The Kemble Dynasty

In British theatrical history, writes Joanna Richardson, the famous Kemble line has an almost unequalled record of achievement.

On July 5th, 1755, in The Shoulder of Mutton public house at Brecon, Sarah Wood, an actress, the wife of Roger Kemble, a strolling player and manager, gave birth to the first of her dozen children.

In doing so she founded a dynasty which it is hard to parallel in the history of the theatre.

The infant who was born in the Welsh tavern was christened Sarah; and Mrs Kemble, being conscientious, and aware of her unsettled life, took special care of her, and always sent her to school in the towns where the company was playing.

Considering her itinerant life, Sarah received a remarkably good education, although she was accustomed to make her appearance on the stage when she was still a child.

Her parents were clearly ambitious for her, and wanted her to accept a proposal of marriage from a squire; and when she became attached to William Siddons, an actor in the company, Siddons was dismissed, and Sarah was sent as a lady’s maid to a Mrs Greathead at Guy’s Cliff in Warwickshire.

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