John Blow
Born: 23 Feb, 1649
Burial Date: 08 Oct, 1708
Field: Musician; composer
Location in the Abbey: North choir aisle
Type of memorial: Tablet
Type of material: Marble

John Blow, organist and composer, was buried in the north choir aisle of Westminster Abbey on 8 October 1708, near the door which at that time led to the organ. He was born in Nottinghamshire in about 1648, one of three children of Henry Blow and his wife Katherine. He was educated at the Chapel Royal and became Organist of Westminster Abbey in late 1668. In 1674 he married Elizabeth Braddock, daughter of Edward Braddock, Master of the Choristers at the Abbey.(Edward was buried in the north cloister in 1708 and his wife Elizabeth in 1690). He resigned his post as organist in 1679 in favour of his pupil Henry Purcell, but resumed it again on Purcell's death in 1695 and held the office until 1708. Blow was organist and Master of the Children at the Chapel Royal and Composer in Ordinary to James II. From 1687-1703 he was also Master of the Choristers at St Paul's Cathedral. He wrote anthems for the coronations of James II and William III, together with many odes, songs, sacred works and instrumental pieces. Venus and Adonis was his only dramatic work.

A white marble cartouche was erected on the wall near his grave. The inscription reads:

"Here lies the body of JOHN BLOW, Doctor in MUSICK: who was Organist, Composer and Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, for the space of 35 years; in the reigns of K.Charles the 2nd, K.James the 2nd, K.William and Q.Mary, and Her present Majesty Q.ANNE: and also Organist of this Collegiate Church about 15 years. He was Scholar to the excellent musician Dr Christopher Gibbons and Master to the famous Mr H.Purcell, and most of the eminent masters in musick since. He died Octob. ye 1st 1708, in ye 60th year of his age. His own musical compositions, (especially his church musick) are a far noble monument to his memory, than any other can be rais'd for him."

He was at the Abbey for a much longer period than the tablet implies. At the base is a tablet showing the score of Blow's canon Gloria Patri from his service in G major. The coat of arms at the top is that adopted by Blow but seems to have been painted on at a much later date.

His wife Elizabeth was buried in the north cloister and the inscription on her grave was recorded in a history of the Abbey written in 1711:

"Elizabeth (the only daughter of Edward Braddock Gent. and Elizabeth his wife) the truly virtuous and loving wife of Dr John Blow, who, to the great grief of all her relations, died in childbed the 29th of October 1683, aged 30".

Near this was a stone for their son John:

"John Blow, a youth of great forwardness and extraordinary hopes, died the 2nd of June 1693, aged 15 years".

And one for their daughter Elizabeth:

"Here lies the body of Mrs Elizabeth Edgeworth, wife of William Edgeworth, Esq. daughter of the late famous Dr John Blow. She departed this life on Tuesday September 2, A.D.1719"

All three gravestones have now worn away. Their other children also buried in the cloister were Henry d.1676, Catherine d.1730 and Mary d.1738.

A photo of the tablet can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

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