The British Museum is home to one of (if not the) most extensive, impressive and ancient collections of art, antiques and examples of human culture and history known to mankind. It all began in 1753, with the unfortunate death of Sir Hans Sloane - a renowned and respected physician and collector. During his interesting and impressive 92 years, Sir Sloane had accumulated a very large library of natural history books, and had collected thousands of items for his 'Cabinet of Curiosities' (prints, drawings, flora, fauna, medals, coins, seals, cameos [carved shells], geology etc) Upon his death, Sir Hans Sloane very generously bestowed his entire library and collection - his life's work - to the British nation. That's a massive 71,000 items! Coupled with Sir Robert Bruce Cottons collection of foreign manuscripts, and Robert Harleys collection of legal documents, the British Museum quickly became one of the countries most popular attractions.
The Museums collections quickly grew to include such gems as the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures, and in 1823 - the library of King George III. This final donation necessitated the construction of the quadrangular building and the reading room. Also, to make extra room for their constantly growing exhibitions, the natural history collections were moved to a building in Kensington, which we now know as The Natural History Museum.
And it hasn't stopped growing since. There have been several re-vamps and 2 new buildings erected since then. Since its birth, the Museum has had 280million visitors, and now contains a staggering 8million objects, the oldest of which is a stone chopping tool that is nearly 2million years old!
In 1845, when John Henry Newman was 44 years old, he discovered Catholicism, and was instantly converted. Seven years later, he teamed up with Father Frederick William Faber, they spent the equivalent of just under £2million on 3.5 acres of land, and went about building and becoming the founders of the Brompton Oratory (an oratory is a room for christian prayer).
First of all, the had an Oratory house built on the site, followed quickly after by a temporary church with no foundations. After that, funding began to become a slight problem, until eventually, in 1874, they made an appeal for funds to build a permanent church.
Just 2 years later, 29 year old architect Herbert Gribble (who died young, just 18 years later) won a competition to be the architect for the Brompton Oratory project. Within 4 years the foundations of the church were down, and within another 4 years the finished article was consecrated - nearly 40 years after John Henry Newman had converted.
Their combined triumph stood at 200ft tall - the largest Catholic church in London before Westminster Cathedral in 1903. Though the competition had specified a preference for 'Italian Renaissance' style, Herbert Gribble also drew from the the pillared style of Roman Baroque and the grandiose tendencies of Christopher Wren. The majesty of the building is reflected in the marble used in the pillars, the altars and the inside of the domed rooves, while the designers eye for detail shows in the carved metalwork, plasterwork, wood and stone.
The church has seen many slight changes and alterations over the years, but has retained its majesty and beauty, boasts magnificent ceremonial robes and altar plates.