A beautiful sunny day in Ballarat and Charlotte is just trying out archery. A satisfying thud of the arrow hitting the butt makes me think of a well known toxophilite in our family, the first Lady de Crespigny, wife of the first baronet. Her interests in archery probably helped considerably in gaining the baronetcy as it linked her with the upper echelons of society.

Mary Clarke (1749–1812), Wife of Sir Claude Champion_de_Crespigny, 1st Bt by British (English) School Oil on canvas, 75 x 62 cm Collection: Kelmarsh Hall retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/mary-clarke-17491812-wife-of-sir-claude-champion-de-crespi49099

In 1801 Mrs Crespigny, as she then was, was patroness of the Royal Toxopholite Society. The patron of the society was the Prince of Wales.

The Fashionable World .
The Morning Post and Gazetteer (London, England), Tuesday, May 12, 1801


After John Emes & Robert Smirke To His Royal Highness George Prince of Wales This Plate representing a Meeting of The Society of Royal British Archers in Gwersyllt Park, Denbighshire, aquatint by Cornelis Apostool, [Siltzer p.335], 1794, John Emes. The scene illustrates the popularity of the Royal British Archers, or Royal Toxophilite Society, amongst women (albeit only of a high social standing) as one of the few sports in which they compete at all, let alone on equal terms. The original painting is in the British Museum, the landscape being the work of Robert Emes, who also published the print, while the figures were painted by Robert Smirke. Retrieved from http://www.bloomsburyauctions.com/detail/13420/1154.0

From The Book of Archery by George Hagar Hansard, 1840. Section III Female Archery pages 153 – 155 retrieved from http://www.archerylibrary.com/books/book_of_archery/chapter03/chapter3_3.html
with permission from the site librarian


Mary Clarke was born about 1748 in Surrey.  On 16 February 1764, at the age of 16, she married Claude Champion de Crespigny (1734-1818), my fifth great grand uncle.  They had only one child, a son William, born 1 January 1765.

Mrs Crespigny was  a writer and socialite.  Below is one view of her from A Happy Half-century: And Other Essays by Agnes Repplier, published by the Houghton Mifflin Company in 1908 and retrieved from http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/agnes-repplier/a-happy-half-century-and-other-essays-hci.shtml where Ms Repplier talks about a “young authoress named Elizabeth Ogilvy Benger – a model of painstaking insignificance  – [who] invited Charles and Mary Lamb to drink tea with her one cold December night, [but] she little dreamed she was achieving a deathless and unenviable fame”. Charles Lamb wrote about Elizabeth Benger to his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge and she is said to “be laughed at forever because of Charles Lamb’s impatient and inextinguishable raillery.” In the essay Lady de Crespigny is mentioned as a friend of Miss Benger’s but not of Charles Lamb:

Newspaper clippings give an insight into her many activities.

14 May 1801 – Morning Post – London, page 1


Morning Post 11 September 1803, page 1. Similar notices appeared in years following as new editions were produced.
9 January 1804 – Morning Post – London page 3 Master William is probably her grandson, the second son of her son William and born 1789 (age 14 at the time of this party).


19 May 1804 – The Ipswich Journal – Ipswich, Suffolk, page 4

Of the “old families” of Camberwell not yet mentioned by us, we have the … De Crespignys, who came from France, as Protestant refugees, in the reign of William III., though they did not settle in Camberwell until early in the eighteenth century. Champion Lodge, at the foot of Denmark Hill, was built in 1717, by Mr. Claude de Crespigny. In 1804, the Prince of Wales visited Champion Lodge, and of course a great fête was made on the occasion, and the owner of the house was soon afterwards made a baronet. The park had originally an area of about thirty acres. The house, noticeable for the fine iron gates and the stately cedars in front, was pulled down in 1841, and the site is now occupied by rows of houses. Sir Claude de Crespigny was a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and married the gifted, as well as accomplished, daughter of Mr. J. Clarke, of Rigton, Derbyshire. It was this Lady de Crespigny who wrote the admirable lines which were placed over a grotto standing in the grounds of Champion Lodge, and dedicated to Contemplation. from ‘Camberwell’, Old and New London: Volume 6 (1878), pp. 269-286. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45281 Date accessed: 06 May 2013




Description of the festivities at Champion Lodge in June 1804 from

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 74, Part 2, published by A. Dodd and A. Smith, 1804, pages 621-2 retrieved from Google Books http://books.google.com.au/books?id=8kOKBo7CE1sC&pg=PA621


Not long after these successful festivities the Champion de Crespigny baronetcy was created (5 October 1805).

12 October 1805 – Lancaster Gazette – Lancaster, Lancashire, England, page 1

The de Crespignys attended court and the elaborate dresses of Lady de Crespigny were reported upon.

21 January 1806 – Morning Post – London, page 3
19 January 1808 – Morning Post – London, page 3

Lady de Crespigny died in July 1812.

The Gentleman’s Magazine for July 1812 page 188, retieved from Google Books http://books.google.com.au/books?id=ovgRAAAAYAAJ