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Sarah Siddons

In the chapel of St Andrew in the north transept of Westminster Abbey is a larger than life-size (seven feet two inches, with a three foot plinth) white marble statue to Sarah Siddons, reputed to be the country’s finest tragic actress. At the height of her career she was the idol of the London stage, her greatest role being Lady Macbeth. The statue, signed by sculptor Thomas Campbell and dated 1845, holds a scroll and the inscription reads:

Sarah Siddons. Born at Brecon July 5 1755. Died in London June 8 1831

Sarah was born at the Shoulder of Mutton inn in Brecon in south Wales, one of many children of Roger Kemble (d.1802) actor and theatre manager, and his wife Sarah (Ward). Her brother John Philip Kemble became a well known actor manager - his statue in the Abbey was moved from the north transept in 1865 to be placed near hers. Brothers Charles and Stephen and sister Ann Julia also entered the theatre. Her marriage to William Siddons was unhappy and only two of her many children survived her. Son Henry (1774-1815) was a playwright and actor and married actress Harriet Murray and had children. He died of tuberculosis in Edinburgh and is buried in Greyfriars churchyard there with his wife and son William. Sarah's daughters were Sarah Martha, Sally (died 1803), Maria (died 1798), Elizabeth Ann (died aged six), Frances (died an infant) and Cecilia. She is buried in St Mary’s churchyard, Paddington.

A statue of Sarah, by Chavalliaud, was unveiled on Paddington Green, near the church where she is buried, in 1897.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

Art & Celebrity in the age of Reynolds and Siddons by Heather McPherson, 2017

Sarah Siddons:portrait of an actress by R. Manvell, 1970

Life of Mrs Siddons by T. Campbell, 2 vols. 1834

Memoirs of Mrs Siddons by J .Boaden 2 vols. 1827

Copies of the wills of Sarah, William and Henry and his wife are available via The National Archives

Born

5th July 1755

Died

8th June 1831

Field

Actor

Location

Chapel of St Andrew

Memorial Type

Statue

Material Type

Marble

Sarah Siddons
Sarah Siddons

Thomas Gainsborough [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Siddons
Sarah Siddons

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.

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Gerlinde - Abbey Marshal

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