Charles Kingsley

A bust in memory of writer and poet Charles Kingsley was unveiled by his son Maurice on 23rd September 1876 in St George's chapel, Westminster Abbey. Due to the re-siting of the Fawcett memorial within this chapel in 2014 the bust, together with one to F.D. Maurice, was taken down and was re-erected in Poets' Corner, on the window sill near Chaucer's monument.

The white marble bust is by sculptor Thomas Woolner. It originally had a granite base with two lions flanking a shield but that was removed in 1882 and is now in the Abbey's reserve collection. The bust was originally on the east wall of this chapel, which is at the west end of the nave, but is now on the window sill on the west side. The Dean of Westminster of the time was attempting to make this area into a "Little Poets' Corner" but most of the memorials to other poets which were there have now been moved to Poets' Corner itself (for example Wordsworth's statue and John Keble's bust). The inscription reads simply:

Charles Kingsley, Canon of Westminster

He was born on 12th June 1819 at Holne in Devon, a child of the Reverend Charles Kingsley (died 1860) and his wife Mary (Lucas). While at school he contracted cholera but went on to study at King's College London and Cambridge university. In 1844 he married Frances Grenfell and they had four children. He was curate and later Rector of Eversley in Hampshire, where he was eventually buried although Abbey burial had been offered. He was a 'disciple' of Frederick Denison Maurice (whose bust stands next to his in the chapel) and was much interested in Christian socialism. Among his many writings perhaps "The Water Babies" and "Westward Ho!" are best known today. He was a Canon of Chester Cathedral and was appointed Canon of Westminster in 1873 and died on 23rd January 1875.

Further reading:

"Charles Kingsley. His letters and memories of his life" by Frances Kingsley, 2 vols, 8th edition 1877

"Charles Kingsley" by Brenda Colloms, 1975

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004


12th June 1819


23rd January 1875


23rd September 1876


Writer; poet; priest/minister


South Transept; Poets' Corner

Memorial Type


Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

Charles Kingsley
Charles Kingsley bust

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2023 Dean and Chapter of Westminster