. 

The Tower of London's White Tower, which dates back to 1078. (Getty)
The Tower of London's White Tower, which dates back to 1078. (Getty)

Edward built his monastery on the site of a previous Benedictine community on the aptly named Thorney Island (which was duly cleared of thorns before the abbey was built). 

The monarch – a deeply devout man – moved his own palace nearby on the banks of the Thames and built on the site of a small monastery founded by King Edgar a few decades before. 

Edward built a large stone church on the site, which became known as the ‘West minster’, to distinguish it from St Paul’s Cathedral (the ‘East minster’).

By the time the church was finished, Edward was too ill to attend the ceremony to consecrate it in 1065. 

He died just a week later, on 5 January 1066, and was buried in the church in front of the altar. 

When William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings, he had himself crowned King of England in the abbey on Christmas Day in 1066. 

The Coronation procession of Anne Boleyn to Westminster Abbey. Anne Boleyn married Henry VIII of England on 25th January 1533 and her Coronation was held on 1st June, 1533. She was beheaded for supposed adultery, incest, witchcraft and high treason on 19th May 1536 - Henry was enamoured of Jane Seymour and wished to marry her. In all, Henry VIII had six wives, of which Anne Boleyn was the second. From “Old & New London” by Walter Thornbury and Edward Walford, published in parts by Cassell & Co, London from 1873-1888. These illustrations are from parts 30-35 inclusive.
The Coronation procession of Anne Boleyn to Westminster Abbey in 1533 (Getty)

Every British monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned in the abbey (except Edward V and Edward VIII who were never crowned). 

The abbey was rebuilt in the 1200s by Henry III in a grander, gothic style, but parts of Edward’s design still remain.


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Other famous Britons buried in the abbey, considered a great honour, include Geoffrey Chaucer, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. 

The current monarch, then Princess Elizabeth, was also married in Westminster Abbey in 1947 and was formally crowned Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953, having acceded to the throne a year earlier. 

Watch: Duchess of Cambridge plays piano in Westminster Abbey

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