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Museums and art galleries
Museums. Three of London's most interesting museums - the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are also in this area. The Natural History Museum has exhibits of birds, animals and reptiles, as well as life-size reconstructions of prehistoric animals. The Victoria and Albert Museum includes exhibits almost every place and period, including costumes from the theatre, and paintings. The Science Museum covers every aspect of science and technology, and its collections are constantly being enlarged. The museum is always crowded. In many of the rooms there are machines and computers which the visitors can work themselves.
It is safe to say that the three most famous buildings in England are the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral.
The Tower of London on the north bank of the Thames is one of the most ancient buildings of London. It was founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. But each monarch left some kind of personal mark on it. For many centuries the Tower has been a fortress, a palace, a prison and royal treasury. It is now a museum of arms and amour, and as one of the strongest fortresses in Britain, it has the Crown Jewels. The grey stones of the Tower could tell terrible stories of violence and injustice. Many sad and cruel events took place within the walls of the Tower. It was here that Thomas More, the great humanist, was falsely accused and executed. Among famous prisoners executed at the Tower were Henry VIII's wives Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard. When Queen Elizabeth was a princess, she was sent to the Tower by Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) and kept prisoner for some time. The ravens whose forefathers used to find food in the Tower still live here as part of its history. There is a legend that if the ravens disappear the Tower will fall. That is why the birds are carefully guarded. The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror to protect and control the City of London.
Every night at 10 p.m. at the Tower of London the Ceremony of the Keys or locking up of the Tower for the night takes place. It goes back to the Middle Ages. Five minutes before the hour the Headwarder comes out with a bunch of keys and an old lantern. He goes to the guardhouse and cries: 'Escort for the keys'. Then he closes the three gates and goes to the sentry, who calls: 'Halt, who comes there? ' The Headwarder replies: 'The Keys'. 'Whose Keys? ' demands the sentry. 'Queen Elizabeth's Keys', comes the answer. 'Advance Queen Elizabeth's Keys. All's well'. The keys are finally carried to the Queen's House where they are safe for the night. After the ceremony everyone who approaches the gate must give the password or turn away.
Westminster Abbey is a fine Gothic building, which stands opposite the Houses of Parliament. It is the work of many hands and different ages. The oldest part of the building dates from the eighth century.
The Abbey is sometimes compared with a mausoleum, because there are tombs and memorials of almost all English monarchs, many statesmen, famous scientists, writers and musicians.
If you go past the magnificent tombstones of kings and queens, some made of gold and precious stones, past the gold-and-silver banners of the Order of the Garter, which are hanging from the ceiling, you will come to Poets' Corner. There many of the greatest writers are buried: Geoffrey Chaucer, Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling. Here too, though these writers are not buried in Westminster Abbey, are memorials to William Shakespeare and John Milton, Burns and Byron, Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray and the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is the work of the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. It is said to be one of the finest pieces of architecture in Europe. Work on Wren’s masterpiece began in 1675 after a Norman church, old St. Paul’s, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. For 35 years the building of St. Paul’s Cathedral went on, and Wren was an old man before it was finished.
From far away you can see the huge dome with a golden ball and cross on the top. The interior of the cathedral is very beautiful. It is full of monuments. The most important, perhaps, is the one dedicated to the Duke of Wellington. After looking round you can climb 263 steps to the Whispering Gallery, which runs round the dome. It is called so, because if someone whispers close to the wall on one side, a person with his ear close to the wall on the other side can hear what is said. But if you want to reach the foot of the ball, you have to climb 637 steps.
As for Christopher Wren, who is now known as “the architect of London“, he found his fame only after his death. He was buried in the Cathedral. Buried here are Nelson, Wellington and Sir Joshua Reynolds.
British’s Theatres. Britain is now one of the world's major theatre centers. Now Britain has about 300 professional theatres. Some of them are privately owned. The tickets are not hard to get but they are very expensive. Regular seasons of opera and ballet are given at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London. The National Theatre stages modern and classical plays, the Royal Shakespeare Company produces plays mainly by Shakespeare and his contemporaries when it performs in Stratford-on-Avon, and modern plays in its two auditoria in the City's Barbican Centre. Shakespeare's Globe Playhouse, about which you have probably read, was reconstructed on its original site. Many other cities and large towns have at least one theatre. There are many theatres and theatre companies for young people: the National Youth Theatre and the Young Vic Company in London, the Scottish Youth Theatre in Edinburgh. The National Youth Theatre, which stages classical plays mainly by Shakespeare and modern plays about youth, was on tour in Russian in 1989. The theatre-goers warmly received the production of Thomas Stearns Eliot's play 'Murder in the Cathedral'. Many famous English actors started their careers in the National Youth Theatre. Among them Timothy Dalton, the actor who did the part of Rochester in 'Jane Eyre' shown on TV in our country.
Stonehenge is the great stone monument, the most remarkable of prehistoric in Britain. It has stood on Salisbury Plain for about 4, 000 years. No written records exist of its origin, and it has always been surrounded by mystery. There have been many different theories, but still nobody knows why it was built. One theory is that it was a place from where stars and planets could be observed. It was discovered that the position of some stones was related to the movements of the sun and moon, so that the stones could be used as a calendar to predict such things as eclipses.
The Lake District is a mountainous area in the north-west of England, and it has some of England's most beautiful scenery. Some admiring visitors called it " A paradise of mountain scenery and magical light". Picturesque lakes lie in deep hollows dug out by the glacier which covered Britain during the Ice Age'. Green hills, herds of sheep, and solitary farms scattered here and there are typical of this remote and surprisingly beautiful part of England.
The Lake District is a National Park, which means that special care is taken to make sure that the beauty of the countryside is not spoilt.
Canterbury is a town in Kent with a population of about 120, 000. It is the religious capital of England because its cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury who is head of the Church of England. From the 12th to 15th centuries it was a place of pilgrimage. Thousands of people came to pray at the tomb of a former Archbishop of Canterbury who murdered in the Cathedral in 1170. His name was Thomas Becket
Windsor Castle standing on a rock overlooking the River Thames, was founded by William the Conqueror and was later fortified and enlarged by almost, every monarch since the Norman Conquest. William and his early successors needed to secure
their military position. Nowadays Windsor Castle is a comfortable country place within an hour's drive from the capital, where the Royal family can relax.
Hampton Court Palace is a royal residence which is associated with Henry VIII. Cardinal Wolsey, Henry's friend and adviser, was a brilliant politician and diplomats.
He began building this grand palace in red brick in 1514. In 1526 Wolsey presented the unfinished place to his king, and Henry continued the work until Hampton Court was one of the largest buildings in Europe.
During the Civil War Oliver Cromwell used Hampton Court to hold King Charles I under home arrest. After the king's execution, he lived there himself, in rather un-Puritan style.
Like many English old castles and palaces, Hampton Court is haunted. According to a legend, one of the galleries is haunted by Henry's fifth wife Catherine Howard, who was executed on a charge of infidelity. Another legend says that Jane Seymour, his s third wife, also walks here in the palace where she died giving birth to the future Edward VI. Some legends tell that the ghost of Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife, who was also executed, sometimes walks along the ramparts of the Bloody Tower. Henry himself, however, rests quietly: his ghost has never been seen by anybody.
1. Which are some of the most traditional ceremonies that have been preserved since old times?
2. Which are the three of London’s most interesting museums?
3. What does the legend say about the building of Stonehenge?
4. Where is the Lake District situated?
5. How far from London is Windsor Castle situated?
6. Why is there a mixture of styles in the architecture of Hampton Court Palace?