St. Mary Woolnoth Church


Famous People Buried There

Edward Lloyd

Birth: unknown

Death: 1713

Founder of Lloyd's Coffee House and hence of the insurance industry (Lloyd's of London, which grew from the transactions undertaken by brokers while drinking coffee there).

John Newton

Birth: Jul. 24, 1725

Tower Hamlets

Greater London, England

Death: Dec. 21, 1807


Greater London, England

Evangelist, Abolitionist, Author of the hymn "Amazing Grace". In one of history's most dramatic cases of religious conversion, English slaveship master John Newton came to recognize and renounce the evil of his role in the African slave trade, and after taking holy orders as an Anglican clergyman, went on to inspire and become a key adviser to William Wilberforce, among other leaders in the abolition movement. Born in Wapping, London, he was the son of John Newton, a shipmaster and later governor of Fort York in Ontario, Canada. His mother, the former Elizabeth Seatclife, died of tuberculosis when he was a child. He went to sea with his father at the age of 11, and had made half a dozen voyages when the elder Newton found a position for him at a Jamaican sugar cane plantation in 1743. While en route to his new employment, however, the 17-year-old was impressed into the British navy and forced to serve as a midshipman. A failed attempt at desertion led to disgrace, and subsequent failure as a trader in Sierra Leone resulted in a brutal period of servitude rivalling that of the Biblical prodigal son's. Newton's fortunes improved when he became a slaveship master, but after experiencing a religious epiphany during a storm at sea in 1748, his newfound Christianity made it increasingly impossible for him to reconcile his conscience with his livelihood. In 1750 he wed his childhood sweetheart, Mary Catlett, and by 1755 had severed all ties with the slave trade. While serving as a lay preacher, he took up the study of ancient languages, wrote religious tracts, and after his ordination in 1764, became curate at Olney, in Buckinghamshire, where his reputation and influence continued to grow. While at Olney his friendship and collaboration with poet William Cowper resulted in the celebrated hymnal which includes Newton's masterpiece, "Amazing Grace", oft cited as the most beloved hymn in the English language. In 1779 he left Olney to become rector of St. Mary Woolnoth in London, and while there persuaded the young William Wilberforce, the driving force in the British anti-slavery movement, to remain in Parliament to continue the fight for abolition rather than enter the ministry. Newton continued to serve at St. Mary Woolnoth until his death at age 82, and was initially buried there with his wife, who had predeaceased him in 1790. The extension of the London Underground necessitated the transferral of the couple's remains to a corner of the churchyard of St. Peter and Paul, Olney, in 1893. (bio by: Nikita Barlow)