William Edward Forster

On the wall of the north choir aisle of Westminster Abbey is a white marble tablet, with a portrait relief, in memory of politician William Edward Forster. This is by sculptor H.R. Pinker. The inscription reads:

The Right Honourable William Edward Forster, M.P. Born July 11 1818. Died April 5 1886. To his wisdom and courage England owes the establishment throughout the land of a national system of elementary education

He was born in Dorset, the only son of William Forster, Quaker philanthropist, and his wife Anna (Buxton), who was, with Elizabeth Fry, involved in prison reform. Educated at Quaker schools William started business in the wool trade in Bradford and Burley in Wharfedale until he entered Parliament. He became Member of Parliament for Bradford. In 1850 he married Jane Arnold. They had no children but adopted four children of Jane's brother William - these included politician Hugh Arnold-Forster (who has a memorial in St Margaret's church Westminster). He reported on the famine conditions in Ireland and supported aided emigration and opposed any involvement in the American civil war. Later he was under secretary for the Colonies and from 1880-1882 he was Chief Secretary in Ireland. His reform of schools culminated in the Elementary Education Act of 1870. He is buried near his home at Burley.

Further reading for William, his father and adopted son Hugh

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004


11th July 1818


5th April 1886




North Choir Aisle

Memorial Type


Material Type


William Edward Forster
William Edward Forster

Wellcome Images [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

William Edward Forster
William Edward Forster memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

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