W.H. Smith

In St Margaret's church Westminster, on the north side near the organ, is a stained glass window to William Henry Smith, newsagent and politician. The window was designed by J. P. Seddon and made by Belham & Co. of Westminster. The colour is not just painted but burned in, which was a recent invention at the time. At the top angels hold scrolls bearing the inscriptions:

B.1825 W.H. Smith D.1891

The centre panel shows a figure of Our Lord as the Light of the World with a lantern and emblems of darkness at his feet. To the right is Centurion Cornelius in armour beneath a palm tree and on the left is Nathaniel sitting below a fig tree reading the Scriptures. The lower panels show Moses giving the tablets of the Law to the Children of Israel, King David playing a harp and Nehemiah supervising the building of the walls of Jerusalem. At the base of the window are lines written by the Bishop of Derry:

Courteous, yet strong, transparently sincere, From storms of state he passed to Heaven's calm year, few flowers or lights rhetorical he sought: truth was his lily, and his light was thought

The memorial was given by members of the House of Commons and unveiled on 15th March 1893 by A.J. Balfour.

William was born in London on 24th June 1825, the only son of W.H. Smith (died 1865) and his wife Mary Ann (Cooper). His father had the idea of sending London newspapers to rural towns by mail coach and later by express railway and young William went into partnership in the business. He ran a stall selling papers at Euston station and gradually this expanded to most London rail stations under the name W.H. Smith & Son. He married widow Emily Leach (who later became Viscountess Hambledon) and they had six children, including Frederick Danvers Smith, 2nd Viscount Hambledon. In Parliament he was secretary to the Treasury, First Lord of the Admiralty in Disraeli's government and Secretary of State for War. In 1887 he was elected Leader of the House of Commons and was also Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. A memorial service was held for him in Westminster Abbey on 10th October 1891 but he is buried at Hambleden.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004




St Margaret's Church

Memorial Type


Material Type


W.H. Smith
W.H. Smith window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

W.H. Smith
Detail of the Light of the World in window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster