Martin Folkes

In a window bay of the south choir aisle of Westminster Abbey is a memorial to Martin Folkes, numismatist, antiquary and President of the Royal Society. It shows a seated figure of Folkes leaning on two books, one a treatise on medals, the other the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Two cherubs hold a globe and a microscope and a third unveils an urn. The monument is signed by sculptors William Tyler and Robert Ashton and permission was given for its erection in 1790. The Latin inscription can be translated:

Sacred to the memory of MARTIN FOLKES Esq. of Hillington in the county of Norfolk, who, under the auspices of Newton happily devoted his mind, his energies, his life, to the study of philosophy, that lofty subject. He was for long a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1741 was deservedly elected its President. He peacefully submitted to our common fate on 28th June 1754 aged 63. This marble was erected according to the will and testament of Helen, only sister of Richard Betenson Kt. who took as wife Lucretia, younger daughter of Martin Folkes, 1788.

Martin was born on 29th October 1690 in London, a son of Martin Folkes (d.1705) and his wife Dorothy (Hovell). He was educated privately and at Clare Hall, Cambridge but he did not need to earn his own living as he inherited a great deal of money from his father. When he was quite young he became Vice President of the Royal Society and served under its President Sir Isaac Newton. In 1714 he married an actress Lucretia Bradshaw and they had one son Martin who died in 1740 and two daughters Dorothy and Lucretia. As the inscription says, Lucretia married Sir Richard Betenson. Unfortunately Martin’s wife was later confined to a lunatic asylum, where she died in about 1755. Martin is buried at Hillington church in Norfolk.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004


29th October 1690


28th June 1754




South Choir Aisle

Memorial Type


Material Type


Martin Folkes
'Martin Folkes. Mezzotint by J. MacArdell, 174- (?) after T.' by Thomas Hudson
Martin Folkes
Martin Folkes memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Martin Folkes
Martin Folkes figure

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster