John Philip Kemble
Born: 01 Feb, 1757
Died: 26 Feb, 1823
Field: Actor
Location in the Abbey: Chapel of st andrew
Type of memorial: Statue
Type of material: Marble

A life sized (about six feet) white marble statue of actor John Philip Kemble stands in the chapel of St Andrew in Westminster Abbey. It is near a statue to his equally famous sister Sarah Siddons. His statue shows him dressed in classical drapery as Cato, holding a book with his right hand against his chest. The statue is by sculptor John Flaxman and was completed by J.E.Hinchliffe after his death. The inscription reads:

"John Philip Kemble. Born at Prescott February 1, 1757. Died at Lausanne February 26 1823"

The memorial was originally in the west aisle of the north transept but was moved in 1864, by order of the Dean, to its present position. He wrote to ask Fanny Kemble's permission and she replied "My uncle and aunt had no business in Westminster Abbey and the statues are in the Dean's hands to do whatever he likes with them".

He was born in Lancashire, a son of Roger Kemble, actor and theatre manager, and his wife Sarah (Ward). He had a younger brother Charles. Educated at the English College in Douai he returned to England in 1775 intending to write as well as act. His sister Sarah was already well known. He played both tragedy and comedy and worked for some years in Dublin. Back in London he played at Drury Lane theatre and became acting manager there producing many Shakespeare plays. He married Priscilla Brereton (nee Hopkins) but they had no children. After various troubles he moved to Covent Garden theatre which was destroyed by fire and rebuilt. While staying in Lausanne in Switzerland he suffered a stroke and is buried in the cemetery there.

See the entry for Sarah Siddons on our website.

A photo of the statue can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading for Roger, John and Sarah:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.