Alfred Edward Housman's ashes are buried in St. Lawrence's Church, Ludlow, Shropshire,
Plaque on Church Wall.
Photograph by Peter Burden
A cherry tree stump marks the spot and a plaque was placed
on the north wall of the church. A new cherry tree has subsequently been planted by the Housman
Society to the west of the church. The second poem of A Shropshire
Lad famously describes a cherry tree: 'Loveliest of trees, the
cherry now/Is hung with bloom along the bough,'.
Housman was educated
at Bromsgrove School - where he won a scholarship to St. John's College
Oxford. Housman was a natural academic but mysteriously failed his
finals and left Oxford without a degree. From 1882 he worked for ten
years in Her Majesty's Patent Office, pursuing his interest in Latin and
Greek in his spare time. In 1892 he was appointed Professor of Latin at
University College, London and later took up the same position at
Cambridge University in 1911.
As a poet, Housman is chiefly remembered for the wistful and metrical poems of A Shropshire
Lad (1896) which he originally published at his own expense. Housman was not a native of Shropshire but originally came from
Worcestershire. However, Shropshire became an imaginary landscape for him. The
poems present a lyrical and nostalgic view of
English country life but are also underpinned by a deep sense of
a student at Oxford University Housman fell in love with fellow undergraduate Moses
Jackson. When Jackson later emigrated to India and married, Housman was
heartbroken. Jackson may well have been the inspiration behind many of the poems
that made up A Shropshire Lad.
The collection proved popular with both the critics and the
general public and many
of the soldiers carried a copy with them to the
A further collection, entitled Last Poems was
published in 1922. After Housman's death, his brother Laurence allowed
the publication of More Poems.
Housman declined honours
including the Order of Merit. He died in
Cambridge on 30th April 1936. His epitaph is taken from his poem
In his sonnet addressed to Housman, W.H. Auden
described him as one who: 'Kept tears like dirty postcards in a drawer'.