This biography of Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana (1820 – 1904), also includes her forebears, siblings and descendants.
Charlotte Frances Dana, of middling gentry background, was married to a county solicitor when she met her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny. After a scandalous divorce and a brief exile in France, they came to Australia in 1852 where Philip Robert became a Warden and Magistrate in the goldfields.
Viewed through the life of Charlotte Frances, this is an account of a migrant Victorian family of the nineteenth century.
CHAPTER ONE Prologue: The family background of Charlotte Frances nee Dana The Dana family in America 1 Edmund Dana in England and Scotland 3 The children of Edmund Dana and Helen nee Kinnaird 14 William Pulteney Dana, father of Charlotte Frances 31
CHAPTER TWO The Road to Divorce The Bible and the census 43 Breakdown 53 Divorce 59 France to Australia 67 A note on the Crespigny surname 77
CHAPTER THREE Victoria in the Gold Rush The Dana brothers and the native police 79 Family in Victoria 95 Commissioner, Magistrate and Warden of the Goldfields 105 Letters from home 113
CHAPTER FOUR Amherst and Talbot 1855-1871 Settlements at Daisy Hill 121 Public and private life 128 Farewell to Talbot 142 In search of Daisy Hill Farm: a note 145 Tragic cousins: George and Augustus, the sons of Henry Dana 149
CHAPTER FIVE Ararat to St Kilda 1871-1889 Bairnsdale, Bendigo and Bright, with a brief return to Talbot 157 Magistrate at Ararat 163 Constantine Trent in Australia 1875-1881 173 Rose Crespigny and Frank Beggs 182 Philip Crespigny and Annie Frances Chauncy 191
CHAPTER SIX Eurambeen 1889-1904 The second marriage of Philip Champion Crespigny 207 The letters of Constantine Trent Champion Crespigny 1889-1896 207 Banks and the land: the crisis of the 1890s 216 The Eurambeen Letters 1898-1904 218
CHAPTER SEVEN Epilogue: The immediate descendants of Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny nee Dana Philip Champion de Crespigny 1850-1927 253 Philip Champion de Crespigny 1879-1918 256 Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny 1882-1952 259 Francis George Travers Champion de Crespigny 1892-1968 261 Hugh Vivian Champion de Crespigny 1897-1969 262 Royalieu Dana [Roy] Champion de Crespigny 1905-1985 263 Claude Montgomery Champion de Crespigny 1908-1991 264 Rose (1858-1937) and Frank Beggs (1850-1921) 265 Postscript: Ada, Viola and Rose 266 John Neptune Blood 1869-1942 267
A great emigration necessarily implies unhappiness of some kind or other in the country that is deserted. For few persons will leave their families, connections, friends, and native land, to seek a settlement in untried foreign climes, without some strong subsisting causes of uneasiness where they are, or the hope of some great advantages in the place to which they are going.
Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)
Charlotte Frances Dana and her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny came to Melbourne in 1852. Through their son Philip, who took the full surname of Champion de Crespigny, they were the founders of the Australian branch of the family.
In Champions from Normandy, published in 2017, Rafe de Crespigny discussed the history of the family, later known by the surname Champion de Crespigny, from the earliest records in France to their forced emigration as Huguenots in the seventeenth century and then the establishment in England during the eighteenth century. The present volume considers the experiences of the first generation in Australia. It is centred upon the life of Charlotte Frances, for she and her brother were central to the decision to emigrate, and she lived to see her first great-grandchildren in the new country and the new century.
Born in 1820, Charlotte died in 1904, and that period of eighty-four years was a time of enormous and dramatic change. She was first a subject of King George IV, former Prince Regent, and she lived through the reigns of William IV and Queen Victoria into the first years of Edward VII. Her voyage to Australia in 1851-52 lasted four months; fifty years later a steamship passage took only six weeks, less than half that time. When she arrived in Victoria, travel was by horse and cart, often no faster than seven miles a day; she would later take a train from the goldfields town of Beaufort and reach Melbourne in a matter of hours; while at the time of her death the Wright brothers in the United States were making their first powered flights at Kitty Hawk.
So it was a time of progress, but it was also an age of uncertainty. Health and medicine were both erratic, and diseases which are now quite easily treated were dangerous and could be fatal. Infant or child mortality was very high – to such a degree that many children were baptised with the name of an older sibling who had gone before them: Charlotte had two brothers christened Francis Richard Benjamin, three called Douglas and two more named William. And even those who grew to maturity could be crippled or killed by accident or sickness: one brother died in his thirties and another at the age of just forty; two young nephews died of scarlet fever and one of tetanus; and Charlotte’s son Constantine Trent Champion Crespigny and her sister-in-law Sophia nee Walsh both died of tuberculosis.
Such dangers applied still more to women of the time. Childbirth always carried a risk and stillbirth was by no means uncommon, while the absence of any practical means of contraception meant that pregnancy was often frequent: Charlotte had seven children, but she had twelve full and half-siblings, both her father and her mother had twelve brothers and sisters, and her mother’s father had sired ten more on another wife. Similarly, in her first marriage she experienced three pregnancies in three years, with one daughter who would live to maturity, a son who died in his very first year, and a third child which was still-born. With the vagaries of midwifery and the chances of infection, many women were weakened or simply worn out by such frequent fertility.
Apart from these physical matters, social and financial life could likewise be a question of fortune, good or ill. Charlotte’s family could fairly be described as gentlefolk: her grand-mother was the daughter of a Scottish baron; her grandfather came from a notable back-ground in the American colonies; one of her uncles was a general in the British army and owned a landed estate; two of her aunts married wealthy men; and in 1839 Charlotte herself was married to a prosperous solicitor in Gloucestershire.
Apparent security, however, could change very quickly. Soon after Charlotte’s wedding her father’s printing business failed, he was sent to prison for debt and was stripped of all property. The last years of his life were survived on a small pension in the home of his daughter and son-in-law.
Bankruptcy and indebtedness were indeed a constant threat: if a bank failed, its notes were worthless – and much of the currency in circulation was issued by private banks; the system of limited liability was not in common use, so the failure of a business could bring ruin to its owner; and a batch of unpaid bills could bring a cascade of misfortune.
The position was even more precarious for women. Until quite recent times, a married woman was identified with her husband, with no separate legal or financial existence, while unmarried women had limited opportunities for a meaningful career which might enable them to support themselves. Married, unmarried or widowed, most women were obliged to rely upon their families. When Charlotte Frances’ husband Philip Robert was taken ill, he was entitled to a pension, but after his death there was no further official or government support; and her unmarried daughters Ada and Viola were equally dependent upon the goodwill of their more prosperous kinfolk.
One question may always be raised of any Australian whose family arrived within the last 250 years: “Why did they come?” For convicts, it was compulsory; very often, notably in the years of gold rush, it was the hope of sudden fortune. For Charlotte’s brother Henry Edmund Dana, educated as a gentleman but with few opportunities at home, it was the hope of better prospects than could be expected in England – and for Charlotte and her second husband Philip Robert Champion Crespigny it was a means to escape the social and financial embarrassment of a dramatic and well-publicised divorce.
Regardless of such an erratic beginning, however, that second marriage was affectionate and companionable, and even after Philip Robert’s sad slow death Charlotte was able to enjoy the support of her daughters and the successes of her son Philip and her grandchildren. In a letter of 1858, her father-in-law wrote in praise of her patience and courage, and of her determination to make the best of everything.
Richard Rafe Champion de Crespigny and Christine Anne Young nee Champion de Crespigny December 2020
Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh (1856 – 1935), a first cousin of my great grandmother Kathleen Cudmore née Cavenagh (1874 – 1951), was the son of Sir Orfeur Cavenagh (1820 – 1891). He was interested in family history and heraldry and he spent a considerable amount of time researching Cavenagh family history in the Irish National Archives.
W.O. Cavenagh presented his research to the Office of Arms in Ireland and the original manuscript and typescript (about 175 pages) is held by the Genealogical Department, Dublin, Ireland; it is much used by Cavenagh family historians. His research has also been microfilmed by FamilySearch.
Other family history documents, including many fine heraldic illustrations, are in the possession of his grand-daughter.
Some of his research on the Cavenaghs of Kildare has been transcribed by another cousin, who has given me permission to share 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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
an orderly queue to enter the library
British Library entrance
Ling’s Library of George III – 6 stories high
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.
the museum cafe
Joshua Ward portrait
overwhelming quantity of collection but 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.
taxi in the rain
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.
Queen Victoria sculpted by her daughter Princess Louise
Hyde Park wilder than expected
Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
swan on the Serpentine
Italian Garden in Hyde Park
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’].
20th century grave maker for Claude and Marie CdeC
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
contrast with motorway nearby
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.
lots of William Morris patterned fabrics
inspecting the books
views of the garden
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.)
Mr William McEwan, Mrs Greville’s father, a Scottish politician and brewer who paid for the house and its running. His portrait hangs in the dining room.
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.
Runnymede – memorial to the signing of the Magna Carta
Runnymede is under the flightpath – there is nearby memorial to WW2 airmen
boating on the Thames
a white swan is unusual for us
peaceful Thames of children’s books
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 Tube and lots of walking.