Westminster Abbey is one of the oldest churches in the world, with the site going back over 1000 years. It has hosted every coronation since William the Conquerer in 1066 and numerous Royal weddings, including the current Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Over 3,300 notable people are buried there including 17 monarchs, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. It contains the grave of the Unknown Warrior, which has become something of a shrine on which visiting dignitaries now traditionally lay flowers. It also houses the spectacular Cosmati pavement, an astonishing mosaic laid in 1268, comprised of an array of beautiful stones differing in size, shape and colour and depicting the planet and the animals who inhabit it.
The education department at Westminster Abbey had been keen to incorporate digital technology into raising their profile and encouraging engagement for some time. Their idea was to increase access to the Abbey for everyone, regardless of their location or ability to visit in person. When the marketing team saw the opportunity to extend Google Street View inside on their Google My Business page they presented the option to the education department as a possible solution. Westminster Abbey’s Digital Marketing Manager, Alistair Wallace, requested more information through their page and Striking Places’ Jo Hailey arranged a consultation.
For the initial meeting both teams walked through the Abbey to confirm the layout of the virtual tour and the areas of special interest Westminster Abbey wanted to pinpoint. Striking Places were able to recommend the best configuration to highlight these. Since filming and photography at the Abbey are restricted to between 7 – 9.30 am on Thursdays and Westminster Abbey needed to prepare some areas for the tour, work began some months later, and took place over seven visits. In between visits Striking Places were able to show previews of the work so far to the education department which helped to structure the project.
One of the key elements Westminster Abbey wanted to incorporate was the ability to share information at special interest points throughout the tour. This can be best provided with an interactive overlay, which enables the you to identify hotspots and embed images, videos or links, giving the viewer a rich digital experience. For example, in the case of the High Altar you can only get so close when physically visiting the Abbey. In the tour you are able to approach much more closely and click on a hot spot which gives information about the history of coronations at the Abbey and British Pathe news footage of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. The interactive overlay also provides a table of contents, enabling the viewer to select their special place of interest and be transported straight to that spot in the Abbey.
The Very Reverend Dr John Hall | The Dean of Westminster
“We have been pondering how to extend to young people and others, who cannot for the time being visit the Abbey, something of the experience available for our many visitors. I am delighted that this new collaboration will enable people from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo and beyond to see and learn so much more than previously about the magnificence and significance of this great and beautiful Church.”
Charles Armstrong | Street View Product Manager at Google
“This beautiful collection highlights the splendour of Westminster Abbey, the value of Street View publishing, and some truly exceptional imagery on the part of the photographer. We’re delighted to see and support awareness for such powerful content.”
Interesting Fact #93: Westminster Abbey houses the original tomb of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the third Marquis of Salisbury and three-time Prime Minister to Queen Victoria, a replica of which features in another of our historical building tours, that of St Etheldreda’s Church, which is part of the Hatfield House complex. The two buildings have been linked since their inception and both play a major role in the history of the British royal family.