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Westminster Abbey Contains Britain's Oldest Door, Once Rumored To Be Covered In Human Skin

In 2005, researchers took a closer look at the door.

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockSep 19 2022, 16:04 UTC
A very old wooden door, with rustic black slide-locks.
Doors don't get much older than this. Image credit:

Westminster Abbey, as well as being the location of the Queen's funeral and where King Charles will sit upon the Stone of Destiny, is home to Britain's oldest door – a door that was once rumored to hold flayed human skin.

Found in a passage leading to the Chapter House, the door was used in the 13th century by monks attending prayers. The Chapter House was then used as a meeting place for parliament, a place for the Commons to sit between 1352 and 1397, and is currently used to store religious documents.

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In 2005, researchers took a closer look at the door, and dated it by closely examining the rings. They found that the door, made using a single tree, had a ring pattern that suggested it grew between 924 and 1030 CE. 

"The ring-pattern displayed by the timber indicates the tree grew in eastern England and almost certainly came from the extensive woodland owned by the abbey, possibly in Essex," archaeologist Warwick Rodwell told the Guardian at the time.

The team believed that the door was constructed in the 1050s during the reign of King Edward the Confessor, making it the oldest door in Britain, as well as the only remaining Anglo-Saxon door in the country.

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While the researchers were at it, they also examined pieces of hide that had been attached to the door.

"In the 19th century it was noticed that there were fragments of hide adhering to the door, and a legend grew up suggesting that these were human," a spokesperson for the Abbey said in 2005

"It was supposed that somebody in the middle ages had been caught committing sacrilege in the abbey, had been flayed and his skin nailed to the door as a deterrent to other would-be felons."

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Upon examination, the skin was found to be cowhide. 


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