John Ireland
Born: 08 Sep, 1761
Died: 02 Sep, 1842
Field: Priest; dean
Location in the Abbey: Nave, south transept
Type of memorial: Grave; bust
Type of material: Marble

John Ireland was Dean of Westminster from 1816-42 and is buried in the south transept of the Abbey in the grave of his lifelong friend William Gifford (d.1826). The gravestone just says “John Ireland, Dean”, after Gifford’s short inscription. A white marble bust, by sculptor John Ternouth, is in the south aisle of the nave and the Latin inscription can be translated:

“Sacred to the memory of John Ireland, professor of sacred theology, from Ashburton, Devon, who was placed as a student at Oriel [college] in the university of Oxford, then in the year 1802 made one of the Prebendaries of this Church. Subsequently in the year 1816 he was installed Dean of this same Church. A man most famous for knowledge of sacred literature and praised for his well-expressed doctrine. Of upright life and total faith in God. Mindful of the benefits offered to him by Divine grave as a youth, in later years he wished to do good while still among the living by encouraging the studies of youths by means of substantial prizes offered every year at Oxford and Westminster School, and munificently bequeathed money, some to institute a Professor of Theology at Oxford, some to be given to poor scholars of letters at Oriel College, and some that help should be provided so that his compatriots of Ashburton should be fitly educated. He lived 80 years, 11 months and 28 days. He died 2nd September 1842. Hail and farewell in peace.”

Ireland was born on 8 September 1761 at Ashburton, a son of butcher Thomas and his wife Elizabeth. After being educated in the town he went onto Oxford. While vicar of Croydon in Surrey and chaplain to the Earl of Liverpool he obtained an appointment as Canon of Westminster. He became sub-dean in 1806 and Dean in 1816 and was also rector of Islip in Oxfordshire (an Abbey living) from 1816-35. He married Susannah Short (d.1826) but they had no children.

A photograph of the bust and gravestone can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

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