Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, is a place of pilgrimage for literature lovers. More than 100 poets and writers are buried or have memorials here.
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.
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 graves and memorials have spread across the whole transept. There are also several clergymen and actors buried in this transept and musician George Frederic Handel.
Poets' Corner by James Wilkinson
For more information on poets and writers see our Famous People section.
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.