Ernest Jean Pierre KUMPS and his wife Jeanne Josephine Marie (nee VAN BRIEN) came to Tunbridge Wells with their daughters Sylvie (15), Julienne (14), Madeleine (12), Elisa (9) and Jeanne (4) from their home at 239 rue de Merode in Brussels, not far from the Palais de Justice – the Law Courts – where M. KUMPS was employed.
Mme KUMPS was from Lier near Antwerp, and the couple had married in Antwerp on New Year’s Eve 1892. Daughters Sylvie and Julienne had been employed as shop assistants at the A l’Innovation department store on the rue Neuve in Brussels.
A home was found for them all at 40 Upper Grosvenor Road.
This 10-roomed house was offered by Miss CANDLER in late October 1914 on behalf of the Society of Friends – a fact mentioned in the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser, but not, so far as I can see, in the Kent & Sussex Courier – and had been the home of a leading member of the Society, Thomas Ashby WOOD, until his death at the age of 79 on 26 August 1914. According to his will, he left the house to his daughter Kate who had looked after him and the house since his wife’s death in 1912 – I’d thought maybe he’d left it to the Society of Friends.
I wonder where his daughter lived while it was home to the KUMPS family and others. And why it was left to Miss CANDLER to oversee its use as housing for the Belgian families. Anyone?
Mr KUMPS became the first President of the Belgian community’s Club Albert when it was set up in November 1914; he was President when the bust of the Mayor was presented to the town in September 1915, and continued in the role until January 1916 when he joined the Belgian Army and left for the Front. He was by then 6 months short of his 45th birthday.
His family left Tunbridge Wells for France from Southampton in May 1916.
Little Jeanne KUMPS must have made her mark on the town – not least when in March 1915 this “tiny mite of four years” sang the British National Anthem in English at a concert at St Luke’s School – a concert at which all the performers were Belgian refugees resident in the town (Kent & Sussex Courier, 26th March 1915).
In July 1917, the Courier reported that Bro. E. KUMPS of the Belgian Army sent fraternal greetings to the “Royal Victoria” Lodge of the Druids.
I have traced the family in the Brussels Censuses at the City of Brussels Archives (3) and find that they all returned safely to Brussels after the war.
I wonder what became of little Jeanne?
(1) Sarah CANDLER and her sisters, Lucy and Phillis, strongly influenced by their Quaker beliefs, were actively involved in Tunbridge Wells in a wide range of political and social causes. They ran the Woodlands Steam Laundry at 104 Upper Grosvenor Road. Read more about them on the University of Kent’s Inspiring Women website. Their older sister Elizabeth married an ASHBY but I have yet to find a connection with Thomas Ashby WOOD though I’m convinced there is one – ASHBY was his mother’s maiden name…
On Monday I spoke to the morning assembly at Beechwood Sacred Heart School about the Belgian refugees and in particular the WILLEMS family – Christiane and Clementine WILLEMS, aged 8 1/2 and 7 respectively, were the first pupils to arrive at the school when it opened on 2nd February 1915.
Beechwood Sacred Heart School first school photograph : Are these two little girls Christiane and Clementine WILLEMS?
Preparing for the talk, I realised that the next instalment of the WILLEMS family’s story is long overdue, and also that I missed the 101st anniversary of the presentation to the town by Tunbridge Wells’s Belgian Colony of the wonderful life-size bronze bust of Mayor Charles Whitbourn Emson on 22nd September 1915 (1)
This bust was made by Belgian sculptor Paul VAN DE KERCKHOVE (spelling varies) in 1915 while he was staying in Tunbridge Wells. He undertook the work free of charge, and local artist Alexander H. KIRK (2) lent his studio on Upper Cumberland Walk to the artist.
Paul Armand Van De Kerckhove (1876-?) arrived in Tunbridge Wells from Brussels in September or October 1914, and by 1917 had moved on to London where he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1917, 1918 and 1919.
After consulting Census records in Brussels, I believe he was the son of sculptor J. Antoine VAN DE KERCKHOVE “dit NELSON” (c1849-?) but I have yet to prove it…
The bust was presented to the town of Tunbridge Wells with great pomp and ceremony at the Great Hall by President of the Club Albert, Professor Joseph WILLEMS. There were speeches and then a concert at which leading Belgian artistes performed, not least Monsieur Jean DELVILLE (Wikipedia link), himself a refugee in London, who recited “several of his dramatic and patriotic poems” (Kent & Sussex Courier 25 September 1915).(3)
“It was the whole of Great Britain which rose vibrating with indignation at the violation of our peaceful land – it is she who called, and took under her protection, the uprooted inhabitants of our unfortunate Belgium.” Professor Joseph WILLEMS
Professor WILLEMS made a most eloquent speech at the presentation ceremony, and I offer here the translation which was published in full in the Kent and Sussex Courier on 25 September 1915 :
“The Belgian Colony feel a profound joy in being able to express today in a special manner the sentiments which animate the hearts of all its members in regard to the hospitality of England. The Belgians are glad, Mr. Mayor, to express their gratitude for the persevering self-denial with which you have devoted yourself to their interests in the painful trials they have experiences. You have in Tunbridge Wells organised a scheme carried out in a most generous and considerate way, assisting thereby a very large number of Belgians. You have maintained this work, not during some weeks or some months only (the extreme limit to which Belgium assigned her exile), but for more than a year already. My compatriots will carry away with them, as I shall, the touching remembrance of the courtesy with which you have met all our requests, the excellence of your advice, and the unvarying kindness with which you have always received us.
“In the thanks which we address to you, Mr. Mayor, we associate all those who have supported your initiative in so wonderfully generous a manner, and who continue to aid you in the task you have so nobly undertaken. We thank in the warmest manner the Belgian Refugees’ Committee which has seconded your efforts with so much tact and devotion. Their many delicate attentions, their kindly encouraging visits, each of us recalls with emotion. Our thanks also are proffered to your colleagues of the Town Hall whose obliging kindness, often put to the proof, was never found lacking; to your physicians, your surgeons, your nurses, whose devotion has called forth our deep admiration; to your fellow-citizens, who have provided us with places for re-union and amusement; to all these generous hearts, who by a thousand considerate attentions have alleviated our sufferings – in a word, to all the inhabitants of Tunbridge Wells who have done their best to soften our lot, we say with all our hearts “We thank you”.
“But, ladies and gentlemen, that which we have before our eyes in Tunbridge Wells is but an isolated example of the magnificent work which the whole of Great Britain has presented to us. Yes, it is to her our deep gratitude goes forth. It was the whole of Great Britain which rose vibrating with indignation at the violation of our peaceful land – it is she who called, and took under her protection the uprooted inhabitants of our unfortunate Belgium.
“Finally, we are proud of being able to express our feelings in a durable and appropriate memorial. We have had the good fortune of possessing amongst us a talented artist, who, with delightful spontaneity, offered to undertake a work which the Belgian Colony could never have ventured to propose to him. Sprung from a family of artists, Monsieur Vande Kerckhove, by his individual genius, has attained the highest rank in his profession. His works are amongst those which enforce attention, and you will see for yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, that in the execution of the bust of the Mayor the artist has proved himself worthy of his high reputation. This work, Mr. Mayor, we express the hope of seeing placed in the Council Chamber of your Town Hall. It will be a public proof of our gratitude, a souvenir of the stirring times in which our countries have aided each other; and after our return to our devastated but indomitable land, freed from the odious barbarian yoke, when any of you cast your eyes on this gift, you will recall with gratification the signification of this bronze, and will give a thought to the exiles of today whom you comforted so greatly in the time of their distress. In the name of the Belgian Colony, and as a token of our gratitude, I present to the town of Tunbridge Wells the bust of its respected Mayor.”
(2) Alexander Horace KIRK and his wife Constance MORTIMORE lived at Brook Cottage, Upper Cumberland Walk, and were both artists. Alexander Kirk painted a notable portrait of W.C.CRIPPS in 1914 on the occasion of Mr Cripps’s Silver Jubilee as Town Clerk. Constance Mortimore described herself as a “miniature painter” on the 1911 Census. Their only son, John Alexander Carnegie, tragically died at the age of 8 on 29 January 1918.
(3) The Mayor also received a commemorative album signed by all members of the Belgian community of Tunbridge Wells and district – no doubt similar to those presented to Amelia and Louisa Scott and the other ladies of the committee in 1916.
An entry in the Album presented to the Misses SCOTT in July 1916 caught my eye early on : that of a Madame ENSOR from Ostend.
Was there a connection to Ostend resident, the painter James ENSOR (1860-1949), son of an English father and Belgian mother? His mother perhaps? An aunt? Research revealed that he himself stayed in Ostend throughout the war, and that his mother died there in 1915. So not her.
However, his sister Marie (‘Mietche’), used the name ‘Madame ENSOR’ following a failed marriage to Alfred John Taen-Hee-Tsen. Could this be her? It was known that she was in England during the First World War.
And there was more : on the same page was an Augusta BOOGAERTS of 54 rue de Theux, Brussels. That was the names of James ENSOR’s life-long close friend (some thought mistress) whom he called “La Sirène” and whom he painted on a number of occasions. And she lived at 54 rue de Theux in Brusssels…
And digging a little more I found that Mietche’s daughter Mariette, known as Alex, had married a Richard Jules DAVELUY in 1908 – and that was the name of the Secretary to the Club Albert in Tunbridge Wells –
Monsieur R.J. DAVELUY – later in the album signing his name as Rich. Jules DAVELUY. And alongside his inscription were Alex and their son Jules.
Must be them…
27 rue de Flandre is now the Ensor Museum in Ostend. I visited it last month : what a treat! (And also a fabulous exhibition at the MuZEE of works by the two great Ostend artists, ENSOR and Leon SPILLIAERT….)
Next stop the Archives in Brussels and the Refugees Registration documents, where I found the confirmation I was after (apologies for the blurred photos…) :
Marie ENSOR and her daughter ‘Alex’ had lived with the painter and were very close. Alex was only 15 when she married Casino croupier Richard DAVELUY. Her uncle opposed the marriage and there was a falling-out which lasted for a number of years.
James ENSOR met 18yr old Augusta BOOGAERTS, daughter of an Ostende hotelier, in 1888 in his mother’s shop (where Augusta was working for a short time), and so began a life-long friendship. The story goes that his mother opposed their friendship, and even after her death, they never lived together.
And my favourite :
COMING SOON to London : An ENSOR Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, 29th October 2016-29th January 2017. Very excited!
“The theatrical, the satirical and the macabre come together in arresting fashion in the art of James Ensor. Curated by Luc Tuymans, this exhibition will present a truly original body of work, seen through the eyes of one of today’s leading painters.”