Who was the first person to be cremated prior to interment at Westminster Abbey?
Sir Henry Irving (6 February 1838 – 13 October 1905), born John Henry Brodribb, sometimes known as J. H. Irving, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility (supervision of sets, lighting, direction, casting, as well as playing the leading roles) for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as representative of English classical theatre. In 1895 he became the first actor to be awarded a knighthood, indicating full acceptance into the higher circles of British society.
On 13 October 1905, at 67 years old, Irving was taking part in a performance while on tour in Bradford, when he suffered a stroke. He was taken to the lobby of the Midland Hotel, Bradford, where he died shortly afterwards. The chair that he was sitting in when he died is now at the Garrick Club. He was cremated and his ashes buried in Westminster Abbey, thereby becoming the first person ever to be cremated prior to interment at Westminster.
There is a statue of him near the National Portrait Gallery in London. That statue, as well as the influence of Irving himself, plays an important part in the Robertson Davies novel World of Wonders. The Irving Memorial Garden was opened on 19 July 1951 by Laurence Olivier.