St Eadburgha’s Church and Francis Davis Millet (1846-1912)

The American artist Francis Davis Millet (Frank Millet) has connections with Broadway’s  St Eadburgha’s Church (a Grade 1 listed building dating back to Saxon times) located on the Snowshill Road, Broadway, about 3/4 mile south of the centre of the village opposite Coneygree Lane. The church is a lovely 10 minute stroll from our Cotswold holiday cottages at West End.

The present church of St Eadburgha’s dates back to Saxon times with late 12th century additions and several later additions. The church was subject to extensive repairs in 1866 and more recent repairs following severe flooding in July 2007 floods when the church was flooded by runoff from the Cotswold escarpment flowing down Coneygree Lane, across the Snowshill Road and into the church.

A few yards further along the Snowshill Road above the church is a wonderful lychgate built as a memorial to the American, Frank Millet.  Millet (Civil War soldier, painter, mural decorator, sculptor and writer) was born in Massachusetts on 3rd November 1846.  He spent many years of his life painting and living in Broadway with his wife and family firstly at Farnham House and later at Russell House near the village green.

Francis died in the sinking of RMS Titanic on 15th April 1912 on his way to New York from Rome having boarded the ship at Cherbourg. Millet who was travelling in 1st Class with his friend Major Archibald Willingham Butt (military aide to President William Howard Taft and President Theodore Roosevelt) was last seen helping women and children into the lifeboats. His body was later recovered from the sea by the crew of the cable ship MacKay Bennett and he is buried at East Bridgewater Central Cemetery, Massachusetts.

Millet’s paintings can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Detroit Insitute of Art and the Tate Gallery, London.  Millet was the first director of the American Academy in Rome and his painting Between Two Fires painted c1892, which hangs in the Tate, was probably painted in the refectory of the 14th century Abbot’s Grange, Broadway.  Millet restored Abbot’s Grange from its monastic ruins and it became a studio for the artists’ colony in Broadway he helped create. The Broadway Colony included artists and writers such as John Singer Sargent, Alfred Parsons, Fred Barnard, Henry James, Edmund Gosse, Edwin Austin Abbey and the actress Mary Anderson (Mme de Navarro), to name just a few.

Sargent spent the summers of 1885 and 1886 with the Millet family at Farnham House and then Russell House. It was in these Broadway gardens that Sargent painted Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose which now hangs in the Tate Gallery, London. Millet’s ink drawing  of Mr Sargent at work on Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is owned by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

The tribute to Millet on the lychgate reads:

‘FRANCISCO DAVIS MILLET VIRO IN ARTIBVS LITTERISQVE PRAESTANTI QVI NAVI TITANICA FRACTA DVM SPEM TIMIDIS AFFERT MORTEM LAE TVS OPPETIVIT HOC MONVMENTVM SVAVIS AMICITIAE MEMORES SODALES PONENDVM CVRAVERVNT’

which roughly translated 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 dedication of this memorial in fond memory of his treasured fellowship.’

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