Peter Birch
Died: 02 Jul, 1710
Field: Priest
Location in the Abbey: South transept
Type of memorial: Grave; tablet
Type of material: Marble

Peter Birch, clergyman, and his wife Martha are buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey. Martha has a white marble Baroque wall tablet near Chaucer's tomb, with drapery, flowers and cherub heads. The Latin inscription can be translated:

"Sacred to the memory of Martha Birch, daughter of Samuel Viner Esq., first wife to Francis Millington Esq., afterwards to Peter Birch, Prebendary of this church. She was religious, modest, discreet, and the best of wives to both husbands. She died 25 May 1703 aged 50".

The gravestone to Peter can be translated:"

Here lies interred Peter Birch, Doctor of Divinity, Prebendary and Sub Dean of this Church. Died 2 July 1710 aged 65 years".

The coat of arms on the stone are "three fleurs de lis" for Birch, with a crest of a fleur de lis entwined by a snake having a dragon's head.

He was a son of Thomas Birch of Birch Hall, Manchester, a colonel in the Parliamentary army, and his wife Alice (Brooke). Educated at Oxford he was made D.D. in 1688 and was chaplain and petticanon of Christ Church and rector of St Ebbe's in Oxford. He was also chaplain to James, Duke of Ormond, minister at St James's Westminster and chaplain to the House of Commons. In 1689 he was appointed to the Abbey and was also vicar of St Bride's church in London. His first wife was Mary daughter of the poet Edmund Waller but they had no children. Nor did he have children by Martha. His third wife was Sibyl Wyrley. She was buried at the Abbey on 12 August 1708. Their son John Wyrley Birch was baptised at St Margaret's Westminster in 1707 and married in the Abbey on 14 February 1737 Knightley Wroth. His second wife was Jane Lane. Son Humphrey, who was a counsellor at law and assumed the surname of Wyrley by Act of Parliament, was buried on 18 November 1747.

Photos of the tablet and gravestone can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

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