Jean Baptiste (Vicomte Du Barre)
In the churchyard at Bathampton, on the outskirts of Bath, there is a tombstone with an inscription that reads: ‘Here rest the remains of Jean Baptiste du Barre. Obiit 18th November, 1778’. The brief statement is a sad little postscript to a heated quarrel that took place at 8 Royal Crescent, and ended tragically on Claverton Down, in the cold light of a November dawn.
The Vicomte du Barre came to Bath in the summer of 1778 with his wife and sister, and a Captain Rice, an Irish Jacobite whose grandfather had served in the French army. They took a lease on 8 Royal Crescent, and arranged lavish card parties in the house, hoping to profit from the gambling mania that gripped the city at that time. But one night they quarrelled over the sharing of £600 that they had won from a Colonel Champion, who lived at 29 Royal Crescent. Rice threw down his glove, the challenge was accepted, and both men hastily appointed seconds and made their way to Claverton Down, where pistols were primed. Du Barre fired first, and wounded his friend in the thigh. Rice’s aim was more deadly; the Frenchman was hit in the chest, and died a few moments later.
Rice was subsequently tried at Taunton, but was acquitted and went to Spain. For the Vicomte, there was only a cold resting place in the churchyard at Bathampton.