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Poets' Corner - Westminster Abbey

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Poets' Corner

Poets' Corner is a section of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey where a the high number of poets, playwrights, and writers are buried and commemorated.

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Some memorials are stone slabs set in the floor with a name and inscription carved on them; others are more elaborate and carved stone monuments, or hanging stone tablets, or memorial busts. Some memorials are commemorated in groups, such as the joint memorial for the Brontë sisters (commissioned in 1939, but not unveiled until 1947 due to the war), the sixteen World War I poets inscribed on a stone floor slab and unveiled in 1985, and the four founders of the Royal Ballet, commemorated together in 2009.

As floor and wall space began to run out a stained glass memorial window was unveiled in 1994 in memory of Edward Horton Hubbard, and it is here that new names are added in the form of inscribed panes of glass. There is room for 20 names; in early 2010 there were six names on this window, with a new entry Elizabeth Gaskell unveiled on 25 September 2010.

The first poet to be interred in Poets' Corner was Geoffrey Chaucer in 1556. There is tradition of interring or commemorating people there in recognition of their contribution to British culture; the honour is awarded overwhelmingly to writers.

Some who are buried in Poets' Corner also had memorials erected to them over or near their grave, either around the time of their death or later. Joseph Addison's burial took place elsewhere in Westminster Abbey, with a memorial later erected in Poets' Corner.

In some cases a full burial of a body took place, in other cases the body was cremated and the ashes buried.

There are also cases where there was support for a particular individual to be buried in Poets' Corner, but the decision was made to bury them elsewhere in the Abbey, an example being Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Other notable poets and writers, such as Aphra Behn, are buried elsewhere in the Abbey. At least two of the memorials (both to individuals buried in Poets' Corner – Nicholas Rowe and John Gay were later moved elsewhere in the Abbey after the discovery of old paintings on the wall behind them.

Examples of Interest

  • In 2009 the founders of the Royal Ballet were commemorated in a memorial floor stone
  • 25 September 2010 the writer Elizabeth Gaskell was celebrated with the dedication of a panel in the memorial window.
  • 6 December 2011, former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes was commemorated with a floor stone.
  • 22 November 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of his death, writer C. S. Lewis was commemorated with a memorial floor stone.
  • William Shakespeare, buried at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1616, was not honoured with a monument until 1740 when one designed by William Kent was constructed in Poets' Corner
  • Ben Jonson's grave is not in Poets' Corner, but is in the north aisle of the nave. It has the inscription "O Rare Ben Johnson" (sic) on the slab above it. The fact that he was buried in an upright grave could be an indication of his reduced circumstances at the time of his death but it has also been suggested that Jonson asked for a grave exactly 18 inches square from the monarch and received an upright grave to fit in the requested space. As well as the gravestone in the north aisle of the nave, a wall tablet commemorating Jonson was later erected in Poets' Corner. More details at WIKI

Note - I am up-dating the following lists - CJB

https://s3.amazonaws.com/photos.geni.com/p13/d4/88/0f/64/5344483a60cebda3/work-in-progress_small.jpg

Burials

A

  • Robert Adam (1729-1792) Architect

B

  • Isaac Barrow (1630-1677) Mathematician
  • Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) Playwright
  • John Beaumont (1583 - 1627) Poet
  • William Benson (died 1549) Abbot of Westminster
  • Mary Eleanor Bowes (1749-1800) Poet and Playwright. Reported by some to have been buried in a court dress, with all the accessories necessary for a Royal audience, plus a small silver trumpet, and by others as in her bridal dress.
  • Robert Browning (1812-1889) Poet and Playwright. Browning's grave is immediately adjacent to that of Alfred Tennyson.
  • Richard Busby (1606-1695) Headmaster

C

D

  • William Davenant (1606-1668) Poet and Playwright
  • John Denham (1614/5-1669) Poet - Grave is unmarked. Name is inscribed on the Cowley gravestone.
  • Charles Dickens (1812-1870) Author. Dickens's will did not dictate his place of burial, but stipulated that there be no grand funeral ceremony. He was therefore given a secret early-morning funeral in the Abbey, 14 June 1870
  • Michael Drayton (1563-1631) Poet. Died in London. Monument placed by the Countess of Dorset, with memorial lines attributed to Ben Jonson.
  • John Dryden (1631-1700) Poet and Playwright. Grave is unmarked. Name is inscribed on the Cowley gravestone. Memorial was also erected.

F

  • Adam Fox (1883-1977) Oxford, Professor of Poetry, Canon of Westminster

G

H

Hardy's funeral, on 16 January 1928, proved a controversial occasion because Hardy himself had wished to be interred at Stinsford in the same grave as his first wife, Emma. His executor Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell, however, insisted that he be placed in the Poets' Corner. A compromise was reached whereby his heart was buried at Stinsford with Emma, and his ashes in the Abbey.

I

J

K

L

  • Nicholas Litlington (bef. 1315 - 1386) Abbot of Westminster

M

  • Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) Poet and Historian. Public funeral, 9 January 1860.
  • James Macpherson (1736-1796] Author and Poet
  • John Masefield (1878-1967) Poet and Author. According to his wishes, was cremated and his ashes placed in Poets’ Corner.
  • Robert Moray (1608/9-1673) Statesman and natural philosopher. Grave is unmarked. Name is inscribed on the Cowley gravestone.
  • Sir Gilbert Murray (1866-1957) Scholar and translator

N

P

R

S

T

  • Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) Poet. Large public funeral, 12 October 1892. In 1893 the government formally requested there be a bust of Tennyson in Poets Corner. The businessman-botanist Charles Jenner offered Thomas Woolner's 1857 bust of Tennyson to the Abbey, and it was placed near Tennyson's gravestone, by moving a tablet to Christopher Anstey. There was no formal unveiling ceremony.
  • Connop Thirlwall (1797-1875) Bishop and Historian
  • Thomas Triplet (1602-1670) Prebendary
  • Owen Tudor (1429-1501) Monk of Westminster

V

Memorials

B

C

E

  • George Eliot
  • T. S. Eliot

F

  • David Frost

G

  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Oliver Goldsmith
  • Adam Lindsay Gordon
  • John Ernest Grabe
  • Thomas Gray

H

  • Stephen Hales
  • Robert Herrick
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • A. E. Housman
  • Ted Hughes

J

  • Henry James
  • Ben Jonson

K

  • John Keats
  • John Keble

L

  • D. H. Lawrence
  • Edward Lear
  • C. S. Lewis
  • Jenny Lind
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

M

  • F. W. Maitland
  • Christopher Marlowe
  • William Mason
  • Thomas May
  • John Milton

P

  • John Phillips
  • Alexander Pope
  • John Pringle
  • Hannah Pritchard

R

  • John Ruskin

S

  • Walter Scott
  • Thomas Shadwell
  • William Shakespeare
  • Granville Sharp
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • Robert Southey

T

  • William Makepeace Thackeray
  • James Thomson
  • Dylan Thomas
  • Anthony Trollope

V

  • William Vincent
  • Oscar Wilde

W

  • William Wordsworth
  • James Wyatt

War Poets

The memorial in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, to 16 Great War poets is a slate stone slab with the names of the poets inscribed on it. It was unveiled on 11 November 1985, the 67th anniversary of the Armistice. An additional inscription quotes Owen's "Preface":

“ My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity".

  • Richard Aldington (1892-1962) Enlisted 1916, Commissioned 1917, Second Lieutenant Royal Sussex Regiment
  • 'Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) Volunteered in 1915 and 1916, Hôpital Temporaire d'Arc-en-Barrois British hospital for French soldiers
  • [Edmund Charles Blunden, CBE, MC (1 November 1896 – 20 January 1974) was an English poet, author and critic. Edmund Blunden] (1896-1974) Commissioned August 1915, Second Lieutenant Royal Sussex Regiment
  • Rupert Brooke † (1887-1915) Commissioned August 1914, Temporary Sub-Lieutenant Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
  • Wilfrid Gibson (1878-1962) Rejected several times, Enlisted October 1917 Army Service Corps (Motor Transport). Never saw active service
  • Robert von Ranke Graves (1895-1985) Commissioned 1914, Royal Welch Fusiliers
  • The Honourable Julian Henry Francis Grenfell DSO  † (1888-1915) Commissioned 1910, Captain (at time of death) Royal Dragoons
  • Ivor Bertie Gurney (1890-1937) Private Gloucestershire Regiment
  • David Jones (1895-1974) Royal Welch Fusiliers
  • Robert Malise Bowyer Nichols (1893-1944) Commissioned 1914, Royal Artillery
  • Wilfred Owen † (1893-1918) Enlisted 1915, Commissioned June 1916 Second Lieutenant Manchester Regiment
  • Herbert Read (1893-1968) Captain, Green Howards
  • Isaac Rosenberg † (1890-1918) Enlisted October 1915, 12th Suffolk Folk Regiment King's Own Royal Lancaster
  • Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) Enlisted 1914, Commissioned May 1915, Captain (at end of war) Royal Welch Fusiliers
  • Charles Hamilton Sorley † (1895-1915) Enlisted 1914, Captain (at time of death) Suffolk Regiment
  • Edward Thomas † (1878-1917) Enlisted July 1915, Artists Rifles. Commissioned November 1916 Royal Garrison Artillery

Royal Ballet

The stone slab floor memorial to the four founders of the Royal Ballet was dedicated on 17 November 2009.

  • Ninette de Valois (1898-2001) aged 102
  • Frederick Ashton (1904-1988) aged 84
  • Constant Lambert (1905-1951) aged 45
  • Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991) aged 71

Poets and writers commemorated elsewhere in Westminster Abbey

...but not in Poets' Corner proper

  • Robert Ayton
  • Aphra Behn
  • Edward Bulwer Lytton
  • John Bunyan
  • Margaret Cavendish
  • William Cavendish
  • William Congreve
  • Noël Coward
  • William Cowper
  • Wentworth Dillon
  • Benjamin Disraeli
  • George Herbert
  • Robert Howard
  • Charles Kingsley
  • James R. Lowell
  • F. D. Maurice
  • Anne Oldfield
  • Henry Spelman
  • Arthur P. Stanley
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Isaac Watts

Sources and References

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