Heart of the Nation

It's difficult to fault the Victorians when it comes to ambition and self confidence. The above is a plan for a grand-scale Imperial Memorial Halls in the very heart of Westminster, linked in with the Abbey. The High Gothic design depicted was proposed by John Pollard Seddon and Edward Lamb in 1904 to serve as a great monument to the British Empire at its height. A lot has been written about the plan, although from the very outset its sheer magnitude set it aside for failure.

Contrary to usual form, there is a reason - more than simply passing fancy - for dredging up this historical curio. In these images, and indeed as an integral part of Seddon and Lamb's plan, was the completion of a tower on the Crossing of Westminster Abbey - above the High Alter and under which the monarch is crowned. This has been unfinished work for centuries and inspired numerous proposals - but is now to be completed in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2013. Although no final plans have been agreed, the Dean of the Abbey has indicated that the current pyramid roof - built following bomb damage during the Second World War - will be replaced, very appropriately, with a corona, a Crown, generally predicted to be similar in design to that at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh or, closer to home, dear old King's College in Aberdeen.


Above is Sir Christopher Wren's uncharacteristically bland, but ambitiously scaled, solution to the problem, followed by Nicholas Hawksmoor's continental alternative. Regardless of design, the realisation of this project is a landmark in British architecture, a quite audacious plan by modern standards resurrecting the slightly barmy but distinctly charming ambitions of Seddon and Lamb.
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