St Thomas More Vault

Sir Thomas More, later St Thomas More, was the Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532, in the reign of King Henry VIII. He opposed the Protestant Reformation and King Henry’s separation from the Catholic Church. 

Sir Thomas More refused to acknowledge the king as Supreme Head of the Church of England, and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, More was convicted of treason. He was beheaded at Tower Hill on 6 July 1535.   

Margaret, his beloved daughter, retrieved his head from a stake on London Bridge where it had been ‘displayed’ after the execution. She preserved the head in spices and was buried with it in Chelsea when she died in 1544. Her husband William Roper was buried in the Roper Chapel at St Dunstan’s Church in 1578. Their son, another Thomas, had his mother reinterred here along with the skull of his grandfather, St Thomas More. The skull was set in a niche in the family vault.

The torso of St Thomas More is buried at the Tower of London.

The Annual Commemorations of St Thomas More

The Revd Hugh Albin, the then Vicar of St Dunstan’s, initiated the Commemorations of St Thomas More at the church in 1971. Coming from Northern Ireland, Hugh Albin saw an opportunity for people of different backgrounds from around the world to unite behind, and cherish, the memory of St Thomas More, a man of courage and integrity. 

Every year on 6 July, the date of St Thomas More's execution, the parish church holds a commemorative civic service, which is attended by the Lord Mayor, local Catholic clergy and members of the legal profession, with an address by a scholar or public figure.


2023 St Thomas More Commemoration Service

The guest speaker was Dr David Rundle, a specialist in the Renaissance in England at the University of Kent. His subject was “From St Dunstan to Thomas More: Canterbury, learning and sanctity”. 

Click here for Dr Rundle’s blog on his address. In the photos are Dr Rundle with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Canterbury, the Rector and clergy of the Benefice and visiting Catholic clergy.

St Thomas More commemoration 2023 1   St Thomas More commemoration 2023 2

2022 St Thomas More Commemoration Service

The guest speaker was Linda Lee, a past President of the Law Society. The theme of her talk was: ‘Thomas More – a modern lawyer’s perspective’. Click here to download her address.

2021 St Thomas More Memorial Service

The address at the service was delivered by the Revd. Dr Jonathan Arnold. His subject was Profit and Piety: Thomas More, John Colet, and the London Mercery.  Click here to download his address. 

2019 St Thomas More Memorial Service

The address at the service was delivered by Professor Jackie Eales of Canterbury Christ Church University on “The education of Margaret More and the Humanist context of support for female education in the early 16th century”. Click here to download her address.


The knowledge that More’s head is interred in the vault of St Dunstan’s church is one reason why so many pilgrims come to visit the church.  The church is always open during the day. If you would like to learn more about St Thomas More, there are many films and documentaries on the internet and YouTube, as well as many books.

If you would like to be on the mailing list for information about the Commemorations, please contact the Benefice Office below or use the Contact Us form.

The Benefice Office, St Dunstan’s Church Hall

80 London Road, Canterbury, Kent CT2 8LS England

Email: Tel: 01227 786 109

Charity Number: 114 0343