500th blog post

This is my 500th blog post. I wrote the first eight years ago, on 25 April 2012.

In Australia 25 April is ANZAC Day, the memorial anniversary of the WW1 landings by Australian and New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli in Turkey. Looking back it surprises me a little that I did not make this day of remembrance the topic of my first post, for I had written elsewhere at some length about the war and its affect on a small Victorian town. It is an interesting subject and I still had (and have) a lot to say about it.

Nevertheless, my first topic was not ANZAC Day but the blog itself which, I explained, I had established ‘to share the stories I discover while researching my family history’. My blog was to be only indirectly about great historical events and movements. Its real focus was the lives of people with whom I have a family connection.

My second post concerned two distant relatives, my first cousins four times removed George Kinnaird Dana and Augustus Pulteney Dana. This set the pattern for most subsequent posts, and the blog in effect became an online research journal, supplementing with richer detail the bare record of facts – the names, places, and dates of people – in my family tree.

I have continued to move from here to there in my family tree, writing about what takes my fancy. My system, to the extent that I have one, is to tag posts with the surnames and places they concern. In eight years I have accumulated many tags. The surname I have written about most frequently is, perhaps not unexpectedly, the one I was born with, Champion de Crespigny. Most of my place-tags are set at the Australian state or British county (or similar) level, with the most frequent Victoria and Cornwall.

Most of my posts are prompted by my current family history research, but now and then they are written in response to themes suggested elsewhere. For example, every week the Sepia Saturday blogging group publishes an historical image, inviting its members to write an item related to it. The prompt image becomes a launching-pad for all sorts of interesting journeys. Similarly, since 2014 I have participated in an event called the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Every day in April (except on Sundays), with A for 1 April, B for 2 April, and so on, I write a post with the prompt that day’s letter of the alphabet. It is a lot of work but very satisfying. Through these and other blogging communities I have met many family history bloggers in virtual blog-space – sometimes called the blogosphere – and I have been entertained and encouraged by reading their posts and their comments and support of mine.

After 500 posts have I run out of topics? Not at all. I’ve got much more to say and many more posts to research and write.

Remembering my grandmother on her birthday

My maternal grandmother, Charlotte Boltz née Manock, second daughter of Emil Manock (1883 – 1966) and Helene Manock née Peters (1889 -1944), was born in Berlin, Germany, on 24 May 1912. She died in Canberra, Australia, on 25 May 1988. Today is the 108th anniversary of her birthday.

Charlotte Manock married Hans Boltz on 24 April 1937 at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in Berlin
My grandmother in her back garden in Canberra in the 1960s

Birthdays were always very special celebrations in my grandmother’s house and she cooked the most marvellous cakes. I particularly remember her Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte and in the past I have cooked it in memory of her from the recipe she used.

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Last day in London and a long journey home

The last day of what was now feeling like a too-short English holiday was 31 May 2019, a Friday. We didn’t have to be at the airport until the evening, but we were required to vacate the flat by ten in the morning, so to save two trips to Heathrow, we packed our bags and left them with a drycleaner along the street. We spent the day at the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The National Gallery was very very crowded, and it was sometimes quite difficult to get past other people to see the paintings.  It was particularly annoying to have your view blocked by selfie-taking teenagers. A bit of social distancing would have been nice, but that idea was still a year off…

Peter and Charlotte went on to the Natural History Museum, in places also impossibly crowded. We had lunch there and then wandered around various collections. The minerals were especially interesting (to those who enjoy that sort of thing, I suppose).

A three-minute walk took us to the Victoria and Albert – also very crowded -for afternoon tea, where we were lucky enough to get a table in the Poynter Room and admire its tiled pictures. We revisited some of the exhibitions that we’d seen the day before, among them the jewellery display. With so much to look at, how odd it is that you find yourself gazing at what you’d rather not see. For me it was a small boy bouncing a basketball through the sculpture gallery, with his mother looking on admiringly. A clip over the ear would have been quite in order but I didn’t administer it, and I held my tongue.

We collected our bags from the drycleaner and took a minicab to Heathrow. We were early, but I’m glad we had a little time in hand, for Peter’s precious bottle of whisky, unopened, was discovered in my hand luggage. I was pulled to one side and given the option of forfeiting the bottle or going back out and checking it in as stowed luggage. We’ve been working our way through the Old Pultney since our return, so I’m pleased to say I went back out and came in again. What was first intended as a carry-on backpack was accepted as checked-in luggage by the airline and the bottle arrived safely back in Australia.


It was a long flight home. A few hours in Singapore was a rest of sorts, but it was night and raining and the airport butterfly house, one of its attractions – or distractions? – was closed. We ate some some Singapore food, I bought some perfume – not much cheaper than in Australia – and got on board again. Only Charlotte was able to sleep. Bed in Ballarat, dearly wished for, finally arrived.


My post Family history travels provides statistics of our 2019 journey. A list of all posts about our trip can be found at the index page UK trip 2019.

4th day in London – A museum in the morning. A gallery in the afternoon.

On the morning of our fourth day in London Greg and I walked around to the Leighton House Museum in Holland Park, only a couple of blocks from our flat. In the afternoon we went to the National Gallery.

Leighton House Museum is the former home of the Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896), best known for his ‘Flaming June‘. Leighton was a most successful painter, popular and wealthy. Unusually for the period, he lived alone, unmarried, and with no children, and as a consequence free to decorate it entirely to his own taste. Leighton’s house, which includes a large studio, was itself a work of art and a showcase and advertisement for his talents. The interior was inspired by his travels. The design of the Arab Hall, for example, which has a fountain and a golden dome, is based on a palace in Palermo. It uses tiles he collected from Turkey and lattice-work windows from Damascus. G.K. Chesterton is supposedly responsible for the phrase ‘vulgar without being funny’; Leighton’s high-Victorian excess seems quite over the top without actually being kitch.

We travelled to the National Gallery by bus, through streets jammed with traffic, getting off at Pall Mall to walk when we noticed that pedestrians were going faster.

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square; that afternoon there was a demonstration in memory of Biafrans killed in various incidents.

We had a terrific afternoon at the Gallery. Some paintings, famous and familiar, we were seeing for the first time in the original; there also seemed to be no end of marvellous works we had never seen before.  For a while we followed a guided tour, well worth it, even though at times it was hard to agree completely with the guide’s interpretation.

Let’s hope the pandemic is soon over and we can go back.

This picture by J.M.W. Turner of the Calais Pier brought home to me the perils my forebears would have faced when they travelled – many of them travelled to and from France.

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Leighton House is in Holland Park and The National Gallery faces on to Trafalgar Square

3rd day in London with afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason

On our third day in London Charlotte and I caught the Tube, crowded as usual, to the British Library. I wanted to look at some books there that were not available in Australian libraries. This was the only time in our trip that I did formal family history research.

There was a queue to get in: security restrictions. I first had to register as a reader, but expecting this I had come prepared. I had filled in my application beforehand and I had brought my passport as proof of identity.

The British Library is said to be the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th century. At its centre is a six-storey tower housing the King’s Library: 65,000 printed volumes, and pamphlets, manuscripts, and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820.

I hoped to find what I could about the experiences of my 3rd great grandfather James Gordon Cavenagh (1770-1844), a surgeon at the Battle of Waterloo. [See Surgeon James Gordon Cavenagh at Waterloo, a guest post by one of my cousins, which includes my findings]

 

Charlotte and I then walked to the British Museum, where we were to have lunch with Greg and Peter. It was half-term school holidays and busy, expensive too, so we had lunch at a small restaurant nearby.

 

Afterwards, rather than return to the British Museum we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum instead. We enjoyed the sculpture and furniture collections, and the building itself was well worth the visit. The jewellery collection was beautifully displayed.

 

Then we caught a taxi to the Burlington Arcade, where I had been commissioned by my mother to buy her a cashmere jumper. I am not normally very interested in buying things, but the jumpers were so light and soft and in such lovely colours it was a pleasure to take on this little shopping expedition.

We had a brief look at Burlington House next door. It is said that the arcade was built by the 1st Earl of Burlington “to prevent passers-by throwing oyster shells and other rubbish over the wall of his home”. Burlington House is now used for temporary art exhibitions of the Royal Academy. It is the headquarters of several scientific institutes, notably the Royal Astronomical Society and the Linnaen Society.

From Burlington House it was a short walk to Fortnum and Mason, where we had afternoon tea, a generous gift from my parents. Charlotte recorded the experience:

“The store was posh. The tea was lovely and Dad said “The coffee was the best in England!” I had Welsh Rarebit for the savoury dish, Mum had an omelette [Lobster Omelette Victoria in lobster bisque sauce with shaved truffle], and Dad had haddock from Cornwall. Then the sweet platter was brought out. There were scones and jam and cream and lemon curd. There were five cakes: a cheesecake egg, a red velvet cake, a rose petal cakey, and a chocolate mousse cake. My [Charlotte’s] favourite was the cheesecake, with the chocolate mousse a close second.”

 

Our waiter was friendly and attentive. The servings of cake and scones were unlimited, but sadly our capacity to absorb it all was not, and we could not even manage to do justice to the very tempting cake trolley. We were given a large package of cakes to deal with later. It was a memorable meal.

On the way back to Kensington we passed quite a few people dressed in very conspicuously formal outfits, stragglers from the Queen’s garden party. I think we did better at Fortum and Mason, actually.

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Second day in London – Marylebone and the Tate

On our second day in London Greg and I met one of my distant Champion de Crespigny cousins for morning tea in Oxford Street. We walked there, three miles, through Kensington Gardens, past the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, then along Bayswater Road.

 

Afterwards, we caught a taxi to a small public garden on Marylebone High Street where the names of my 8th great grandparents Claude Champion de Crespigny and his wife Marie are recorded on an inscribed tablet. The graveyard in which it once stood has long been built over, and the stone we saw was a replica erected in the early twentieth century. It gets the date wrong; Claude died in 1695, not 1697. [See ‘M is for Marylebone’].

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Park Crescent viewed from Portland Place

 

We walked to Great Portland Street, where we caught the bus to the Tate Britain. I once studied a little Law, and it was fun to discover that we were travelling on the bus to Clapham Common. I did indeed feel a bit like a “reasonably educated, intelligent but nondescript person”. (A little-known fact: there’s an Australian connection to the phrase. It is said to have been coined by a counsel defending the Tichborne Claimant, the supposed son of Lady Tichborne, heir to the baronetcy, turning out to be an enterprising ex-butcher from Wagga Wagga named Tom Castro or sometimes Arthur Orton.)

The Tube gets you there, but for seeing London rattle past nothing beats a double-decker bus.

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on board the Clapham omnibus

 

The Tate was marvellous. I enjoyed the Turners, the portraits, and the Pre-Raphaelites. So many superb paintings! I was particularly interested in William Quiller Orchardson‘s ‘The First Cloud’, one of a series about unhappy marriage. There is another version of the same painting in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, and earlier in our trip we had seen  his ‘Le Mariage de Convenance’ in Glasgow.

I didn’t know at the time, but the Tate Britain occupies the site of the Millbank prison. My first cousin four times removed, Gerald Mainwaring, convicted of murder was incarcerated there from 1879 – 1880.

 

Peter and Charlotte spent the day at the British Museum. Charlotte was fascinated by some of the coins, one of them 2,400 years old. There was also an ‘eight’ coin, or Spanish Dollar, as in ‘pieces of eight’. Peter liked the Molossian Guard Dog, a huge mastiff.

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Molossian Guard Dog, a Roman statue at the British Museum

 

In the evening Greg and I strolled around Kensington, which has several pretty local gardens. Most are for neighbouring residents only. We peered through the fence of the Edwardes Garden like Pyramus and Thisbe.

 

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London, first day

On our first day in London, Monday 27 May, Greg and I had a stroll around Holland Park – the garden, not the suburb – after breakfast. For a London park it was much less formal and cultivated than I had expected. We saw a squirrel, a novelty to us, since Australia has none, and a peacock, too lazy or bored to fan his tail.

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Holland Park

 

It was a Bank Holiday Monday and very very busy. Charlotte and I, braving the crowds, went into town to look at Old Palace Yard, between Westminster Abbey and the Thames, where my 5th great grandfather Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803) once lived. In 1834 the house was destroyed in the great fire that burnt down the Palace of Westminster. Old Palace Yard numbers 6 and 7 survived, and since these were probably built along similar lines to their neighbour, I got at least an impression of how Philip Champion de Crespigny’s house would have looked. Number 4 is gone, replaced by a statue of King George V.

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in front of Westminster Abbey – the Westminster Scholars War Memorial for those who died in the Crimea and Indian Mutiny and the extremely grand Methodist Central Hall in the background

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nearly at the head of the queue into Westminster Abbey

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Memorial to William Wilberforce photographed in 2001 and retrieved from Wikimedia Commons (In 2019 no personal photography was allowed in the Abbey)

We’d arranged to meet one of my cousins and her family at Westminster Abbey. She and I had exchanged emails about our family history and it was great fun to meet in person. The abbey was very crowded and we waited in the queue for an hour before were admitted. We had lots to talk about.

An attendant told me that on busy days there might be a thousand people in the abbey, six thousand over the course of the day. The tombs were amazing: more of them and more elaborate than we saw anywhere else in England. My favourite was that of William Wilberforce, who sits cross-legged, book in hand, looking thoughtful.

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Statue of Winston Churchill, Parliament Square.  I remembered the fibreglass replica of this statue in Canberra which was in the courtyard garden of Churchill House on Northbourne Avenue House from 1985 to 1992 and is now in the grounds of the university across Balmain Crescent from University House.

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Up to London, not to visit the Queen

On Sunday 26 May 2019, we drove from Lewes to London. Our little tour of Britain was nearly over; we’d be flying home in a week.

On the way we made a couple of small detours. The first was to the British Wildlife Centre near Lingfield in Surrey, a zoo specialising in animals native to Britain. Peter and Charlotte were keen to see in real or anyway fairly real life some of the animals that have an prominent place in our English cultural heritage but don’t actually occur in Australia. As children the fictional countryside that we’d absorbed from “The Wind in the Willows“, for example, is inhabited by moles and badgers and stoats and weasels: actually none of these are found in our part of the world. Charlotte particularly liked the otters and badgers. The animals were very well cared for, and none were required to amuse visitors.

While Peter and Charlotte were learning about English wildlife Greg and I visited Standen, an Arts and Craft period National Trust house, designed by Philip Webb, a friend of William Morris, and decorated with many William Morris wallpapers and fabrics.

From there, after collecting the children, we went on to another National Trust house, Polesden Lacey, ten miles or so east of Guildford. Greg and I had seen it thirty years ago and we liked it very much, with its superb Edwardian atmosphere and fine collection of art and other precious things. (For some reason Polesden Lacy brought to mind Toad Hall, the stately pile of Mr Toad which, if you remember, was over-run by stoats and weasels then recovered by Mr Badger and Ratty and Mole.)

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Polesden Lacey

 

Later in the afternoon we drove to Runnymede, on the Thames, where the Magna Carta was signed (as they say. It was probably sealed with King John’s Great Seal by one of his underlings). Being there gave us a chance to admire the river. Pretty, and boats, but no Ratty.

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Runnymede – memorial to the signing of the Magna Carta

Our flat, quiet and comfortable, was in Kensington, just off the High Street. We brought our luggage in and returned the hire car to Heathrow. We wouldn’t be driving around London. It was going to be the Tubethe Tube and lots of walking.

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East to Kent

On Saturday 25 May we drove east from Lewes to Hastings and on to Kent.

We did not visit the battlefield of 1066, because, said Charlotte, “It wasn’t National Trust, and there would have been an entrance fee”. My reasons were different. We had already been to a few battlefields on this trip. They make me sad, and anyway, just visiting the scene of the carnage doesn’t help me to understand its place in history.

We went to Hastings‘s seaside promenade instead, parking opposite a villa with a blue plaque which commemorated Thomas Carlyle’s stay there in 1864. At the time he was working on his twenty-two volume life of Frederick the Great, and doubtless his walks along the seafront aided his reflections. Or perhaps not. His biography has been called a “mythopoeic effort”, which I guess means he strayed from the facts; maybe he was distracted by the ladies in their bathing machines.

 

From Hastings we went on to Rye and Rye Harbour, once important sea-ports but silted up over the centuries by strong tidal flows. In the north-west of Western Australia we have ten-metre tides and there’s not a medieval harbour in sight. Without suitable local ports an Australian prime minister named Robert Menzies was obliged to get himself appointed Lord Warden of the English Cinque Ports.

After Rye we visited the church of St Mary in the Marsh near New Romney. The author Edith Nesbit, whose children’s books I greatly enjoyed as a girl, is buried there.

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Romney Marsh

En route to Hythe we stopped to walk on the sea wall near Dymchurch. There has been a sea wall there since Roman times but the new sea defences were built in 2011.

In Hythe after a bit of searching we found Hay House, where my 3rd great grandfather James Gordon Cavenagh (1770-1844) lived for ten years or so from 1830. He seems to have had quite a temper. There was a gate in the fence between his house and the Royal Staff Corps Barracks next door. In 1830 the Royal Staff Corps decided to remove the gate and close up the fence. Cavenagh took exception to this, and drawing his sword, threatened the men removing the gate. “I’ll run the first man through the body that attempts to touch the palings”. There was a brawl but eventually a fence was erected and the gate removed. When the matter went to court a jury found against Cavenagh and awarded 10 pounds damages. The barracks has since gone and Hay House is all that remains of the site. Now subdivided into flats, it looks a bit run down.

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We attempted to visit the local parish church of St Leonard where my great great grandfather Wentworth Cavenagh and his siblings were baptised, but a wedding was about to begin and we couldn’t get in.  It seems to have been a fashionable occasion and the narrow lanes and Einbahnstraßen around the church were choked with well-dressed Poms in Range Rovers trying to find a place to park. We somehow got caught up in the tangle, our fat black Mercedes further disrupting the traffic and Anglo-German relations, until we finally shot out of the mess and promptly got lost. Being lost feels better than knowing where you are and not wanting to be there.

Lunch we had in the garden of the Riverside Inn at Ashford. Low clouds threatening rain made it a dismal meal. Charlotte had scampi and Peter had a burger; the cider was warm, flat, and sour but not unpleasant. The inn had a few forlorn gum trees, a reminder of home. You had to imagine the strong bright sunshine and cold beer.

We spent the afternoon at Sissinghurst, where the gardens were just as beautiful as we remembered them from our 1989 visit. Greg had predicted that the intervening thirty years of tourism would have ruined Sissinghurst. I’m glad to say he was quite wrong.

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Lewes: navigating that twitten again – no paint lost thanks to warnings

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An excursion from Lewes

Today, 24 May 2019, we called on one of my Cavenagh cousins. She and her husband live in a beautiful house near Heathfield in East Sussex with their two delightful Springer Spaniels. She very kindly treated us to lunch, which included delicious fresh juice pressed from their own apples and some lovely shortbread. It was a sunny day; we ate on the terrace, with marvellous views over the Sussex countryside.

My cousin and I are related through the Cavenagh family. Her grandfather, Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh (1856 – 1935) was an accomplished family historian. His father was Orfeur Cavenagh (1820 – 1891), an army general and former Governor of the Straits Settlement,now known as Singapore. When we were there we walked down to look at the bridge across the Singapore River named in Orfeur Cavenagh’s honour. W.O. Cavenagh was a first cousin of my great grandmother Kathleen Cudmore née Cavenagh (1874 – 1951).

W.O. Cavenagh’s family history endeavours included beautiful heraldry, neat handwriting and he documented his sources. I really need to study the photographs I took and explore the Cavenagh branch of my family history further.

After lunch we visited Rudyard Kipling’s home ‘Bateman’s‘, about fifteen miles south of Royal Tunbridge Wells. It was a short visit. He was 5’4”, only half an inch taller than me. His wife was 4’8”, and they had to have their dining room chairs put on blocks. My daughter Charlotte confided to her diary that “It was a much cosier place than some of the grand houses we went to. I liked his library / writing room. I was surprised that many of the guides did not like Rudyard Kipling’s writing but were more fans of the house and the history.”

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Batemans


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In the evening Greg and I went for a stroll around Lewes where we were staying in East Sussex. Looking back through the photos I took, I’ve just come across one of a book in a shop window with the title “Five on Brexit Island, one of a satirical series making fun of present-day fads, especially corporate fads. It is striking how the coronavirus plague has pushed so much of what we took to be ‘present-day’ so quickly into the past. When did anyone last hear about Brexitor the Hong Kong democracy protests?

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Harvey’s Brewery on the River Ouse

 

In a supermarket we bought some Abernethy biscuits. These reminded me of our trip to Scotland. My Taylor and Hutcheson forebears lived in Abernethy, near Perth.

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