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Westminster Abbey and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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William Richard Lethaby

In the west cloister of Westminster Abbey is a memorial stone to William Richard Lethaby, Surveyor of the Fabric of the Abbey. This reads:

William Richard Lethaby 1857-1931 Surveyor of the Fabric from 1906 to 1928. Born at Barnstaple, buried at Hartley Wintney

He was born on 18th January 1857, the only son of Richard Lethaby, carver and gilder, and his wife Mary (Crago). After various posts he became pupil and assistant to architect Norman Shaw and in 1889 set up his own practice. Later he was principal of the Central School of Arts and Crafts and Professor of Design at the Royal College of Art and won many distinctions. During his time as Surveyor he wrote two major books about the Abbey and undertook cleaning of the medieval monuments in the church and continued essential repairs and cleaning of the stonework. He also wrote a book on Medieval Art. For the 1911 coronation of George V he designed, with his Royal College of Art students, new white altar hangings which are still in use.

His wife was Edith Crosby but they had no children. He died on 17th July 1931 and although Abbey burial was offered it was declined by his relatives and he lies with his wife near their county home in Hampshire.

Further reading

"Westminster Abbey and the Kings Craftsmen" 1906 and "Westminster Abbey Re-Examined" 1925 by W.R. Lethaby

"William Richard Lethaby. His life and work" by Godfrey Rubens, 1986

"Surveyors of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey 1906-1973. Reports and letters" edited by C. Reynolds, 2019

"William Richard Lethaby" editied by S. Backemeyer & T. Gronberg, 1984

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004


18th January 1857


17th July 1931


Writer; architect; historian


Cloisters; West Cloister

Memorial Type


Material Type


William Richard Lethaby
William Richard Lethaby

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

William Richard Lethaby
William Richard Lethaby memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

It’s a privilege to live and work here – the Abbey really is the heart of the country and its history.

Martin - The Dean’s Verger

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