Exeter Civic Society

Exeter Civic Society

Kempe, Arthur

Arthur Kempe, 1812 – 1871, Surgeon and philanthropist

The memorial is in the form of a sculptured shell drinking fountain at the junction of Blackboy Road and Old Tiverton Road, Exeter.

The incised inscription reads simply:

ARTHUR KEMPE

The fountain was originally part of a drinking fountain for horses at the St Sidwell cab rank. It gave its name to the road junction when it was erected in 1879 and was moved when the roundabout was built in 1963. The shell is not the original.

ARTHUR KEMPE was born at Fowey, in Cornwall, youngest son of the rector. He began his medical training at the Devon and Exeter Hospital in Southernhay in 1832 and later won the surgical prize at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Back in Exeter, he inspired confidence in patients and established a successful practice. In 1855 he was elected Surgeon to the Hospital, a position he held for 16 years. He built the Chapel attached to the hospital at a cost of £1300 in 1868, “to avoid the inconvenience of having services in the different wards”.

He was a magistrate, churchman, philanthropist and Conservative. He remained a bachelor and it is said that for twenty-five years he was never known to take a holiday. Probably as a result, his health declined; he gave up his practice in 1870, visited Italy, lived for a short time in Chagford on Dartmoor, and died at Southernhay House, Exeter, on 22 Oct 1871 less than a year after retirement. He is buried at St Sidwell’s Church, Exeter. JM

More information: Royal College of Surgeons website at http://livesonline.rcseng.ac.uk/biogs/E002425b.htm