Stamford Raffles

In the north choir aisle of Westminster Abbey is a memorial statue to Sir (Thomas) Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore. It is a seated white marble life-sized figure by the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey, 1832. The inscription reads:

To the memory of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, L.L.D. F.R.S. Lieut. Governor of Java and first President of the Zoological Society of London. Born 1781 Died 1826. Selected at an early age to conduct the government of the British conquests in the Indian ocean, by wisdom, vigour, and philanthropy, he raised Java to happiness and prosperity unknown under former rulers. After the surrender of that island to the Dutch, and during his government in Sumatra he founded an emporium at Singapore, where in establishing freedom of person as the right of the soil, and freedom of trade as the right of the port, he secured to the British flag the maritime superiority of the eastern seas. Ardently attached to science, he laboured successfully to add to the knowledge and enrich the museums of his native land, in promoting the welfare of the people committed to his charge, he sought the good of his country, and the glory of God.

He was the son of Captain Benjamin Raffles and his wife Anne (Lyde) and was born on his father’s ship off the coast of Jamaica. In London he worked for the East India Company and in 1805 married Olivia Fancourt. They travelled to Penang in Malaya but his wife died of a tropical disease in Java in 1814.

Raffles wrote a two volume history of Java, and discovered the temple of Borobudur. He brought back artefacts from Java and Sumatra and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was knighted in 1817. His second wife was Sophia Hull but three of their children died within six months of each other and his son William died in 1822. In 1819 he acquired and founded the colony of Singapore. A luxury hotel there is named after him. He died on 5th July 1826 of a brain tumour and was buried at St Mary’s Church, Hendon.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

Items he brought to London are in the British Museum

The Raffles family collection of letters and papers is at the British Library.


5th July 1826


Statesman; diplomat


North Choir Aisle

Memorial Type


Material Type


Stamford Raffles
Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles by George Francis Joseph

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

Stamford Raffles
Stamford Raffles memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster