|Westminster Abbey Precincts / Westminster School - Dean's Yard||Westminster|
The public are admitted to this part of the Westminster Abbey Precincts / Westminster School complex. Dean's Yard is built on the site of The Elms and the former monastery farmyard. Since the C18th there have been 3 rows of trees and a central green here, but the high railings that once surrounded it were removed in 1967. It is still used occasionally as a football pitch by the school, a practice dating back many years. The school's playing fields were established in 1810 at Vincent Square.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2012
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Westminster Abbey - Dean's Yard - Photo: Justina Burnett
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Westminster Abbey and its precincts are probably on the site of an C8th Saxon church dedicated to St Peter built on what was then Thorney Island. There was later a Benedictine settlement here, which became a monastery by the C10th and soon gained royal support. The Danish King Cnut was the first monarch to build his palace by the monastery in the early C11th, and subsequently Edward the Confessor built both Westminster Abbey and his new Palace of Westminster (q.v.) on adjacent land, although he died just after the Abbey was completed in 1066. William the Conqueror also adopted the palace as a royal residence and was crowned at the Abbey. Westminster School originated as a small charity school provided by the abbey's Benedictine monks in c.1179. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the school's continuation was ensured by a statute of Henry VIII of 1540 and it was granted a charter by Elizabeth I in 1560. Although the monastery was dissolved in 1539, Westminster Abbey became the seat of a bishop in 1540 and was designated as a cathedral until Queen Mary was on the throne, when the old religion was restored and the abbey once again had an abbot, together with 15 monks. On Queen Elizabeth I's accession in 1558, a dean and prebendaries were put in place at Westminster Abbey. The Palace of Westminster had become the permanent seat of government in 1512 after Henry VIII moved his residence to the Palace of Whitehall.
Dean's Yard is built on the site of The Elms and the former monastery farmyard. Since the C18th there have been 3 rows of trees and a central green here, but the high railings that once surrounded it were removed in 1967. A large lawn defined by trees and bounded by posts with chains, it has a number of mature trees including London planes, a red horse chestnut, a tulip tree, maple and sycamore with smaller trees including silver birch and a medlar. In a symmetrical arrangement around the edge of the green are 10 mid-C19th cast iron lamp standards. The garden is the centrepiece to the picturesque 'collegiate' architecture of Dean's Yard in part designed by George Gilbert Scott. Among the historic buildings are the late C18th Headmaster's House and a school house with an archway through to Little Dean's Yard that dates from the late C14th, once part of the west range of the Abbey buildings. It was originally the Bailiff's Guest House, and was taken over by the grammar school in 1461 with subsequent alterations and much rebuilt in 1886.
Frank Bond 'Westminster Abbey' (Oxford University Press, 1909),pp158-9; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), p.223; Harold Clunn, the Face of London (c1950), p.232-33; OGSW leaflet