Ted Hughes takes his place in Poets' Corner

image captionFamily members and leading literary figures attended the service in London

A memorial to the late poet Ted Hughes has been unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner.

A stone bearing his name and lines of his poetry has been placed below the stone for Hughes's mentor, TS Eliot.

Fellow poet Seamus Heaney unveiled the memorial in front of more than 300 guests, who included Hughes's widow Carol and daughter Frieda.

The greatest poets of the age have been honoured with a tomb or a stone in a tradition going back 600 years.

Chaucer, Tennyson and Thomas Hardy are among those buried in Poets' Corner, and others including Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Blake and Eliot are memorialised there.

"Now the name of Ted Hughes is to be found here too, his ledger stone at the foot of TS Eliot's, his hero and champion," said the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, opening the ceremony on Tuesday evening.

"Thus we honour the memory of one of the greatest English poets. May his words continue to inspire, to challenge, to encourage.

"May his name live for evermore."

Carol Hughes laid flowers, taken from the garden of the Devon home the couple had shared, on the memorial stone.

Hughes's stone is inscribed with lines from his poem "That Morning", which read: "So we found the end of our journey / So we stood alive in the river of light / Among the creatures of light, creatures of light."

'For all time'

Heaney and actress Juliet Stevenson were among those who gave readings at the event, whose guests included writers Simon Armitage, Sir Andrew Motion and Michael Morpurgo, and broadcaster Lord (Melvyn) Bragg.

image captionHughes's first book of poems, Hawk in the Rain, won critical acclaim upon its release in 1957

Stevenson said she was "thrilled and incredibly honoured" to participate, adding: "I think he speaks for and to everybody so I think it is appropriate that he should be here. He is such a prince amongst poets in my view."

Sir Andrew Motion said a place in Poets' Corner offered "recognition that the nation feels admiring of this person and is likely to go on feeling admiring of them for all time."

"It almost literally cements his (Hughes's) place in the great tradition of great British writers and that seems completely well deserved to me and I dare say to all and sundry," the former Poet Laureate said.

Speaking to BBC News ahead of the ceremony, Heaney said: "I think Ted would be utterly honoured to be at the foot of TS Eliot and he would indeed be honoured to be in the Corner.

"He was a poet of England and though he may not have been as conventional a member of the Anglican church as TS Eliot was, he had basically a religious vision so he would be very happy to be in the Abbey.

"I think it's what he deserves; it's his due. Thinking of the other poets who are there, there's a memorial to the First World War poets who meant everything to him.

"Also, there's a memorial to Sir John Betjeman, a previous Poet Laureate; there's a memorial to John Clare who was a nature poet; and a memorial to William Blake - a visionary. I think Ted is at home in that company."

media captionPoet Seamus Heaney told the BBC's Will Gompertz that his friend, Ted Hughes, deserved a place at Poets' Corner

It was announced last year that Hughes would be honoured in Poets' Corner but the exact location was not known until last month.

The writer, from Yorkshire, died aged 68, just months after his last collection of poems - Birthday Letters - was published.

The poems were about his first marriage to American poet Sylvia Plath, who killed herself in 1963 after they split up.

A letter Hughes wrote to her in 1956 was chosen as one of the readings at the ceremony.

His first book of poems, Hawk in the Rain, won critical acclaim upon its release in 1957. He became Poet Laureate in 1984 and remained in the post until his death from cancer in 1998.

Charles Dickens, Samuel Johnson and Rudyard Kipling are among the other writers buried in the Abbey.

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