Edward Carpenter
Born: 27 Nov, 1910
Died: 26 Aug, 1998
Burial Date: 19 Jul, 2000
Field: Writer; priest; dean
Location in the Abbey: Nave, little cloister
Type of memorial: Grave; plaque
Type of material: Stone

The ashes of Dr Edward Frederick Carpenter K.C.V.O., a much loved Dean of Westminster, are buried in the nave of Westminster Abbey near the graves of his predecessors in office. The light coloured nabrasina stone, with an inscription cut by the Cardozo Kindersley workshop, was unveiled on 27 July 2000 (his ashes were buried on 19 July 2000). The small lily carved in the centre of the stone is an allusion to his wife Lilian. The grace quoted on the stone was the one often used by the Dean (although he mostly used the older version "honour all men"):

"Edward Carpenter 1910-1998 Canon 1951-1974 Dean 1974-1985 Fearless in the cause of truth, scholar, reconciler, friend.

Go forth into the world in peace, be of good courage, strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honour all, love and serve the Lord rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit +"

He was born on 27 November 1910 at Addlestone in Surrey, a son of Frederick, a builder, and his wife Jessie (Arscott). He was educated at King's College, London and ordained becoming a curate at Holy Trinity St Marylebone in London from 1935-41 and St Mary, Harrow from 1941-45. In 1945 he was made rector at Great Stanmore before coming to the Abbey as a Canon in 1951. He held the posts of Canon Treasurer and Archdeacon and was a writer, football fan, cyclist and lover of Shelley. At the 1953 coronation he carried the orb in the litany procession prior to the main ceremony. He published several books including a life of Geoffrey Fisher and edited A House of Kings, a history of the Abbey published in 1966. He married Lilian Wright and they had three sons (David, Michael and Paul) and a daughter (Louise). On his retirement from the Abbey he was knighted but clergymen do not use the title Sir. He died on 26 August 1998. His wife died 2 December 2008 aged 91 but is not buried with him.

On 17 December 2010 a small slate tablet, by the same letter cutter as the Dean's stone, was unveiled in the Little Cloister near one of the houses his family occupied while Canon of Westminster. This reads:

"Lilian Carpenter 1917-2008 lived here 1951-1985 with her husband Edward"

(although from 1974 she actually was resident in the Deanery).

His stall plate, as Dean of the Order of the Bath, can be seen on the south stalls in the Lady Chapel and his coat of arms appears in the large west window of the chapel.

A photo of the gravestone and the Dean's portrait (painted by John Whittall in 1980) can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

A Liberal and Godly Dean:the life of Edward Carpenter by Michael De-la-Noy, privately printed, 2016. (now available at the Abbey Shop)

A life remembered - Lilian Carpenter in Westminster Abbey Chorister Winter 2015/16

From a verger's diary by Cecil Bailey, 1978 (for events during the Carpenter's time at the Abbey)

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