Born in Ovingdean 1837
Charles Eamer Kempe (he added the ‘e’ which was the ancient spelling of his family name) was born on June 29th. 1837, at Ovingdean Hall, near Brighton. He was the fifth child of the wealthy landowner Nathaniel Kemp; his cousin was Thomas Read Kemp the developer responsible for the building of Kemp Town. Kempe had hoped to become a clergyman but as an Oxford undergraduate, he realised that his severe speech impediment would preclude him from taking holy orders. He decided that if he was not going to be able to minister in the church, that he would use his obvious artistic talents for the greater glory of his maker.
Kempe’s distinctive style
Kempe painted walls, ceilings and woodwork in churches during the 1860s before establishing his own stained glass company in his London studio in 1866. His firm created stained glass and designed and produced church furnishings and vestments; it was well known for Kempe’s distinctive style of jewel colours and figures drawn with tender delicacy. By the late 1890s the firm had grown to employ over 50 men and was the largest stained glass studio in Britain. As a trademark, the firm used a golden garb or wheatsheaf, taken from Kempe’s own coat of arms. Kempe studios produced over 4,000 stained glass windows. Charles Eamer Kempe died in 1907, he is buried in the churchyard at Ovingdean, the place of his birth.
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