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Westminster Abbey and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Abbey remains open for worship and you are welcome to join us at our daily Eucharist service if you are able to travel here safely within current government guidelines.

However, for the time being we are unable to open the Abbey and St Margaret’s Church for general visiting.

Sir Sydney Nicholson

The ashes of Sir Sydney Nicholson, organist, lie in the west cloister of Westminster Abbey. His gravestone was re-cut in 1975. He was born on 9th February 1875, a son of Sir Charles Nicholson and his wife Sarah (Keightley). His brothers were Sir C.A. Nicholson, architect, and Archibald, stained glass artist. He was educated at Rugby school and Oxford and studied at the Royal College of Music under Charles Villiers Stanford and Walter Parratt. After working as an organist at several churches, including Manchester Cathedral, he came to the Abbey as Organist and Master of the Choristers in 1919. In 1920 he composed a motet "The Supreme Sacrifice" in memory of the Unknown Warrior and later wrote music for a sequence for St Edward's Day from the 14th century Litlyngton Missal in the Abbey's library. He also composed music for the light opera "The Mermaid". The first BBC broadcast of choral evensong came from the Abbey in 1926 and he took the choirboys on a tour of Canada in 1927. He formed the larger Westminster Abbey Special Choir, which gave annual recitals. He resigned from the Abbey in 1928 to pursue his other interests including founding what is now the Royal School of Church Music. In 1938 he was knighted and died unmarried on 30th May 1947.

The grave inscription reads:

Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson M.V.O. Organist of Westminster Abbey 1919-1928 Founder and Director of the Royal School of Church Music

Further reading

"Sydney Nicholson and his 'Musings of a Musician' by J. Henderson & T. Jarvis, RSCM 2013

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

"Vocation and Endeavour. Sir Sydney Nicholson and the early years of the RSCM" by Watkins Shaw, 1997


9th February 1875


30th May 1947


Musician; composer


Cloisters; West Cloister

Memorial Type


Sir Sydney Nicholson
Sir Sydney Nicholson

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Sir Sydney Nicholson
Sir Sydney Nicholson gravestone

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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It’s very hard not to be enthusiastic working at the Abbey. If this place doesn’t make you smile I don’t know what will.

Valerie - Foundation Director

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