My third cousin four times removed Eyre Nicholas Champion de Crespigny (1821–1895), by profession a medical practitioner, was a keen amateur botanist who became Superintendent of the Government Botanical Gardens at Dapuri [Dapodi] near Poonah [Pune] in India.

He was born on 7 May 1821 in Switzerland, near Montreaux, oldest child of the Reverend Heaton Champion de Crespigny (1796-1858) and Caroline née Bathurst (1797-1861).

Following a succession of scandals in the late 1820s Heaton, improvident and unstable, was committed in 1832 to a debtors’ prison, and the family was rendered destitute.

By 1834, however, through Caroline’s family and friends, means were found to send Eyre to Segrave House, in Cheltenham, where he received a book prize, early evidence, perhaps, of his abilities.

On 2 March 1835 Eyre, now aged 13, ‘son of Heaton de Crespigny, clergyman of 27 Queen Street Grosvenor Square’, is recorded as having been admitted to St Paul’s School, London.

In the late 1830s Eyre and several of his brothers moved to Heidelberg with his mother, now separated from her husband Heaton.

In 1842, at the age of 21, Eyre graduated from Heidelberg University with a medical degree. He returned to England, and gained medical experience as an intern in St Bartholomew’s and Guy’s Hospitals. In 1845 he took up an appointment with the Medical Establishment of the East India Company in Bombay, arriving there in September. In 1846 he was posted to Rutnagherry [Ratnagiri], a port city some 300 km south.

On 5 November 1850, at Malligaum [Malegaon, a town in Maharashtra, 300 km northeast of Bombay], Eyre Nicholas Champion de Crespigny, Esq., Bombay Medical Establishment, married Augusta Cunningham, daughter of a wealthy West Indian planter.

They had five children, one of whom died an infant. Their first child was born 1853 at Ahmedabad in Gujarat, 500 km north of Bombay. Four more children were born at Rutnagherry.

During his residence in India Eyre was employed in several different military, naval, and civil medical roles for the East India Company .

In 1859 he became Acting Conservator of Forests and Superintendent of the Government Botanical Gardens at Dapooree [Dapuri], Poonah [Pune].

The gardens had been established on the estate of Major-General Sir John Malcolm at his residence there. Malcolm, Governor of Bombay from 1827, had purchased the Dapooree estate, originally owned and developed by an English Naval commander, Captain Ford.

Malcolm was keen to convert the Dapooree garden into a botanical establishment, where scientific experiments would be conducted for the naturalisation of fruits, vegetables, and timber, to be obtained from all over the world. The first superintendent was Assistant Surgeon Williamson, who died shortly after taking up the post. He was succeeded by Dr Charles Lush, also an Assistant Surgeon. The most notable superintendent was Alexander Gibson (1800 – 1867), a surgeon of the East India Company. He served as superintendent of the Dapuri botanical gardens from 1838 to 1847, becoming the first Conservator of Forests of India in 1847. Eyre de Crespigny’s move to the gardens from the post of Assistant Surgeon was quite in line with previous appointments, all of them medical men.

In 1862 Eyre returned to England. Though unwell he continued his enthusiasm for botany as an active member of the Botanical Exchange Club, which later became the Botanical Society of the British Isles. In 1877 he published A New London Flora. His obituary in the Journal of Botany, British and Foreign notes that “Beyond this Dr. de Crespigny did not publish, but devoted himself quietly to the study which had for many years been his chief interest.”

Eyre de Crespigny died in 1895. He was survived by his widow, a son and three daughters.

During his residence in India Eyre had collected coloured drawings of plants. After his death these were acquired by the Botanical Department of the British Museum. He had also compiled a herbarium of botanical specimens, which was donated, with 42 snake skins, to Manchester Museum.

Page from the 2002 book The Dapuri Drawings showing an 1865 plan and some views of the bungalow at Dapuri. Image retrieved through AbeBooks.


Wikitree: Eyre Nicholas Champion de Crespigny (1821 – 1895)