Somers Clarke Recollections

A transcript of passages relating to Thomas Read Kemp and Kemp Town

Date unknown but reference is made in the text to events as late as 1863.Clarke died in 1892.

From vol. 7 ACC 3733/7 The Keep.

Transcribed from the manuscript by Andrew Doig 14.3.2012

Somers Clarke, 1802-1892. Clarke was born in Sussex, trained as a solicitor in London and came to Brighton in 1827, joining William Attree, solicitor to the Prince Regent, in 1829. James Howlett then joined and after Attree’s retirement the practice became known as Howlett and Clarke, solicitors, a practice extant today. Somers Clarke was Clerk of the Brighton Vestry from 1830 until his death in 1892.

During my long residence in Brighton it has of course been my lot to see the rise and fall of many families. The man most mark connected with Brighton when I first came was Thomas Read Kemp. He was then the representative of the Kemp family who derived their property from Mr Friend of Portslade to whom I have already referred as a connexion of the Blaker family. He had been Member of Parliament for Arundel and many years for Lewes and owned Lewes Castle and estates in the County but his source of wealth was the building land in Brighton. He was a strong man but of no stability of character being at one time a dissenting preacher and at another an owner of race horses. Messrs. Hoper & Son were the family solicitors as they were solicitors for all the best County people in East Sussex. When I first knew the Hopers there was the father called ‘Old Hoper’ and his two sons George and John.

Their office was on School Hill, Lewes (now Hunts, Currey & Nicholson). The Hopers had the management of Brighton Tenantry Down Division as solicitors to Mr. T. Kemp and other land owners, the other land owners being principally amongst the nobility. Thomas Read Kemp was not a man of steady character or purpose and after a while he confided his business, especially that connected with Brighton, to Messrs George & Henry Faithfull, solicitors, in Brighton. Their offices were in Ship Street not far from ours. They were both clever men but not gentlemen. George was called ‘Black George’ and preached in the chapel in Church Street, opposite the Dome and Henry was a cricketer and a very good one too and (far?) the more pleasant of the two I have to have anything to do with.

Whether through a suggestion of George Faithfull’s or of his own accord I could not tell but Thomas Kemp entered into a large building speculation at the East of Brighton and called it Kemp Town. He had married a Miss Baring with whom he had a settlement of £10,000. When I came to Brighton, Kemp Town was laid out in its present form and several houses built there for Thos Kemp by Thos Cubitt and Mr. Kemp borrowed of the trustees of the settlement all his wife’s fortune and mortgaged Kemp Town as the security. A barrister, Mr Crowder (?) who was afterwards a judge, was one of the trustees and my old friend Jo Maynard (who was born in the last century but is still alive) with his partner Crowder (?) were solicitors of the trustees and the end of it was that all Kemp Town was sold to pay the mortgagees and thousands and tens of thousands of money lost in the speculation. T R Kemp was outlawed and gave George Faithfull a power of attorney to sign deed for him and of all his wonderful estate which if finished and managed would have been a source yielding wealth for many years. Not a vestige is left belonging to Thos. Kemp and they do not own a single house in Brighton. Thomas Read Kemp was the owner of the moiety of the Divided Manor of Brighthelmstone and Messrs. Faithfull were the Stewards. The other moiety which was called ‘The Manor of Brighton’ belonging to our client Charles Scrase Dickens of which Thomas Attree was the Steward till he died when I was appointed and am now the Steward. The ‘Manor of Brighthelmstone’ was sold with the rest of T R Kemp’s property bought by the second Mrs. Kemp’s son by her first husband Mr Harvey and now belongs to Colonel Wisden - Upperton and Bacon are the Stewards.

The part of the enclosed Tenantry Down which was allotted to Thomas Read Kemp was bought by the late Marquis of Bristol together with the nominal(?) Rectory of Brighton and the great tithes – these were afterwards bought by Thomas Attree and when he died I bought them of the trustees and I being me I had them conveyed to my son as a gift from me and they are his absolute property.

The Messrs Faithfull through Mr Kemp’s business and the Direct Line Railway to which they were solicitors as far as Sussex was concerned, had fine prospect of being successful practitioners but the only success was that George Faithfull the eldest son was appointed solicitor in London to the Railway Company but after some years was turned (?) out. Henry Faithfull’s son, Robert practiced in Brighton some time and failed as did a nephew William John (who was a prominent feature at all times in their office) became insolvent and died in penury. Henry Faithfull was fond of hunting and shooting and had a place in or near Wivelsfield- pensioned off an old game keeper name Leeny with 10/- a week for his life. Lenny rented one of my little cottages at Valebridge and when Henry Faithfull died the pension ceased but I let Leeny live in the cottage rent free. I cannot put my finger on a Faithfull anywhere.

The second Mrs. Kemp had a good income. They always lived in Paris during Mr. Kemp’s life time and he died there. There was one son by this marriage who was a man of weak intellect – After Mr. Kemp’s death Mrs. Kemp lived in Brighton on the Marine Parade and died there.

Mr Kemp had a large family by Miss Baring. One son went to the Bar and became a Judge in India and is now retired and living in Brighton.

One of the daughters, I think married Mr Campion of Danny There was a fine old English Gentleman living at Ovingdean, Mr Nathaniel Kemp who was an uncle of Thomas Read Kemp who used to come into Brighton and called on the old stagers – remember meeting him at Mr Barratts, Pavilion Parade , the widow of Mr Barratt the senior partner on the firm of Barratt & Blaker – he always dressed in top boots and hunting frock coat with metal buttons. His second wife was Miss Samer (?), a daughter of Sir John Samer and his youngest son by her is Mr. C. E. Kemp the well-known church decorative architect who has a place at Lindfield and is Somers’ particular friend.