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Edmund Ayrton

Dr Edmund Ayrton, composer and Lay Vicar of Westminster Abbey, was buried in the north cloister of the Abbey "in the centre between the second and third columns from the east door". He seems never to have had an inscribed gravestone and there is no monument to him. In the same area are buried several of his children: Catherine died 1772 aged three months, William died 1776 aged five months, Sarah died 1778 aged 4 years, Peter Thomas died 1779 aged twelve weeks and his twin James Nares Ayrton died 1780 aged one year.

Edmund was born in Ripon in Yorkshire on 21st October 1734, a son of Edward (died 1774), sometime mayor of Ripon, and his wife Catherine (Clough). His brother William became organist at Ripon Cathedral. Edmund studied under Dr James Nares at York Minster and was a chorister and later became an organist and singing man at Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. In 1764 he became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in London and vicar choral at St Paul's Cathedral. He succeeded Nares as Master of the Children at the Chapel Royal and was made a Doctor of Music. In 1772 he was appointed a Lay Vicar (countertenor) in the Abbey choir, a post he held till his death. The Abbey archives in 1796 record that he "has been lame of one leg for two or three years". He married Ann Clay at Southwell on 20 September 1762 and she died 16th May 1800 aged 60 and is buried with him. Edmund died at his son's house in Buckingham Gate, Westminster on 22nd May 1808.

His other children, most of whom were baptised at St Margaret's church Westminster, were Catherine who was buried at St Margaret's in 1769, another Catherine (still living in 1808 unmarried), William died 1771, Anne who married Dr Jabez Ward, Benjamin who became a doctor on a merchant ship and died in Buenos Aires, Scrope (1781-1811) who died in combat, Edmond Edward (1765-1811) musician and singer in Swansea, another William, a writer, and Elizabeth Clay Ayrton who married Thomas Paris in St Margaret's in 1782 - their son was Dr John Ayrton Paris (1785-1856). William was born on 24th February 1777 and married Marianne Arnold on 17th May 1803. She was buried in St Margaret's 1st February 1836. He was a founder member of the Philharmonic Society and an opera manager. He composed songs and edited The Harmonicon and died 8th May 1858. They had a daughter Charlotte (buried in the cloisters in 1807) and a son Henry Napier, buried 1811.

Dr James Nares has a memorial in St Margaret's Westminster.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

Born

21st October 1734

Died

22nd May 1808

Occupation

Musician; composer

Location

Cloisters; North Cloister

Edmund Ayrton
Edmund Aryton

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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