Sir Benjamin Baker
Born: 31 Mar, 1840
Died: 19 May, 1907
Field: Engineer
Location in the Abbey: Nave
Type of memorial: Window
Type of material: Glass

In the north aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey is a memorial window to civil engineer Sir Benjamin Baker. The stained glass window was designed by J.Ninian Comper and unveiled on 3 December 1909. It was presented by the Earl of Cromer on behalf of the Institution of Civil Engineers. The scheme for windows in this aisle was to show a king of England and abbot of Westminster in each, with the memorial to the individual below. The large figures in this window represent King Edward III and Simon Langham, the only abbot of Westminster who was made a cardinal. Small statuettes in the borders represent the children of the king with their coats of arms. In the top quatrefoil is St George fighting the dragon, flanked by the coat of arms assigned to Edward the Confessor and the arms of the Westminster monastery. The inscription at the base reads:

"In memory of Sir Benjamin Baker, Civil Engineer. Forth Bridge. Assouan Dam. B.1840. D.1907"

Benjamin was born on 31 March 1840 at Keyford in Somerset, son of Benjamin Baker and his wife Sarah (Hollis). He was educated at Cheltenham and apprenticed at an ironworks in Wales. He had a daughter by a Welsh woman, who emigrated to America. In 1860 he moved to London and worked on the building of Victoria railway station and parts of the London Underground network. His major work is the Forth Bridge in Scotland, which had the largest span of any bridge in the world at the time. In 1890 he was knighted and went to Egypt to work on the Aswan Dam and other engineering projects. He advised on projects in Britain, Canada and the USA and was President of the Civil Engineers and a fellow of the Royal Society. He died unmarried on 19 May 1907 and is buried at Idbury, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.

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

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

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