In the centre aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey, near the west door, is a small stone commemorating the temporary burial of George Peabody, American merchant and philanthropist. The inscription reads:
Here were deposited from Nov 12 to Dec 11 1869 the remains of George Peabody then removed to his native country and buried at Danvers now Peabody in Massachusetts. "I have prayed my heavenly Father day by day that I might be enabled before I die to shew [show] my gratitude for the blessings which He had bestowed upon me by doing some great good to my fellow men". Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.
The Dean of Westminster had offered burial in the Abbey but George wished to be interred in his home town, so a temporary period of burial in the Abbey was decided on as a mark of respect.
He was born on 18th February 1795 in Danvers, Massachusetts, a son of Thomas Peabody and his wife Judith (Dodge). He began his working life at the age of eleven in a shop and moved to Georgetown and became a successful merchant. He travelled to Europe and to England and lived in London for a time. In London he did much for the working poor of the city including providing housing. He was the first American to be given the Freedom of the City of London. In America he also founded institutes and funded educational projects. By the end of his life he was known to Queen Victoria and she ordered that his coffin be taken back to America on a British warship.
A bi-centenary service for him was held in the Abbey on 16th November 1995.
"George Peabody, A Biography" by Franklin Parker, 1971
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004
Illustrations of the funeral are in the "Illustrated London News"
There is a statue of Peabody near the Royal Exchange in London
The George Peabody Library is at Johns Hopkins University, Mass.
18th February 1795
4th November 1869