Gabriel Goodman

In the chapel of St Benedict in Westminster Abbey is a monument to Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster from 1561-1601, who is buried there. It consists of a bearded figure in Doctor's robes and cap kneeling in front of a prayer desk, on which is an open book. The effigy, the archway around it and the coat of arms above were all re-painted in the 1960s. The Latin inscription can be translated as:

To God the best and greatest. Gabriel Goodman, Doctor of Theology, fifth Dean of this church, which he headed with great praise for 40 years; and at Ruthin in Denbighshire, where he was born, he founded a hospital and instituted a school. Dear to God and good people for his holiness of life, he departed piously for the heavenly country on 17 June 1601, aged 73.

The arms are those of the Collegiate Church (ie. the Abbey) impaling Goodman. His shield shows "per pale, ermine and sable, a double headed eagle displayed, or, on a canton of the second, a martlet of the last" (ie. a golden double-headed eagle on an ermine and black background with a small gold bird on a blue square in the top left corner). Unfortunately the ermine design was not painted on and this section is shown plain. This coat of arms was granted to the Goodman family of Ruthin in 1572 (according to Burke's General Armoury).

The monument was constructed on the original chapel piscina and in the 1930s the site of the cell of the Abbey's recluse, or anchorite, was discovered behind the prayer desk.

His Life

Gabriel was born on 6th November 1528, a son of Edward (d.1560) ap Thomas Edward of Ruthin in North Wales who took the surname of Goodman (to literally mean a good man). Edward was a wealthy mercer of the town and married Cecily Thelwell. Gabriel was educated at Cambridge and became chaplain to Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burghley, a secretary of state under Edward VI and later Elizabeth I's chief minister. He was made a Canon of St Paul's Cathedral and then a Canon of Westminster in 1560, becoming Dean in 1561. When William Morgan was supervising the printing of the Welsh Bible he stayed with Goodman at the Deanery (the copy presented by Morgan in 1588 is still housed in the Abbey Library). The Dean was well versed in several languages and although he was considered for seven bishoprics he never succeeded in obtaining one. He made a great contribution to Westminster School and to the fledgling City of Westminster and was described as "a right good man indeed, of singular integrity and an especial patron of literature". He died unmarried, as the queen preferred the clergy to be celibate.He gave two bells to the Abbey in 1583 and 1598 which still hang in the belfry, both by bell founder Robert Mot.

Godfrey Goodman

Gabriel's brother Godfrey (d.1587) was Chapter Clerk at the Abbey and his son Godfrey, who became Bishop of Gloucester, was buried at St Margaret's Westminster in 1656. Gabriel, a son of the Dean's elder brother Gawen, was buried in the south cloister in 1576. Hugh Goodman was a Canon of Westminster from 1607-23 but the exact relationship to the Dean is unclear.

Thomas Meredith, son of Meredith Thomas a prominent citizen of Brecon, served as Goodman's secretary from 1565-76 and many of his personal letters and papers are preserved in the archives of the Abbey. He married Agnes Man and was buried in the Abbey in 1576.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

"Gabriel Goodman and his native homeland" by Dr Enid Roberts, 1988

"Acts of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster 1543-1609" edited by Charles Knighton, 2 vols, 1997

"The Muniments of Westminster Abbey: some links with Wales" by Lawrence Tanner (a lecture to the friends of Brecon cathedral 1939)

"On some recent discoveries in Westminster Abbey - the cell of the Recluse at Westminster" by Sir Charles Peers & Lawrence Tanner, Archaeologia vol. XCIII, 1949


17th June 1601


Dean; priest/minister


Chapel of St Benedict

Memorial Type


Material Type


Gabriel Goodman
Gabriel Goodman memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Gabriel Goodman
Gabriel Goodman portrait

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster