Zachary and William Pearce
Born: 08 Sep, 1690
Died: 29 Jun, 1774
Field: Priest; dean
Location in the Abbey: Nave
Type of memorial: Bust
Type of material: Marble

In the south aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey is a white and black marble memorial with bust to Zachary Pearce, Dean of Westminster. The monument was erected in about 1777 and the sculptor was William Tyler. At the top is a shield showing the coat of arms of the See of Rochester (argent on a saltire gules an escallop or) impaling the arms of Pearce (ermine a tiger rampant and in chief three flies). The Latin inscription, written by Dean John Thomas, can be translated:

"Sacred to the memory of the Right Reverend Zachary PEARCE, S.T.P. [professor of sacred theology], Bishop of Rochester, Dean of this Collegiate Church and also of the most honourable Order of the Bath. After a well-spent boyhood at Westminster School, he gathered the riper fruits of learning at Cambridge. With what stature, as both critic and theologian, he emerged thence [ie.from Cambridge], is witnessed by those of his writings already published, and will be witnessed by those soon to be published. At last, being greatly desirous of solitude and leisure, he resigned from the office of Dean so that he should have time for the exposition of Holy Scripture; he would have resigned his bishopric also, had this been permitted. Finally, having completed, as was his especial prayer, his most polished Commentary on the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostle, he rested from his labours, 29th June A.D. 1774, in the 84th year of his age".

He was born on 8 September 1690 in London, a son of Thomas Pearce (d.1752) and attended Westminster School and then Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1718 he was ordained and became household chaplain to Lord Macclesfield and rector of Stapleford Abbots in Essex. Later he was rector of the church of St Bartholomew by the Exchange in London and a chaplain to the King. In February 1722 he married Mary Adams but none of their children survived infancy. A few years later he became vicar of St Martin in the Fields and Doctor of Divinity. In 1739 he was made Dean of Winchester, afterwards Bishop of Bangor, and finally Dean of Westminster from 1756-68, held with the bishopric of Rochester. He was buried in Bromley church in Kent, near the palace of the bishops of Rochester. The monument in that church was destroyed in the Blitz of 1941 but the inscription read:

"In the south ile lyeth the body of Zachary Pearce D.D. who was made rector of St Bartholomew's behind the Royal Exchange London March the 10th 1720, Vicar of St Martin's in the Fields Westminster January the 10th 1724, Dean of Winchester August the 4th 1739, Prolocutor of the Lower House of Convocation December the 7th 1744, Bishop of Bangor February the 21st 1748, Dean of Westminster May the 4th 1756 and Bishop of Rochester June the 4th 1756. He resigned the Deanery of Westminster June the 24th 1768 and died in a comfortable hope of (what was the chief aim of all his labours upon Earth) being promoted to a happier place in Heaven. He was born September the 8th 1690 and died June the 29th 1774, aged 84 years. In the same vault is interred Mrs Mary Pearce wife of Zachary Pearce Lord Bishop of Rochester who died October 23 1773, aged 70 years".

He bequeathed his books to Westminster Abbey Library and many letters addressed to him are preserved in the Abbey archive, which also contains some alternative designs for an abbey monument.

William Pearce and family.

Zachary's brother William, a brewer in Westminster who lived in Abingdon Street, was buried in the north transept of the Abbey. His grave is in front of Admiral Warren's monument and the inscription reads:

"Sarah Pearce died Jan. 17 1759 aged 18 years; William Pearce Esq. her father, brother to Zachary, Lord Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Winchester, died Decem. 24 1782 aged 90; William Pearce, grandson to the above William, who died on the 3 of Jan. 1791 aged 29; and Mary, wife of John Farr Abbot, Esq. his granddaughter and last surviving descendant, who died at Naples, Decem. 11th 1793 aged 31".

William Pearce the younger was son of Thomas Pearce (d.1766) and Mary (Jennings) who were married at St Margaret's Westminster on 10 October 1758. Mary married John Farr Abbot (d.1794 and buried in York Minster), clerk of the Rules in the Court of the King's Bench and brother of Lord Colchester.

A photo of the monument can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

"Life and work of Bishop Zachary Pearce", unpublished thesis by W.S.Andrews, 1952 (available in Westminster Abbey Library).

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