William Benson
Field: Abbot; dean
Location in the Abbey: South transept, poets corner
Type of memorial: Grave
Type of material: Stone

William Benson, first Dean of Westminster, is buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey (in the area formerly called the chapel of St Blaize). The memorial stone is modern and is just below Shakespeare's memorial. The inscription reads:

"Near this spot in the ancient chapel of St Blaize are interred Nicholas Littlington [Litlyngton] Abbot of Westminser 1386. William Benson last Abbot and first Dean of Westminster 1549"

William entered the Benedictine monastery at Westminster as William Boston (monks very often took the name of their birthplace or home town instead of their family name when they entered a monastery). Actually William seems to have been born in Peterborough but obviously had some association with Boston in Lincolnshire. He was a monk at Peterborough and studied at Cambridge where he met Thomas Cranmer. In 1531 he was elected Abbot of Burton upon Trent and in 1533 became Abbot at Westminster, the first outsider to rule there for 300 years. He attended at Anne Boleyn's coronation in the same year. The monastery at Westminster was dissolved by Henry VIII in January 1540 but William remained in charge until he was made Dean of the new (short lived) secular cathedral in December, under Westminster's one and only bishop Thomas Thirlby. In 1547 he took part in Edward VI's coronation and died unmarried between 10 and 23 September 1549.

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

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

"Westminster Abbey Reformed 1540-1640" edited by C.S.Knighton & Richard Mortimer, 2003

"Acts of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster 1543-1609" edited by C.S.Knighton, 1997.

His will is at the National Archives, Kew.

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