Herbert Edward Ryle
Born: 25 May, 1856
Died: 20 Aug, 1925
Field: Priest; dean
Location in the Abbey: Nave
Type of memorial: Grave; tablet
Type of material: Marble

The grave of Herbert Edward Ryle, Dean of Westminster, is in the centre of the nave of Westminster Abbey, near the grave of the Unknown Warrior. A new stone with cast iron letters was laid down in 1983. The inscription reads:

"+ Not by might nor by power but by my spirit. Herbert Edward Ryle K.C.V.O., D.D. Dean of Westminster 1911-1925. Born 25 May 1856. Died 20 August 1925. Bishop of Exeter 1901-1903, Bishop of Winchester 1903-1911. Thou wilt shew me the path of life. In thy presence is fulness of joy".

Nearby, over the entrance to the Dean's Verger's office in the south aisle is an oval stone memorial tablet, designed by Oscar Cheadle, with a mitre above. The letters are painted in blue, with capital letters in red:

"This stone set here by the Dean and Chapter of this Collegiate Church commemorates the life and work of HERBERT EDWARD RYLE, BISHOP, Dean of Westminster from 1911-1925. In that period King George V was crowned; the Empire passed through five years of war; the body of the Unknown Warrior was laid here; also the ceremonies of the installation of the Knights of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath were revived; a great sum was gathered for the repair of the Abbey; and the love borne by the citizens of the Empire towards this place was more and more surely evidenced and established. "Thanks be to God for all His mercies".

He was born in London, a son of John Charles Ryle, bishop of Liverpool, and his second wife Jessie (Walker). She died soon after Herbert's birth and John married Henrietta Legh Clowes. He was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge and became a teacher until he was ordained. He married Nea Adams and they had three sons, two of whom died young. Son Edward was baptised in the Abbey and two of his grandchildren married here. Herbert was Hulsean professor of divinity and President of Queen's college, Cambridge and published several books. As the tablet implies he took part in the coronation in 1911 and was instrumental in pushing forward the idea of the burial of an unknown British warrior after the Great War. He launched the Dean Ryle fund for the repair of the stonework of the Abbey in 1920 and helped officiate at the wedding in 1923 of the future King George VI . He was knighted but clergymen do not take the title Sir.

His stall plate, as Dean of the Order of the Bath, can be seen on the south stalls in the Lady Chapel. Also in the west window of this chapel is his coat of arms.

Photos of the gravestone and memorial tablet can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further Reading

"A memoir of Herbert Edward Ryle" by Revd. Maurice Fitzgerald, 1928

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

"The Unknown Warrior" by James Wilkinson

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