FRANCIS DAVIS MILLET
Francis Millet was the host of a small group of artists, including Americans,
who congregated in Broadway at the end of the 19th Century. Francis Davis Millet lived
at both Farnham House and Russell House. The group included John Singer Sargent whose painting
'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose' was painted in Broadway.
Millet was born in Massachusetts, USA in 1846. He was a drummer Boy with
the Union forces in the Civil War and graduated from Harvard with a degree in Literature in
1869. He became a correspondent on the Russin-Turkish War (1877 - 1878) for several newspapers
and married Elizabeth or 'Lily' in 1879.
Between Two Fires - Painted by Francis Davis Millet in the Great Hall of Abbots Grange in Broadway
Millet's most famous painting is perhaps 'Between Two Fires', which like
many other of the period, was painted in the 14th Century Abbot's Grange mansion (near
the village green), which Millet salvaged from disrepair with the help of William Morris.
It subsequently became his studio for many years during his stay in Broadway.
Francis Millet invited Mark Twain (on his visit to England from America) to Broadway to act as his best man at his wedding.
In 1912 Millet booked first class passage on the maiden voyage of the Royal
Mail Ship Titanic en route home to the United States. The ship sank on April 15th having
struck an iceberg.
Millet was seen helping women and children into lifeboats. His body was recovered
and he is buried in East BridgewaterCentral Cementary, Plymouth County, Massachusettes.
In Broadway, his friends, in tribute to Francis Millet, paid for a Lychgate
building at the entance to the upper graveyard at St. Eadburgha's
Church on Snowshill Road ( 1 mile outside of the village).
The inscription above the gate is in latin and reads:
Francisco Davis Millet Viro in Artibvs Litterisqve Praestanti Qvi Navi
Titanica Fracta Dvm Spem Timidis Affert Mortem Laetvs Oppetivit Hoc
Amicitiae Memores Sodales Ponendvm Cvravervnt
Translated this reads:
In tribute to Francis Millet a man of excellence in the Arts and Literature.
He met his death with fortitude as the ship Titanic sank whilst still giving
hope to those
who feared for their lives. His dear friends sought the
of this memorial in
fond memory of his treasured fellowship.
The Titanic connection - SHADOWS ON A SUMMERS DAY
There can hardly be a tragedy in history that has intrigued and fascinated more than the sinking of the Titanic in l9l2. In the million words that have been written; in the countless miles of cinemographic tape that have been filmed, a story was told and the inevitable legend created. But lost in the fantasy of the fiction and hidden from view since that fateful day lurks one of the most moving stories of the twentieth century.
This is the true story of one man who drowned on the unsinkable ship. It is also the history of an extraordinary 14th century house that made this man remarkable. It is a story about profound love, the fragile kaleidoscope of human emotion and one truly spectacular burst of artistic creativity that bridged two continents and influenced a generation of artists and writers. In essence it is a story of place - a truly magical, spiritual place - buried deep within the English countryside. Locked inside, lies the story of Frank Millet and the irresistible allure of Abbots Grange.
It may have taken that quintessential of Englishmen William Morris to find the medieval grange in the 1880's, but it needed the love and sensitivity of the American Frank Millet and his beautiful wife Lily to transform it. What they created was a living shrine to their love and a sanctuary for some of the greatest names in European and American culture. The list of those who arrived to seek friendship and spiritual solace at Abbot's Grange is truly breathtaking. So too is their story.
Mark Twain came to reflect on the enormity of human change; Henry James followed to contemplate a cruel world. Edward Elgar was mesmerised by the spirituality of the place while the lugubrious figure of Oscar Wilde arrived to find peace from his homosexual torment. As the beauty of the surrounding Cotswold landscape overwhelmed the great French painter Claude Monet, the moody figure of John Singer Sargent found the greatest inspiration of his artistic career in Millet's English paradise. The legacy he left - Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose – remains unquestionably the finest impressionist picture ever painted outside France.
This then is the story of a remarkable fusion; the inexplicable and bewildering collision of art and life, love and alienation moulded and sometimes scarred by the multiplicity of human nature. It is a story set against the backdrop of the last golden summer before the Great War changed the world forever. It is a story about love - a love so strong and unselfish that only the tragedy of the Titanic could break it.
Frank Millet is a renowned American artist who acquired Abbots Grange in the late 1800’s. Central to the ‘arts and crafts’ movement, his finest work ‘Between two fires’ was painted in the Great Hall at Abbots Grange. The painting is now housed at the Tate Gallery in London.