Mike Guilfoyle, vice-chair of the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, traces a Guernsey archeological dynasty’s link to Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, and a broken headstone covered in dense foliage in Ladywell cemetery.
Some while ago (2012 in fact) I recall stumbling upon a remarkable film set at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich for the epic period musical, Les Miserables – an adaption of the stage musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel.
The film became an international success winning numerous accolades and awards. It is also the West End’s longest-running musical, playing at London’s Sondheim Theatre.
So it came as a pleasant surprise to discover a local link to the famous author of the 1862 French historical novel, Victor Hugo,
By way of a Victorian antiquarian, archaeologist and polymath, the Reverend William Collings Lukis, whose family befriended the novelist during his 15 years in self-imposed exile on the Channel Island of Guernsey, during which period he wrote the novel, Les Miserables (although it appears their political outlooks did not always align).
William’s father, Frederick Corbin Lukis, lived all his life in Guernsey. He corresponded with many antiquaries.
His eldest son, Frederick Collings Lukis (1814–63), was a doctor, but also made archaeological observations.
The second son, John Walter Lukis (d 1894), was a mining engineer at Morlaix and later at Pau, and carried out many excavations in Brittany.
The third son, the Revd William Collings Lukis, held various livings in Wiltshire and later Yorkshire, and travelled with his great friend, Sir Henry Dryden, all over Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and Algeria, recording archaeological sites.
Particularly valuable are his notes on Silbury Hill, recently re-excavated by English Heritage. The youngest son, Captain Francis du Bois Lukis (d.1907), served in the Indian army, and excavated in Derbyshire and Alderney.
The English Film/TV actor, Adrian Lukis, is descended from the Guernsey branch of the family.
In 1851 William Collings Lukis married Lucy Adelaide, daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas Fellowes who served with Nelson and in 1827, commanded HMS Dartmouth’, at the famous sea battle of Navarino ( Greece) against the Ottoman Empire fleet. They would have nine children.
Downton Abbey screen writer, Julian Fellowes is a descendant .
Lucy Adelaide Lukis had been living in Blagdon Street, Lewisham (behind the Hospital) at the time of her death in 1894.
She was interred in Ladywell cemetery on the September 8 of that year. Sadly her headstone is now broken and lies hidden in dense foliage.