South East England: Spotlight on Cathedrals

Here is a brief look at some Cathedrals that I think are worth a visit to in South East England. I’ve chosen St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Southwark, Canterbury, Ely, Salisbury, and Winchester. A map showing all of these Cathedrals is at the bottom of the post.

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St Paul’s Cathedral
Location: it is in central London, towards the east end
Distance from nearest other Cathedrals on this list: Southwark Cathedral is a 20 minute walk away, and Westminster Cathedral is 20 minutes away by tube.
Price of admission: £18
Fun facts: The original church dates back to AD 604 but the present church was built in the late 17th century, designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. This was done as part of the major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London 1666. There are some amazing photos of St Paul’s surviving the Blitz of WWII.

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Westminster Abbey
Location: 
it is in central London, near Westminster Palace
Distance from nearest other Cathedrals on this list: Southwark Cathedral is 10 minutes away by tube, and St Pauls is 20 minutes away by tube.
Price of admission: £20
Fun facts: This gothic masterpiece is no longer a abbey nor a cathedral, but is instead  a Church of England “Royal Peculiar,” responsible directly to the sovereignThis is the place of royal coronations, burials, and – most recently – the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
My thoughts: I’ve never actually visited Westminster, in part because I found the price of admission prohibitive in terms of seeing it alone. But I would be very happy to go with friends or family – I think it’s probably the cornerstone building for so much of English history!

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Southwark Cathedral
Location:
 central London on the south bank of the River Thames, close to London Bridge
Distance from nearest other Cathedrals on this list: St Paul’s is a 20 minute walk away, and Westminster Abbey is 10 minutes away by tube.
Price of admission: £6 for a guided tour
Fun facts: Pronounced “Suth-uck,” not “Southwark.” London Mayor Sadiq Khan was formally signed in as Mayor at a Southwark Cathedral ceremony in 2016.
My thoughts: I adore this little Cathedral because of how humble it is, nestled between London Bridge Station and one of my favourite markets, Borough Market. It’s very easy to grab a coffee or some lunch and just sit in the church yard, and imagine how life might have been 100 or even 1000 years ago.

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Canterbury Cathedral
Location: 
Canterbury, near the coast in Kent
Distance from nearest other Cathedral on this list: 1.5 to 2 hours away by train from London St Pancras Station.
Price of admission: £12
Fun fact: There has been a cathedral at Canterbury since 597, when St. Augustine baptised the Saxon king Ethelbert. Written in 1386, Chaucer’s most famous text, The Canterbury Tales, is a story of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from London to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.
My thoughts: I visited Canterbury Cathedral during my first few weeks in England, back in October 2011. But unfortunately, everything was such a blur and I can’t remember the specifics at all! Time to go back…

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Ely Cathedral
Location:
 Ely, in Cambridgeshire. 30 minutes by train from Central Cambridge
Distance from nearest other Cathedral on this list: 1.5 to 2 hours away by train from London Kings Cross Station. I recommend a trip to Ely only if you are already in Cambridgeshire.
Price of admission: £8 for a guided tour, free before 9am and after 5pm
Fun fact: Work on this Cathedral began in the mid 11th century. Its most famous feature is the central octagonal tower, which along with the West Tower, gives a unique exterior landmark that dominates the surrounding landscape.

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Salisbury Cathedral
Location:
Salisbury, Wiltshire, about 90 miles south-west of London. Stonehenge is about 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Salisbury.
Distance from London: 1:45 hours away by train from London Waterloo Station.
Price of admission: £7.50
Fun facts: The cathedral has the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom, at 404 feet (123m). It contains the world’s oldest working clock (from AD 1386) and has the best surviving of the four original copies of Magna Carta. Also, Salisbury Cathedral formed the basis for  Kingsbridge Cathedral in the historical novel The Pillars of the Earth!

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Winchester Cathedral
Location:
 Winchester, Hampshire, 60 miles south-west of London.
Distance from London: 1:35 hours away by train from London Paddington Station. It’s relatively close to Salisbury Cathedral (a 45 minute drive) but trains between Salisbury and Winchester take nearly 2 hours.
Price of admission: £8
Fun facts: Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest in Europe, with the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. Jane Austen was buried here in 1817. I went to the Winchester Christmas Market in 2015, which is very charming and well presented!

Map

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3 thoughts on “South East England: Spotlight on Cathedrals

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