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Sir William Siemens

The stained glass window in memory of Sir William Siemens in Westminster Abbey was taken down in 1926 in order that a new series of windows depicting kings and abbots could be erected on the north side of the nave. (Several other windows on this side of the nave were either moved to other locations in the Abbey or taken down). The Siemens window was in the westernmost bay of the north choir aisle. It became fragmentary while in store and after 1945 fragments were re-used in a mosaic design in the windows of the lantern.

It had been unveiled in 1885 and the base inscription read:

In memory of Charles William Siemens Knt. D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S., Civil Engineer. Born 4 April 1823. Died 19 November 1883. Erected as a tribute of respect by his brother engineers.

It was made by glass painters Clayton & Bell and depicted various scenes representing Labour i.e. workers in science, art and the manual professions. Siemens' portrait was including in the figure of the professor teaching his pupils in the lower part of the window. Before the unveiling representatives of the five engineering societies of the time met in the Jerusalem Chamber in the Deanery and a short address was given by Sir Frederick Bramwell. Once in the Abbey some organ pieces were played before and after the unveiling.

William was a son of a farmer, Christian Siemens, and his wife Eleanore, living near Hanover in Germany. He came to London to introduce a process of electroplating. His brother Werner had founded the Siemens company. He was naturalized and in 1859 he married Anne Gordon but they had no children. They adopted Alexander Siemens, the son of a third cousin. William is known for various inventions including the regenerative furnace, and was concerned with electric light, the electric telegraph and submarine cables. In 1883 he was knighted. His funeral service was held at the Abbey but he is buried at Kensal Green cemetery in London.

Further reading

"Life of Sir William Siemens" by William Pole, 1888

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 for William and his adopted son

Born

4th April 1823

Died

19th November 1883

Occupation

Engineer

Memorial Type

Window

Material Type

Glass

Sir William Siemens
Sir (Charles) William Siemens (né Karl Wilhelm Siemens) by (Wilhelm Augustus) Rudolf Lehmann

© National Portrait Gallery, London [Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0]

Sir William Siemens
William Siemens window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

I’ve worked here for over thirty years and have seen many of the major services - it’s strange to realise that you are in a small way part of history.

Pamela - Rector's Secretary

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