William Woollett

William Woollett, the most celebrated English carver of his day, has a memorial in the west cloister of Westminster Abbey. It shows his marble bust with a relief of his studio below showing the engraver attended by symbolic figures. The sculptor was Thomas Banks. The inscription reads:

William Woollett. Born August XXII MDCCXXXV. Died May XXII MDCCLXXXV. Incisor Excellentissimus

He was the eldest son of Philip Woollett (died 1784) and his wife Ann (Hinkley). He was born at Maidstone in Kent on 22nd August 1735 according to his monument but other sources give 15th August. He was an apprentice to an engraver in the Goldsmiths' Company in London and later built up his reputation as a draughtsman and engraver of stately homes and castles. His first wife was Hannah (surname not known) but their children died in infancy. His second wife was Elizabeth (surname possibly Weston) and only their children Elizabeth, Anne and George survived their father. He was Director of the Society of Artists and his engraving of Benjamin West's portrait "The Death of General Wolfe" so impressed George III that he made him "Historical Engraver to His Majesty". He died on 22nd May 1785 and is buried in Old St Pancras churchyard in London.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

Some of his drawings and a portrait are in Maidstone Museum


15th August 1735


22nd May 1785




Cloisters; West Cloister

Memorial Type


William Woollett
William Woollett statue

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster