Dean who helped to crown King George

IT IS just 70 years ago, on May 12, 1937, that our Queen's father, George VI, was crowned King in Westminster Abbey following the abdication of his elder brother, King Edward VIII.

The Dean of Westminster at the time of the coronation, the Very Rev William Foxley Norris, had strong connections with this area, serving as Archdeacon of Halifax and living at Ovenden Hall.

For Dean Norris coronation year 1937 was the "crowning year" of his career. The abbey being virtually his parish church, he was responsible for the eccles- iastical details of the ancient ceremony.

His main role was to assist the Arch-bishop of Canterbury, including handing the archbishop the crown to put on the monarch's head. His responsibilities also included pouring holy oil from the eagle-shaped ampulla into the spoon for the King's anointing.

Dean Norris was born in 1859 into the Norrises of Speke, a notable Liverpool family. Educated at Charterhouse and Oxford, by 1888 he had been appointed Vicar of Almondbury, where he stayed for 13 years before moving on to Barnsley.

In 1906 he was appointed Archdeacon of Halifax. He was a good preacher, businessman and organiser and, during the first world war he chaired the Halifax Wounded Soldiers' Committee.

In 1917 he was appointed Dean of York and, during eight years in charge of York Minster, he raised 50,000 for the restoration of some of its famous windows and co-authored The Painted Glass of York: An Account of the Medieval Glass of the Minster and the Parish Churches.

He was appointed to the Deanery of Westminster in October, 1925. In 1934 he assisted at the marriage ceremony of the Duke of Kent to Princess Marina.

Shortly afterwards, King George V awarded him the KCVO. When the king was suffering from his final illness in January, 1936, the Dean made a dramatic appeal for public prayer for the monarch from the abbey's chancel steps.

Soon after the coronation, Dean Fox-ley Norris fell seriously ill. He died the following September and was buried in the abbey precincts. He was survived by his wife of over 50 years, Mary Blanche, and by a son and two daughters.

He was also an able amateur painter, winning honours exhibiting at the Royal Academy, and he is reputed to have said: "By nature I am an artist; by accident a dean."