Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kempe, Alfred John
KEMPE, ALFRED JOHN (1785?–1846), antiquary, a descendant from an old Cornish family, born in London about 1785, was the only son of John Kempe, bullion-porter in H.M. mint, who died at New Kent Road, Southwark, 1 June 1823, aged 74, by his wife, Anne, youngest daughter of James Arrow of Westminster, who died in 1835. He was educated by two French refugees, but unfortunately was not trained for any definite employment. For about five years he held a commission in the Tower Hamlets militia, but resigned his post in 1811, and lived for a time at Chepstow and Swansea. In the summer of 1813 Kempe moved to the neighbourhood of Holwood Hill in Keston parish, Kent, and having about 1809 made the acquaintance of Charles Alfred Stothard, who married his sister, was drawn into sharing Stothard's enthusiasm for antiquities and aided him in exploring the district of Keston. At a later period Kempe pursued his investigations into the ancient remains at Keston, in conjunction with Crofton Croker. For a short time he held an appointment in the mint, which was lost through reductions in the establishment. From about 1840 to 1845 employment was found for him at the state paper office on special work in transcribing and calendaring, but his health broke down. He died at Stamford Villas, Fulham Road, London, 21 Aug. 1846, and was buried in Fulham churchyard 27 Aug. On 3 Oct. 1808 he married at Leyton, Essex, Mary, daughter of J. Prior, a captain in the merchant service, who bore him eleven children. His sister, best known as Mrs. Anna Eliza Bray [q. v.], the novelist, prints numerous letters to him in her memoir of Stothard, her first husband.
Kempe was author of: 1. ‘The Battle of Trafalgar, an Ode,’ 1806. 2. ‘An Investigation of the Antiquities of Holwood Hill,’ which originally appeared in the ‘Military Register,’ vol. i. 1814, and was appended to John Dunkin's ‘Outline of History of Bromley in Kent,’ 1815. 3. Introduction and descriptions for ‘The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain,’ by C. A. Stothard, 1817, which were issued separately in 1832. 4. ‘Circumstantial Narrative of the Campaign in Saxony, 1813; written in German by Baron von Odeleben, and translated by A. J. Kempe,’ 1820, 2 vols. 5. ‘Historical Notices of Collegiate Church of St. Martin-le-Grand, London. With Observations on the different kinds of Sanctuary formerly recognised by the common Law,’ 1825. 6. ‘Proceedings at Meeting for Preservation of Lady Chapel at St. Saviour's, Southwark, 28 Jan. 1832.’ Preface signed A. J. K. 7. ‘The Loseley Manuscripts. Preserved in Muniment Room of James More Molyneux at Loseley House, Surrey. Edited, with Notes,’ 1836 (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. pp. 596–681). 8. ‘A Few Words to Tradesmen and Public on the desirableness … of abridging the Number of Hours of Business,’ 1842.
Kempe, who was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1828, contributed to the ‘Archæologia’ from 1816, and frequently exhibited curiosities at its meetings. From its members he formed the Society of Noviomagus, which took its name from the Roman city supposed to have been built on Holwood Hill. For many years he was on the staff of the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ and a few copies of several of his articles were struck off separately between 1830 and 1832 (Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornub. i. 232). His paper on Tavistock Abbey was afterwards incorporated in Mrs. Bray's ‘Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy.’ An excellent miniature portrait of Kemp was painted by W. Patten, and engraved by J. B. Swaine.[Mrs. Bray's Memoir of C. A. Stothard, passim; Gent. Mag. 1823 pt. i. pp. 569, 603, 1846 pt. ii. p. 546; Maclean's Trigg Minor, i. 78; information from Prebendary Kempe.]