Norfolk artist 'immensely proud' of Westminster Abbey memorial

Wayne Hart

Carver Wayne Hart at work on his tribute to Sir John Gielgud - Credit: Helen MIller

Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench were among guests at Westminster Abbey for the unveiling of a memorial stone created by a Norfolk artist.

Big names from the world of theatre and film gathered for the unveiling of the memorial in honour of legendary actor Sir John Gielgud - designed and made by King's Lynn stone carver Wayne Hart.

Mr Hart, 35, created the floor plaque with distinctive flowing letters at his studio at Grandey's Place Heritage Craft Centre, near Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire.

Wayne Hart

Dame Judi Dench unveils Wayne Hart's memorial to Sir John Gielgud at Westminster Abbey - Credit: Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey

“I do feel immensely proud and honoured," he said. "Westminster Abbey is one of the biggest galleries of art there is, although people may not necessarily think of it in that respect.

"Many artists have put their work into that building and to be a part of that is really special.”

Sir John Gielgud was one of the finest actors of the twentieth century and died in 2000 at the age of 96.

The ceremony took place where the memorial stone now lies in the south transept of Westminster Abbey next to the Shakespeare monument and memorials to other great actors including Sir Laurence Olivier and Dame Peggy Ashcroft.

Library file dated 2.11.94 of Veteran actor Sir John Gielgud. It has been announced today 22 May 20

Sir John Gielgud, whop passed away at the age of 96 in 2000 - Credit: PA

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Judi Dench, who read Shakespeare’s sonnet 29 as a tribute to Sir John, described him as “a brilliant actor and a brilliant friend”. She later pulled the cover off the memorial stone to complete the unveiling.

For Mr Hart, the dedication ceremony was the culmination of a lengthy design process which began with meticulous research before the design was agreed with Westminster Abbey.

“There has to be an overall balance in the design and interaction between letters and different lines so things connect," said Mr Hart.

A Memorial Stone in memory of Sir John Gielgud OM CH was unveiled in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbe

Wayne Hart with his memorial stone to Sir John Gielgud in Westminster Abbey - Credit: Picture Partnership

"This is lettering, not a typeface, so everything is drawn specifically for this piece and no two letters necessarily need to be identical, which gives it a bit more life and humanity.”

The memorial was made from a block of highly polished block of Purbeck blue marble, a material that has been prized in church building and decorative stonework for more than 1,000 years.

John Gielgud

The completed memorial to Sir John Gielgud - Credit: Helen MIller

With millions of people expected to walk over it in centuries to come, the memorial and its inscription need to last.

Former College of West Anglia student Mr Hart also carved the Edith Cavell memorial stone at Norwich Cathedral and a memorial to Chronicles of Narnia author CS Lewis at Westminster Abbey.

Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen with Wayne Hart at the unveiling of his memorial stone to Sir John Gielgud - Credit: Helen MIller

General view of Westminster Abbey in London.

Westminster Abbey in London - Credit: PA