Captain William Charles Lemprière, RHA (1788 - 1858)

And the connection of John Everett Millais (1829 - 1896) to Ewell

Drawing of Harry Reid, Arthur Reid and Emily Lemprière by Millais
Drawing of Harry Reid, Arthur Reid and Emily Lemprière by Millais
Three of the 13 children of Captain William Charles Lemprière RHA and his wife Harriet (nee Reid)

An introduction to the Lemprière family of Jersey is provided courtesy of
"Charles Lemprière, Seigneur of Rosel, Chief Magistrate and President of the States of Jersey for upwards of 30 years, was esteemed the representative Jerseyman of his day. The bare enumeration of the offices he filled in connection with his native island would fill pages, and a detailed account of his career, volumes. His public actions bore chiefly on the great necessity of the times - the protection of Jersey from French invasion. He is found in London as a Deputy, procuring arms and artillery for the militia, of which he was subsequently the great disciplinarian. Then, establishing, at his own expense, a system of secret intelligence in France, whereby information of the greatest moment was obtained regarding the forces and intentions of the enemy at Cancale Bay, Brest, St Malo, and Havre-de-Grace. He procured, for all the operations of the British Navy that required them, pilots for the French coast, and, in 1758, he subsidized the shipping of Jersey from his private purse, and organized an expedition to the island of Chausey (now again being fortified, to the dismay of the English press, by Napoleon III) under Lord (then Commodore) Howe, when the existing fortifications were entirely destroyed, and the Channel swept clear of French cruisers. Honoured with the friendship and approbation of the Earl Granville, the Marquesses of Bath and of Landsdowne, and of the Privy Councillors of his time, and with the gratitude and respect of his countrymen, death closed his memorable and patriotic exertions, in the ninety-fifth year of his age.

His son, William Charles Lemprière (1754 - 1790), who succeeded his father in his estates and the greater part of his public employments, injured a delicate constitution by a too rigorous fulfilment of military duties, in almost daily inspecting the fortifications then in course of progress throughout the island. He died at Pézenas, in Languedoc, [1 May 1790], in the flower of his age.

[One grandson], the late Philip Raoul Lemprière (1785 - 1859), Seigneur of Rozel, was a Jurat of the Royal Court, from 1819 to 1835, and was Colonel of the North Regiment of Militia. In early life he thought of settling permanently in England, and to that end purchased the estate of Clere Park, Hants, but subsequently sold it and returned to Jersey, busying himself in improvements in his Seigneurie, and in the cultivation of polite literature, to which he was much addicted. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Poingdestre, Jurat of the Royal Court, by whom he had seven children."
A second grandchild, brother of the Seigneur of Rozel, Jersey, was Captain William Charles Lemprière (1788 -1858), Royal Horse Artillery.

John Everett Millais had been born in Southampton, Hants., during 1829, but was a member of another prominent Jersey-based family. [Link To Wikipedia]
"According to his son and biographer, J G Millais, the artist spent a lot of time at Rosel Manor, home of Philip Raoul Lemprière, who "took a great fancy to him, making him ever welcome at the house. There, then, he spent much of his time, and he learned unconsciously to appreciate the beauties of Nature and Art". The seigneur is said to have given the artist his first paintbox, and when he moved to London to continue his training as a painter, he became friends with Arthur and Harry Lemprière, two of the six sons of William Lemprière, brother of the seigneur."
W C Lemprière's Military Career

William Charles Lemprière, the younger, joined the Royal Artillery as an ensign on 6 June 1804 to be promoted Lieutenant the following 23 October. He did not advance to the rank of Captain until 17 December 1813.

Captain Lemprière served in the Peninsular campaign (1818 -1814) under Sir John Moore, taking part in the cavalry actions at Sahagun (21 December 1808) and Benevente (29 December 1808), also the notorious retreat to Corunna in January 1809. During 1814, he served in the South of France, and was present at the battle of Toulouse, after which he served in the American War, and assisted in the battle of Bladusberg, capture of Washington, and in the operations with the army in the Chesapeake, and before New Orleans. He had been mentioned in a despatch from HMS Tonnant on 30 August 1814: - "Capt. Lemprière of the royal artillery mounted a small detachment of the artillery drivers which proved of great utility" In 1815, he served in the Netherlands, and was attached to the Prussian army in reducing the fortresses on that frontier - the sieges of Maubeuge, Phillipeville and Rocroy etc at the end of June 1815.

1st Lieutenant/ Captain W C Lemprière, Royal Regiment of Artillery, received a medal for his service in the Peninsular War, 1808 -1814, with two clasps - (a) for Sahagun & Benevente and (b) for Corunna.

On 22 April 1820 at Farningham, Kent, he married Harriet, daughter of Thomas Reid, Esq., partner in the mercantile house of Reid Irving and Co. and Director of the East India Company. The Lemprières eventually had thirteen children.

Arrival of the Lemprières in Ewell

Before September 1823, when Thomas was made a baronet, the Reids had taken up residence in Ewell Grove in addition to Graystone Park, Dumfies. Sir Thomas Reid, 1st baronet, died on 29 February 1824. On Monday, the 8th of March, his remains were interred in the family vault at Ewell.
"Seldom has been witnessed so general a demonstration of grief as was apparent upon this occasion. The funeral was attended by a long train of relations and friends; every house in Ewell was closely shut up, and notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, the inhabitants in deep mourning, joined in the melancholy procession; thus proving their sincere regret for the loss of a general friend and benefactor, and their respect for his distinguished virtues and benevolence."
In A hand-book of Epsom, when writing about Ewell parish church, C J Swete remarks: -
"In the North aisle is a mural tablet, which records that, 'In the family vault near this spot, are deposited the mortal remains of Sir Thomas Reid, Bart., of Ewell Grove, in the County of Surrey, and of Graystone Park, in the County of Dumfries, who died on the 29th day of February, 1824, aged 61 years. Also of Lady Reid, widow of the above, who died on the 29th day of January 1829, aged 67 years'".
Placed on half pay from 26 November 1827, Captain Lemprière moved from Cheam, after his retirement from military service, to settle in Ewell. Another daughter, Mary, was delivered in the village about this time (sadly, she died aged only 27 to be buried at St Mary's 24 July 1854). The family appear to have set up home in a messuage (which stood on copyhold plot 289 of the 1802 enclosure map) immediately opposite W C Lempiere's widowed mother in law, Lady Reid. Locals claimed that an additional room was added with the arrival of each additional child so that their property became one of the largest houses in Ewell. What became known as the Manor House stood where Staneway turns out of Cheam Road, formerly Eastern Entrance.

Extract From the 1866 OS Map
Extract From the 1866 OS Map

C J Swete tells us that on the West wall of St Mary's church was a tablet in memory of Mrs. Lemprière, [senior] and her son Captain Lemprière, inscribed as follows:-
"In a vault near this place are deposited the remains of Elizabeth Lemprière, who died June 1833, aged 68. She was the widow of William Charles Lemprière, Esq., chief Magistrate of Jersey, and President of the States of that Island, who died at Pezenas in France, 1st May, 1790, aged 35 years. Also of Captain Lemprière, &c."
Millais and the Lemprières in Ewell

An article in Tate etc, by Edward Platt, explains: -
"In 1840 Millais was admitted to the Royal Academy School in Trafalgar Square. He was eleven and a half years old, making him the youngest ever student, and three years later he sent the Lemprières the first of two illustrated letters that bear testimony to his precocious skills as a draughtsman. In the family address - 83 Gower Street - the word street is represented by two rows of houses bracketing a statue, with a man on horseback and a dog entering from the right. The letter continues the pattern of replacing words with drawings wherever possible. It's addressed to Percy, the third youngest of the Lemprière children, who is shown as a little boy in a blue dress with a cricket bat in his hand and a feather in his hat. A beautifully rendered eye stands for "I", a hand for "and", a bee for "be". Millais describes the antics of a dog obviously known to them all: he informs his friends that he has had his ears and tail cut, and that he behaved so badly on a train journey that a rather disdainful looking gentleman in a top hat and a tail coat thought the wheels of the carriage needed oiling. He sends his love in the form of a chubby cupid with drawn bow, and concludes with a message for Percy's sister.

The letter is undated, but it must have been written in 1843, for in 1844, when Millais was fifteen years old, he repeated the exercise at greater length and in greater detail. The borders of his pages are garlanded with ivy, and there are jesters in the corners dressed in harlequin outfits. Christmas puddings serve as full stops. The letter is addressed to a group of "little dears" - deer who are drinking at a pool of water - and illustrates the preparations for Christmas, with "boys going home to be merry and to enjoy the happy Season". Geese and turkeys are pouring in from the country, and markets and farmers are sending pigs and cows to London butchers, who are depicted in the act of dismembering carcasses. The puppy reappears: he now begs and catches rabbits, and Millais reports that he recently pulled a cloth off a table and shattered some cups and saucers. "I can fancy you all [in] this cold weather talking about the garden wrapped up like little polar bears," he writes- though one of the animals is perched on its hind legs and looks more like a squirrel than a bear. He includes a drawing of Percy - "a modern armed young Briton" - and predicts that he will challenge his brothers and sisters to "mortal combat" when the snow comes. The family seems to have multiplied. There are now eighteen of them in all, shown sitting at the table in the final drawing, but even in such numbers, they will be hard pushed to get through the enormous Christmas pudding Captain Lemprière is cutting.
Illustrated Letter By Millais To The Lemprières
Illustrated Letter By Millais To The Lemprières

In the next two years Millais did more drawings of the Lemprières - one of the family in a pony and trap, two of Harriet and one of William - and on a visit to Jersey in 1845 he painted watercolour portraits of Philip Raoul Lemprière and his wife, and one of Rozel Manor. In 1846, when he was seventeen years old, he submitted his first entry to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and in the same year sent two painted Valentines to Fanny Lemprière. My mother's cousin - who was also my grandfather's god-daughter - owns one of them: Fanny is shown with her dark hair pinned up, sitting on a bench, while a man in a blue soldier's uniform kneels beside her holding her hand. There is a brush of colour in her cheeks, and a pudgy pug dog lying beside her feet. Two cupids hover in the top corners, with bows drawn and darts pointing at the couple, but the man has already been struck: the arrow sticking out of his back testifies his devotion.

None of Millais' biographers explains how their relationship ended, but Fanny makes a brief appearance five years later in the only diary the painter kept."*
John Everett Millais had come back to the area with his painter friend William Holman Hunt and they remained working on the Hogsmill river for 11 hours a day from Monday to Saturday over 5 months from June 1851 to mid October 1851. Millais took most of their first day before he decided on a spot from which to paint a background for Ophelia (the figure was added later in his studio). In September they were joined temporarily by their friends, Charlie Collins and Millais's brother, William, and moved to Worcester Park Farm, a 17th century hunting lodge near Cheam, where they remained until December. Millais remarked on that period: - "we all three live together as happily as ancient monastic brethren".

*Millais wrote in his diary whilst staying in Worcester Park when he was painting the backgrounds for The Huguenot and Ophelia, 1851: -
"November 23rd, Sunday. Went to morning church; felt disgusted with the world, and all longing for worldly glory going fast out of me. Walked, miserable, to Ewell to spend the day with my old friends the Lemprières, who were at Sir John Reid's, opposite. Called there, and was received most kindly. From there went on to afternoon church. On our way met Mr. and Mrs. B---, my old flame. Wished myself anywhere but there; all seemed so horribly changed; the girl 1 knew so well calling me 'Mr. Millais' instead of 'John,' and I addressing 'Fanny' as 'Mrs. B--'. She married a man old enough to be her father; he, trying to look the young man, with a light cane in his hand. Walked over his grounds (which are very beautiful) and on to the new church, wherein the captain joined us, and shook hands most cordially with me. A most melancholy service over all walked home. Mrs. B-- distant, and with her mother. Mr. B-- did not accompany us; found him at the captain's house --an apparently stupid man, plain and bald. Was perfectly stupefied by surprise at Mrs. B-- asking me to make a little sketch of her ugly old husband. They left, she making, at parting, a bungling expression of gladness at having met me. Walked over the house and gardens (Ewell), where I had spent so many happy months."
Fanny Lemprière, born at Ewell 23 September 1830, had in fact married Henry Back of Hethersett Hall, Norfolk, and of Garbrand Hall, Ewell, Surrey, 7 July 1851. He, born 28 February, baptised at St. Peter's, Mancroft, Norwich, 5 May 1811, was educated at Charterhouse and at Trinity College, Cambridge, B.A. 1847, M.A. 1851. A Justice of the Peace for Norfolk, who married firstly at Eccles, Lancaster, 2 May 1848, Annie, daughter of Robert Gardner of Manchester, but she died 12 January 1849, and was buried at Hethersett. Henry also died at Hethersett 15 July, and was buried there 19 July 1878. Fanny Back of Hethersett, the relict, Hatfeild James Back of Dedham,Essex, and John Alfred Back of Hethersett, the brothers, as Executors proved the will, dated 23 July 1857, at Norwich 6 August 1878.

In the article Pre-Raphaelites on this website, Jeremy Harte has written: -
John Everett Millais had Ewell friends in the Lemprières, who like the Millais family, had come to England from Jersey. As a boy, Millais stayed with Captain Lemprière and his large family in Cheam Road. ...Millais made a record of this family life in two drawings. One is a rough sketch of the family watching Harriet cutting a twelfth night cake; Mary has her pull-along horse on the bare floorboards while the family dog sits waiting for a titbit. The other is a more worked-up version; it shows the family in a more formal way and was possibly done as a gift for them.
The Lemprière Family 1847 by Millais
The Lemprière Family  1847 by Millais
The Lemprière Family 1847 by Millais

Edward Platt explains in his article: -
"It's a portrayal of the Lemprière family on Twelfth Night, when it gathered to cut the cake traditionally served to mark the end of Christmas. Its members are depicted from the front, but Millais has placed himself on a chair to the left, where he sits drawing on a pad balanced on his knee. The second or third youngest child, Emily, is the only person who acknowledges his presence - the others are concentrating on the elaborately crested cake on the table, but she is glancing sideways in an unconscious betrayal of the artist's position. Millais seems to be looking at the figure of Fanny Lemprière, the ringletted young woman standing next to him, who he was courting. The head of the family, Captain William Charles Lemprière, stands at the back of the group, while his wife is sitting on the right, absorbed in her knitting - her studious detachment a counterbalance to the sketching artist."
Mr Platt concludes: -
"His friendship with the Lemprières seemed to have run its course, but he must have been a regular visitor to the house in 1847, for in the course of the year he produced eight drawings and paintings of the family - two of Percy, one of Harry, Arthur and Emily, and four relating to Captain Lemprière and his career, as well as Twelfth Night. There are many copies of Twelfth Night in circulation among the descendants of the Lemprières. There seems to be some disagreement about which of the children is which, but my grandfather believed that the man standing at the back on the left, between Millais, Captain Lemprière and Fanny, was one of the two eldest boys. George Reid Lemprière later became a captain in the Royal Engineers and served in the Crimea. He married a woman called Jane Anderson and they had twelve children, including Kathleen Edith Lemprière, who married Henry Maingay in Scarborough in June 1902. My grandfather was the youngest of their two sons. In other words, George Lemprière was my grandfather's grandfather - and, therefore, as significant a figure in his life as my grandfather was in mine. My connection with the Lemprières of Twelfth Night has always seemed tenuous in the extreme, and yet it takes only two steps to bridge the gap between the beginning of the twenty-first century, when my grandfather died, and the mid-nineteenth, when his grandfather sat for Millais."
A Millais drawing of Christmas at the Lemprières
A Millais drawing of Christmas at the Lemprières

Jeremy Harte takes the story a stage further: -
"In 1846, while staying with [the Lemprières], Millais was invited to a dance held by the Gadesdens at Ewell Castle. Gadesden, who came from Scotland, had invited a fellow Scot called Gray to come and bring his family. In this way Millais met Euphemia (Effie) Gray, the girl whom he was eventually to marry - after an interlude in which she met and married John Ruskin, then left him and in May 1847 returned, older and wiser, to Ewell Castle. A year after the annulment of her marriage in 1854 she was able to marry Millais."
Margaretta Elizabeth, dowager Lady Arden died in May 1851, aged 83, - in 1847, she had donated £10 to George Glynne, Rector of Ewell for rebuilding of the parish Church. [William Charles Lemprière was an active fund raiser in that cause.] A provision in her Will read as follows: -
"It is my desire that the Sum of two hundred Guineas shall be presented to my Friend Captain Lemprière of Ewell in token of the great respect and regard I bear him. He has been a kind Friend to me. I have enjoyed his Society and I wish him and every Member of his Family health and happiness in life and may it please God that we may all meet together in Heaven hereafter through Jesus Christ our Blessed Redeemer."
A Huguenot, On St. Bartholomew's Day by Millais
A Huguenot, On St. Bartholomew's Day by Millais
Arthur Reid Lemprière modelled for this painting

Arthur Reid Lemprière, the male model for much of Millais' painting of The Huguenot wrote, after attaining the rank of Major- General: -
"It was a short time before I got my commission in the Royal Engineers in the year 1853 (when I was about eighteen years old) that I had the honour of sitting for his famous picture of 'The Huguenot'. If I remember right, he was then living with his father and mother in Bloomsbury Square. I used to go up there pretty often and occasionally stopped there."
Having been a gentleman cadet at Royal Military College, Woolwich, young Lemprière was promoted 2nd Lieutenant on 21 December 1853. He went to Heliogoland in 1854 and off to British Columbia on duty from 1858, the year in which his father died. Thereafter the relationship between Millais and surviving members of the Lemprière family evidently became more distant for as Arthur explained:-
"I was abroad, off and on, for some thirty years after I got my commission, and almost lost sight of my dear old friend. He, in the meantime, had risen so high in his profession that I felt almost afraid of calling on him. One morning, however, being near Palace Gate, I plucked up courage, and went to the house and gave my card to the butler, and asked him to take it in to Sir John, which he did; and you can imagine my delight when Sir John almost immediately came out of his studio in his shirtsleeves, straight to the front door, and greeted me most heartily.

I was most deeply touched, about a fortnight before he died, at his asking to see me, and when I went to his bedside at his putting his arms round my neck and kissing me."
Major-General Arthur Reid Lemprière

Arthur Reid Lemprière lived on until his 92nd year, passing away at his home, Collingwood Mount, Camberley, on Sunday 10 April 1927 - "the only surviving son of the late Captain W C Lemprière".

Extract From St Mary's Memorial Inscriptions
Extract From St Mary's Ewell Memorial Inscriptions

Auction Announcement from The Times 11 May 1934
Auction Announcement from The Times 11 May 1934

Brian Bouchard © 2011

Lady Berkeley
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