Ralph Vaughan Williams
Born: 12 Oct, 1872
Died: 26 Aug, 1958
Field: Musician; composer
Location in the Abbey: North choir aisle
Type of memorial: Grave
Type of material: Stone; marble

The ashes of Ralph Vaughan Williams, eminent British composer, and his second wife Ursula are buried in the north choir aisle of Westminster Abbey, near the graves of Herbert Howells and Charles Villiers Stanford. All the music played at his burial service was selected according to his known wish. He composed a new anthem, The souls of the righteous, for the unveiling of the Battle of Britain memorial chapel in the Abbey in 1947 and arranged the setting of the hymn All people that on earth do dwell for the 1953 coronation (the first occasion on which a congregational hymn had been sung at a coronation). Also sung at the coronation was his Creed and Sanctus (from the Communion service in G minor, both adapted by Maurice Jacobson) and O taste and see.

The slate gravestone was originally cut by sculptor Reynolds Stone but in 1965 it was re-cut and filled with white marble for better preservation. The inscription reads:

1872

RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS

OM

1958

and a small white stone adjoining his just gives the initials for his widow "UVW" with a cross.She was buried on 21 April 2008.

Vaughan Williams was born on 12 October 1872 at Down Ampney in Gloucestershire, a son of the Revd. Arthur Vaughan Williams and his wife Margaret (Wedgwood). He attended Charterhouse School and studied at the Royal College of Music under Hubert Parry and Walter Parratt. After university he was a pupil of Charles Stanford. In 1897 he married Adeline Fisher. He became the leading British composer of his generation, writing songs, instrumental works, choral works and symphonies. During the 1914-18 war he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as an ambulance orderly and later served at the Somme. Declining a knighthood he was made a member of the Order of Merit. In 1953 he married his second wife Ursula Wood (1911-2007). He died on 26 August 1958.

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

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

"The best of both worlds. A life of Sir William McKie" by H.Hollis, 1991

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