THE COUNTY OF WORCESTERSHIRE has a lot of links and ties to the tragedy of the Titanic.

The anchor ship itself was made in Worcestershire and a lot of former Worcestershire residents also boarded the ship.

One such passenger was Francis Millet who met his tragic demise on the ship when it sunk in 1912.

While he was born and bred in America, he did spend some of his later years in Broadway in the Cotswolds living with his family.

Early life

Worcester News: Francis D. Millet (Photo: Titanic Honour and Glory Ltd)Francis D. Millet (Photo: Titanic Honour and Glory Ltd)

Francis was the son of a surgeon, born in Massachusetts in 1846.

Before becoming a painter, he fought in the Civil War alongside his father and he was later a drummer boy with the Union forces and then became became a surgical assistant.

After this, his career as an academic and painter really kicked off.

He obtained a Master’s degree in language and literature at Harvard University and was later trained at the Royal Academy of Fine arts in Belgium.

He married his wife, Elizabeth ‘Lily’ Merrill in 1879- and the marriage was witnessed by ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ writer Mark Twain.

Francis made his name as a successful artist and ‘Between Two Fires’ and ‘A Cosey Corner’ are just some of the paintings that he created.

Between Two Fires (Photo: Facebook/@tategallery)

During his career he also worked on murals on several American buildings and monuments.

In 1880 he became a fully-fledged member of the Society of American Artists, and in 1885 gained full membership in the National Academy of Design, New York, and became its vice-president

He also became a member of the American Water Color Society and of the Institute of Painters in Oil Colors, London.

Life in Broadway

Francis moved to Broadway in the 1880s.

While living here, he was part of a group of artists based in the village. This group was around for just five years but included artists from different disciplines and countries.

Worcester News: Francis in his studio (Photo: Titanic Honour and Glory Ltd)Francis in his studio (Photo: Titanic Honour and Glory Ltd)

Some of the other artists in the colony include John Singer Sargent whose  painting ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ was painted in Broadway; Frederick Barnard illustrated some of Dickens’ work; George Boughton who was a landscape and genre painter;Edwin Abbey who was an American muralist, illustrator, and painter. 

Francis lived in Farnham House and Russell House with his family; they also acquired the ruined Abbot’s Grange on Chruch Street which they fully restored and transformed into a studio.

The fateful Titanic voyage

In 1912, Millet booked a first class ticket on the maiden voyage of the Titanic as he journeyed back to America.

He was travelling with his friend, Major Archibald Butt (47) who was a milirary aide to the American Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

When the ship stopped off in Ireland, Frank posted a letter to his friend Alfred Parsons.

This letter is currently held in the Worcestershire Archives and it described the first class rooms and how they looked.

It reads: “larger than the ordinary hotel room and much more luxurious with wooden bedsteads, dressing tables, hot and cold water, etc., etc., electric fans, electric heater and all. The suites with their damask hangings and mahogany oak furniture are really very sumptuous and tasteful… You can have no idea of the spaciousness of this ship and the extent and size of the decks.”

After the ship struck the iceberg and went down, surviving passengers described seeing Butt and Millet.

Archibald Gracie said they say the paid playing cards in the smoking room with two other men.

Other reports claim Millet was seen helping women and children into lifeboats.

Millet’s body was recovered from the sea and was returned to Massachusetts to be buried in East Bridgewater Central Cementary.

Archibald Butt’s body was never recovered.

Worcester News: Millet's grave (Photo: Titanic Honour and Glory Ltd)Millet's grave (Photo: Titanic Honour and Glory Ltd)

In Worcestershire, a memorial was placed at St Eadburgha’s on the Snowshill Road in Broadway.

It reads: “To Francis Davis Millet – A man of outstanding attainment in literature and art who, when the ship Titanic was sunk, gladly faced death while bringing hope to those in great need. His intimate friends have had this memorial erected in memory of a dear friendship.”

To learn more about Worcestershire’s past and other Titanic survivors, visit Explore The Past who have worked on a series of blog posts about the Titanic.

David Millet’s letter as well as many other Titanic artefacts will be showcased at Worcester City Art Gallery Museum’s new Titanic exhibition from May 17.