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History

Poets’ Corner

Poets’ Corner is a place of pilgrimage for literature lovers. Here, over 100 poets and writers are buried or have memorials. Many like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens are famous worldwide.

 

Graves of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy

Graves of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy

Others, though popular in their day, are now less well known. The first poet to be buried here, in 1400, was Geoffrey Chaucer, author of ‘The Canterbury Tales’. Not because he was a poet but because he was Clerk of the King’s Works. Nearly 200 years later, Edmund Spenser (1553-1598) who wrote ‘The Faerie Queene’ for Elizabeth I, one of the longest poems in the English language, asked to be buried near Chaucer – perhaps with an eye on his own literary reputation. 

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer

And, so began a tradition of burials and memorials which continues to this day. The Deans of Westminster decide who receives a place based on merit though they consult widely. Poets’ Corner proper is in the eastern aisle, the ‘corner’, of the south transept, though over time some graves and memorials have spread across the transept. Recent memorials include Ted Hughes, CS Lewis and Philip Larkin.

Memorial to Ted Hughes

Memorial to Ted Hughes

Memorial to C.S. Lewis

Memorial to C.S. Lewis

Memorial to Philip Larkin

Memorial to Philip Larkin

The biggest challenge we face is actually time – getting all our work done alongside the daily routine of the Abbey as a working church, visitor attraction and home to 1,000 years of history.

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