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John Philip Kemble

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.

Further reading for Roger, John and Sarah

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004.

Born

1st February 1757

Died

26th February 1823

Field

Actor

Location

Chapel of St Andrew

Memorial Type

Statue

Material Type

Marble

John Philip Kemble
John Philip Kemble

William Beechey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

John Philip Kemble
John Philip Kemble

© The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

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It’s a privilege to live and work here – the Abbey really is the heart of the country and its history.

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Martin - The Dean’s Verger

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