The Invicta Park Barracks which currently houses 36 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers would seem an unlikely place to have a connection with two Victorian literary heroes. The Park’s origins date back to the time of Henry VIII and was described in 1829 as ‘a pleasant seat, situated near the east side of the road to Rochester, about half a mile from the town of Maidstone’. It was occupied in 1735 by the Calder family. Major General Henry Calder, the 4th Baronet of Muertown, Scotland later ‘pulled down the antique stone mansion, and on a beautiful spot adjoining, within this parish began to erect a handsome stone dwelling.’ He died in 1792, leaving his widow Louisa to complete their new home. Now known as Park House, it is the Officers’ Mess and has Grade 2* listing. The then two-year-old Henry Rodham Calder succeeded to the Baronetcy. Henry later married and in about 1825 he, his wife Frances and their two children moved to London. The property was sold to a Mr Osborne, from whom Edmund Henry Lushington purchased it in 1828. It then remained in the hands of the family until 1938, when it was purchased by the War Office for use as a barracks.
Edmund Henry Lushington (1766-1839) graduated from Queen’s College, Cambridge and was called to the bar of the Inner Temple in 1793. He later became a puisne judge in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). His first wife Louisa Falkner née Phillips died shortly after the birth of their only child, a daughter. Nine years later he married Sophia née Phillips (there is no family connection between Louisa and Sophia).
They had ten children. The eldest, Edmund Law Lushington (1811-1893), was a Greek scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was at Cambridge that Edmund Law became a close friend of Alfred, later Lord, Tennyson. They were both members of the Society of Apostles. In 1842 he married Alfred’s younger sister Cecilia, thus cementing the relationship between the two families. To mark the occasion Tennyson wrote as an epilogue to his poem ‘In Memoriam’ , an epithalamium [nuptial poem] on Cecilia and Edmund’s marriage. Most of Edmund’s working life was spent in Glasgow firstly as Professor of Greek (1837-74) at the University and then its Lord Rector (1884-87). He lived in Glasgow for seven months of the year whilst most of his family lived at Park House.
Edmund & Sophia’s second child was Henry Lushington (1812-1855). Also a student of Trinity College, he secured the Porson university prize for Greek Iambics. He was called to the bar of Inner Temple in 1840 and went on the home circuit. Henry was one of the earliest and most zealous admirers of Tennyson’s youthful genius. In 1841 he made the poet’s personal acquaintance, and the dedication of ‘The Princess’ to Henry Lushington in 1847 commemorates the cordial intimacy which followed. Henry was, in 1847, appointed chief secretary of the Government of Malta remaining in his post until his death 1855 in Paris as he was journeying home for a visit.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Edward Lear were good friends (until about the 1860s). It is not surprising, therefore, that Lear also became a close friend of the family and made many gifts to the Lushington children, including an album containing drawings of birds, animals and landscapes, which he presented to Cecilia ‘Zilly’ Lushington (Edmund & Sophia’s eldest daughter) on her tenth birthday in 1856.
It was in 1849 that Edward Lear met Franklin Morgan Lushington (the youngest son of Edmund & Sophia), when the latter was visiting his brother Henry in Malta. In 1855 Franklin was appointed judge to the Supreme Court of Justice in the Ionian Islands, and Edward Lear went with him to live in Corfu. On his death, Lear left all his papers to Franklin, who later destroyed most of them.
The local church of the Lushington family was Saint Mary the Virgin and All Saints, Boxley. Members of the family were married here and a number also lay at rest in the churchyard. There are numerous memorial plaques to family members in the church.