Two families have eminence in the history of Newport. On the West side the Morgans (the Lords Tredegar) and on the East the Firbanks. Joseph Firbank became extremely rich from his activities with the growing railway system.
Will Cross entertained us with witty stories (25 Apr 1028) about Joseph Firbank’s grandson Arthur Annesley Ronald Firbank (originally called Arthur- but later as Robert). He inherited sufficient wealth to lead an exotic lifestyle and building a circle of very well known friends- including Evan Morgan, Augustus John, Andy Warhol and Nancy Cunard. Robert wrote many short books- epigrams of a fairy tale nature. Augustus John and Andy Warhol produced illustrations for some of the covers.
Although he lived at St Julians House, Newport he was a lover of Italy and that was where he died at the age of only 40 in 1927. He was buried in the Protestant Cemetery of Campo Verano in Rome- despite the fact that he had converted to Roman Catholicism.
Will Cross and Monty Dart found his tomb in a very poor state and obtained permission to renovate it. Since the monument was horizontal this gave rise to the title of Will’s talk “The Firbank Beneath My Foot.”
It is impossible in a few sentences to describe how enjoyable and informative this talk was.