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September 30, 2023

Britain’s Oldest Door From the 1050s, Which Can Be Found in Westminster Abbey

This 900-year-old door has been identified as the oldest in the UK. Archaeologists discovered the oak door in Westminster Abbey was put in place in the 1050s, during the reign of the Abbey’s founder, Edward the Confessor. It makes it the only surviving Anglo Saxon door in Britain.

The oldest door was dated for the first time in 2005 by the process known as dendrochronology. It is made from one tree, with its rings suggesting it grew between AD 924 and 1030 in eastern England, most probably coming from the extensive woodland owned by the Abbey in this area, and possibly from Essex. The door has five panels and is 6.5ft high by 4ft wide. It opens into the octagonal Chapter House, where monks met every day for prayers in the 13th century.

The door was obviously retained when Henry III rebuilt the Abbey and Chapter House from 1245 but cut down to be put in a new position. In the 19th century the fragments of cow hide were first noted and a legend grew up that this skin was human. It was supposed that someone had been caught committing sacrilege or robbery in the church and had been flayed and his skin nailed to this door as a deterrent to others.


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