Life of service to Chichester remembered

Patricia Kemp, pictured in 2010
Patricia Kemp, pictured in 2010

The life of the late Patricia Kemp, widow of a former Bishop of Chichester, has been celebrated at Chichester Cathedral.

A well-known figure in the city, Patricia died aged 90 on Thursday, August 18, and her funeral service was held last Friday.

Patricia had a tremendous knowledge and love of European and English Literature and as part of the service, some of her family read some of her favourite poems.

She was the wife of the late Bishop of Chichester Eric Kemp. They were married in Christ Church Cathedral on April 7, 1953, and had five children.

The Rev Canon David Nason, who was asked to preach at the funeral, said Patricia had been an important part of ‘the Chichester scene’ since 1974.

In his sermon, he said: “Pat will be remembered by many for her generous hospitality and involvement in the life of the Close.

“The Palace and its garden was always ‘open house’ to charities wanting to organise fundraising events and she was president of the local Save the Children Fund for many years.

“She took part in all the Fringe Reviews that I directed as part of the Southern Cathedrals Festival and she was a loyal member of the Dewberries. This was a daily meeting of the ladies of the Close at the Prebendal School swimming pool for an early morning dip.”

Born in Oxford, Patricia was the third of Beatrice and Kenneth Kirk’s five children. Her father, an academic moral theologian, was a lecturer at Keble College and later Bishop of Oxford.

When he was appointed Regis Professor of Moral Theology in 1933, the whole family moved into Tom Quad at Christ Church and despite the death of her mother when Pat was seven, she had a happy childhood growing up with the children of the other clergy who lived there.

At the age of ten, Patricia went to Queen Margaret’s School, a boarding school in Scarborough, with her sisters Joan and Hilary. Her father was a friend of Molly Parsons, the headmistress.

During the war, the school was evacuated to Castle Howard, the Yorkshire home of the Howard family. On November 9, 1940, a devastating fire ruined a large part of the house and closed the school.

Mr Nason said: “This was an event that Pat always remembered, watching the inferno and the enemy planes circling overhead and rescuing the priceless books from the library by throwing them through the windows.”

Pat went to Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford to read French and German, graduating with a 2:1 after three years. She then went to Hughes Hall in Cambridge to qualify as a teacher.

She sang in the college choirs, the Oxford Bach Choir, ventured into acting and played the organ and lots of tennis. She particularly remembered working on Oxford Station towards the end of the war, making and handing out beetroot sandwiches to the troops as they returned home.

Her first teaching post was in Truro at the high school but two years later, when her sister Joan left home, leaving her father alone, she looked for a job nearer to Oxford.

Mr Nason said: “She applied for a post at Cheltenham Ladies College but she quickly realised that she didn’t want the job and so spent the afternoon convincing the headmistress that she was a quite unsuitable candidate.

“If you were offered the post and turned it down your expenses were not paid, but if you were not offered the post they were.”

It was in Oxford, sitting on the floor at a Church Union meeting, that she first saw Eric, who was on the committee. They got talking, discovered they were both in the Bach Choir and started walking home together.

After two dates, Eric, a fellow and tutor of Exeter College, proposed. They had four girls and a boy and Patricia was proud of them all, saying in her later years that her five children were her greatest achievement.

With her young family at Davenant Road in Oxford, Pat taught privately from home, French to history students and German to science students.

When Eric was appointed Dean of Worcester in 1969, Patricia took a full-time teaching job at the girls’ grammar school and on his preferment to Chichester as Bishop in 1974, joined the staff at the boys’ high school. She was highly regarded as a teacher of modern languages.

Patricia was a proficient needlewoman and enjoyed knitting squares almost until the time she died.

She also went to pottery and typing classes but it was singing that was always one of her favourite pastimes. She was part of the Brighton Festival Chorus, the Chichester Singers and more recently the St Richard’s Singers.

Mr Nason said: “She had a great knowledge of the oratorio and sacred repertoire and derived enormous pleasure both from listening to it and performing it.”

In 1980, a friend from her Worcester days was appointed to a front of house post at Chichester Festival Theatre and soon recruited Patricia to join the team. It was a job which she technically still had right up to the time of her death and one that gave her tremendous satisfaction and pleasure for 35 years.

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