Henry Austen Layard
In St Margaret's Church Westminster is a memorial tablet to archaeologist and politician Sir Henry Austen Layard. The rectangular tablet on the south wall has a moulded marble frame and a decorative border of mosaic, outlined in gold and interspersed with mother of pearl squares. The larger tablet within the frame contains the inscription and the smaller left panel shows two coats of arms (including Layard within a collar and badge of the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath) and initials HAL and EL for him and his wife. The inscription reads:
I pray you remember Henry Austen Layard P.C., G.C.B. discoverer of Nineveh. He served his Queen and his country with all his heart and with all his might while representing the borough of Aylesbury and Southwark in Parliament as Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as First Commissioner of Works, as Minister at Madrid and as Ambassador at Constantinople. Born 5 March 1817 Died 5 July 1894
His wife's name, Enid L, appears at the end. His funeral took place at the church before cremation at Woking cemetery.
The family was of Huguenot descent. His ancestor Major Raymond Layard came to England from Holland with William III in 1688 and Charles Peter Layard was Dean of Bristol. His parents were Henry Layard, of the Ceylon civil service, and Marianne (Austen) and he was born in Paris. After living in Italy he was sent to England to live with an uncle and aunt (his uncle changed his forenames from Austen Henry to Henry Austen for some reason).
In 1869 he married Mary Enid Guest at St George's Hanover Square. They had no children. The Royal Geographical Society commissioned him to research the terrain in Ceylon but while travelling there he decided to stay in the Middle East. In Turkey he worked under Stratford Canning, British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. He undertook archaeological excavations near Mosul and found ruins of several important palaces. Later on further excavations were funded by the British Museum and he found many treasures including the cuneiform library of a grandson of Sennacherib. He wrote books about his discoveries. In later life he briefly took up politics.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004
"Layard of Nineveh" by G. Waterfield, 1963
"Austen Layard, autobiography and letters..." ed. W.N. Bruce, 2 vols, 1903
This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library
Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster