Westminster Abbey has won planning permission to add its first new tower in almost 300 years, which will create public access to a museum of treasures and curiosities housed in the triforium, the church’s attic gallery.
At present, the public can get only a distant glimpse of the spectacular and shadowy space through the stone arches 70ft up at the top of the walls above the high altar.
The only way in is a perilous journey up narrow spiral staircases and along ledge-like passages high above the nave. The spectacular but vertigo-inducing view down to the altar and nave has mostly been enjoyed by maintenance staff and camera crews covering major state events.
From the exterior, the new tower – designed by Ptolemy Dean, the abbey’s surveyor of the fabric, a role previously held by Nicholas Hawksmoor and Sir Christopher Wren – will lurk modestly in an angle of the building just outside Poets’ Corner, barely visible between the 16th-century lady chapel and the buttresses supporting the 13th-century chapter house.