William Vincent
Born: 02 Nov, 1739
Died: 21 Dec, 1815
Field: Dean
Location in the Abbey: South transept, chapel of st benedict
Type of memorial: Grave; tablet
Type of material: Marble

William Vincent, Dean of Westminster and classical scholar, is buried in St Benedict's chapel in Westminster Abbey. His gravestone reads:

"William Vincent D.D. Dean of this Collegiate Church. Born November 2nd 1739. Died December 21st 1815. Under whose auspices and thro' whose exertions in the year 1809 the restoration of King Henry 7th chapel was begun".

Nearby in the south transept, between the monuments to Dr Busby and Dr South, is a memorial tablet of white marble. The Latin inscription can be translated:

"Here repose the mortal remains of WILLIAM VINCENT, who as a boy was reared within the walls of this house and, his academic studies completed, soon returned to this abode that he had left: he rose from the lowest rank of tutor to the highest, and was finally decorated with the Decanate of this Church, which he most singularly loved. As to the quality of his life, his learning and his character, let his sepulchral stone keep silent. Sprung from the noble stock of the Vincent family of Sheepy in Leicestershire, he was born in London on the second of Nov. 1739 and died on the 21st Dec. 1815"

William was born in London, the fifth son of Giles Vincent and his wife Sarah (Holloway). His father was a packer and Portugal merchant whose business was badly hit by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 when William's elder brother was killed. William was educated at Westminster School and after university returned there as an usher, or tutor, and rose to become Head Master 1788-1802. He had been ordained in 1762 and was made a prebendary of Westminster in 1801 and was also Rector of St John's Westminster and of Islip in Oxfordshire. From 1802-1815 he was Dean of Westminster. He petitioned Parliament for funds to restore the crumbling stonework of Henry VII's chapel and in 1810 he enclosed about ten acres of nearby Tothill Fields for the use of the scholars of Westminster School and this area was called Vincent Square. His chief writings were on ancient geography.

On 15 August 1771 he married Hannah Wyatt in St Margaret's Westminster. Their children were Hannah who died young, William St Andrew Vincent and George Giles Vincent. His wife was buried in the north transept and the Dean wrote the following inscription on her monument (translated from the Latin):

"Sacred to the memory of his Hannah, best of women, most excelland mother and dearest wife: beautiful, but without vanity: merry, but without frivolity: Christian, but without credulity. This stone was placed here as a memorial of his everlasting grief at the bidding of William Vincent, S.T.P., Dean of this Collegiate Church. Hannah came from the noble house of the Wyatts of Wychwood in Oxfordshire, the daughter of George Wyatt and Hannah Wood; born Aug.3rd 1735, married 15th Aug. 1771, and died 17th Feb. 1807"

This small white marble tablet was moved from the north transept and is now sited under William's memorial. Hannah's mother died in 1782 aged 84 and was buried in the north cloister, and her sister Elizabeth, died 1790 aged 65, also lies there. Later, the following addition was made to her tablet:

"Buried in the north transept, where this inscription was first placed. Their second son GEORGE GILES VINCENT, after holding for fifty years the office of Chapter Clerk, was buried in the NORTH CLOISTER, February 3rd 1859 aged 84".

William St Andrew Vincent was born on 30 November 1772 and baptised in the Abbey. He married Frances Elizabeth Gayfere (nee Jones) who died 1855 aged 80. Their children baptised at the Abbey were Josepha Mary 1806 who married Richard Robertson, and Frances Ann 1807 who married Reginald Boddington. Two others, John Francis and William, attended Westminster School.

George Giles Vincent was born on 11 April 1774 and baptised in the Abbey. His first wife was Mary Worsley, d.1802. His second wife was Emilia daughter of James Tappenden of Faversham in Kent whom he married at St Margaret's Westminster in 1817. Their children baptised at the Abbey were Francis William (1818) who married Cecilia Worsley, Thomas (1819) who married Dora Watkins, Mary Margaret (1822) who married Charles St Clare Bedford (Chapter Clerk of the Abbey) and Emilia (1828).  Another son George attended Westminster School and married Caroline Bedford and was Steward of the manors of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. George Giles is buried with his second wife, who died 5 September 1848 aged 63, in the north cloister.

The Dean's nieces, Sarah and Elizabeth Newcombe (daughters of Elizabeth Vincent who married John Newcombe), are buried in the north cloister of the Abbey.

Photos of the memorials, and a photo of a portrait of the Dean, can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.