I look forward to seeing my family’s Champion de Crespigny portraits at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire when we visit England next month.
Kelmarsh Hall and its 3,000 acre estate was bought in 1902 by George Granville Lancaster (1853-1907) and Cicely Lancaster née Champion de Crespigny (1874-1946).
Cicely was the second child and oldest daughter of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny (1847-1935) and his wife Georgiana (1849-1935). She married George Lancaster on 19 March 1896 at Maldon, Essex, where the de Crespigny family lived at Champion Lodge.
George and Cicely Lancaster had two children: Valencia (1898 – 1996) and Claude (1899 – 1977). (I wrote about Valencia in last year’s A to Z challenge.)
Claude Lancaster inherited Kelmarsh when he turned 25. Not long afterwards, the Hall was leased, a ten year repairing lease, to Ronald Tree and his wife Nancy Tree nee Perkins formerly Field. Ronald Tree was a journalist and investor and later a politician. The Trees redecorated Kelmarsh. Nancy later become well known for helping to create the English Country House look.
When the Trees purchased a different house in 1933, Claude Lancaster moved back to Kelmarsh Hall, where he became an enthusiastic gardener. In 1948 he married the then-divorced Nancy Tree. Five years later, in 1953, the Lancasters were divorced. Despite the short marriage Nancy is best known by her third married surname, Lancaster.
At present times, Kelmarsh Hall is renowned for its gardens and for the interior decoration of Nancy Lancaster.
Claude Lancaster’s grandfather, Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the fourth baronet, died in 1935. The title passed to one of his sons, Claude Raul Champion de Crespigny (1878-1941). When Raul died in 1941 the title passed to Raul’s cousins. None of the baronets had sons and the title was passed on three more times in the 1940s. The title became extinct in 1952 with the death of the eighth baronet.
At some stage, presumably in the 1940s, Kelmarsh Hall became the repository for a number of Champion de Crespigny portraits and family documents. The contents of Champion Lodge, including the pictures, were sold in January 1947 after the death of the sixth baronet, Henry Champion de Crespigny (1882 – 1946).
The pictures in the sale are not specified. Perhaps Claude Lancaster bought the family pictures at the auction; perhaps Raul or Henry had given the pictures to Claude Lancaster to be hung at Kelmarsh Hall. After Champion Lodge was sold, Kelmarsh Hall was the only home in the family that would be large enough to hang the pictures.
Claude died in 1977. On his death his sister Valencia inherited Kelmarsh. Claude and Valencia established an independent charitable trust dedicated to preserving the Hall and the landscape around their childhood home as a traditional agricultural estate with the pastoral lifestyle of the countryside.
For a number of years many images from the Kelmarsh collection have been able to viewed online through artuk.org. At present there are 88 works that can be viewed through that website.
I am pleased to be able to see images of my forebears on the Internet, but I look forward to seeing the originals of the portraits and paintings at Kelmarsh Hall.