Francis Drocus Lempriere, rector of Newton St Petrock


When Francis Drocus Lempriere performed the burial rites for my 3x great grandfather, Joseph Davey of West Hole, on 10 August 1835 he would have had no idea that three decades later he would rescue, marry and finally baptise one of Joseph’s granddaughters.  After all, Francis had already celebrated his fortieth birthday on 11 November of the previous year and was the father of four sons. Francis himself was the second, but first surviving, issue of John Lempriere by his first wife Lucy née Willince. He had been born 11 November 1794 in Abingdon, eight miles from Oxford’s Pembroke College where John had earned his BA (1790) and MA (1792) and would later complete a BD (1801) and DD (1803).

When Francis was born his father was headmaster of the Abingdon Free Grammar School and was known in academic circles as the author of a classical dictionary which was to become widely used in schools throughout the English-speaking world. This Biblioteca Classica (1788) explains the proper names cited by the ancient authors. It has been regularly republished right up to the present day. During Francis’ childhood his father continued his studies with success but was forced to take on other activities to support his growing family. The headmastership at Abingdon, then an affiliate of Pembroke College, was one such enterprise but not one to which he was suited. He was no administrator and during his tenure enrolment declined. This caused the then Doctor of Divinity to take drastic measures. For a fee of twenty guineas he sold scholarships to Pembroke College. This resulted in his dismissal. During Francis’s youth his father also held the living as vicar to Abingdon St Helen with St Nicholas.  Francis, like his father, was to be an avid student, to take a living in a parish but to dabble as well in teaching at a grammar school. It was John Lempriere’s receiving the living for the parish of Newton St Petrock just before his sudden death in 1823 that opened the door for Francis to inherit it.

John LempriereThis is a portrait of John Lempriere which recently came to my attention through the web. I intend to investigate its provenance and authenticity. Having known about him for many years I had the image of a bearded, underfed ectomorph in my mind’s eye. This portrait bears no resemblance to the man I imagined.


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