Crystal Ffinch née Champion de Crespigny, one of my 5th cousins twice removed, was born on 9 May 1877 in Durrington, Wiltshire. She was the fourth of nine children and third of four daughters of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the fourth baronet and Georgiana Lady Champion de Crespigny née McKerrell.
In the 1881 census Crystal, then aged three, was recorded as residing at Champion Lodge, near Maldon, Essex, with her mother and her five siblings, aged from eight months to seven years. Also present were two visitors and nine live-in servants: a governess, two nurses, two footmen, two housemaids, a kitchenmaid and a cook. Her father was away at the time.
At the next census, in 1891, Crystal was attending boarding school in Exeter called Edgerton House School. Crystal, aged thirteen, and her sister Cerise aged fifteen were two of the ten boarders.
In May 1896 Crystal and her recently married sister Cicely, Mrs George Lancaster, were presented by their mother, Lady Champion de Crespigny, to H.R.H. the Princess of Wales at a Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace on behalf of her Majesty.
On 18 December 1901 Crystal married Captain Matthew Ffinch at St Peter’s Church, Great Totham, Essex. The reception was held at Champion Lodge, the family home, less than a mile from the church. The couple honeymooned in Madeira.
In 1904 Matthew, who had been on half pay from the army, was placed on retired pay. Because of ill health in 1899 he had been placed on temporary half-pay.
At the time of the 1911 census Crystal was in Kent on holidays with her husband Matthew, a retired army officer, staying in a private hotel called Ledge Point at Westgate on Sea. This census asked how long a couple had been married and whether there were any children. The Ffinches were childless.
I have found only one photograph of Crystal, at a Champion Lodge shooting party in November 1911.
In World War 1 Crystal volunteered with the Red Cross at Rivercourt Red Cross Hospital in Maldon. Her mother, Lady de Crespigny, was also involved with hospital matters there. The hospital building had previously been run as a “Home of Rest”, a convalescent home. At the outbreak of war the building was donated by its owner to be used by the Red Cross Society as a convalescent hospital for the troops. It operated from August 1914 to January 1919.
Crystal was recorded as a nurse probationer, who worked part-time. Her contribution, with her nursing duties, was to collect subscriptions and contributions of fruit and vegetables and entertain the patients. Her mother was noted as having the duties of nursing and that she was:
A generous supporter of the Hospital, helped to raise funds, visited regularly for Rifle Brigade. Supplied Patients with literature, cigarettes etc, also fruit & vegetables continually for 4 1/2 years. A valuable patron of the Hospital, entertaining the Patients constantly.
Crystal’s husband Matthew served as a Special constable. In 1916 a Zeppelin numbered L33 crashed nearby, at Little Wigborough, ten miles from Heybridge where the Ffinches lived. It made a forced landing but the crew were largely unharmed. First setting set fire to the airship to prevent it falling into British hands, they trudged off in the direction of Colchester, eight miles north, to give themselves up. (L33 was one of twelve Zeppelins to bomb England. Another, the L32, crashed in flames at Great Burstead, south-west of Maldon, killing all on board.) The crew, found on the road by a Special Constable, spent the rest of the war in captivity. Captain M. Ffinch reported on how the Special Constables of Peldon helped to control the traffic and the thousands of sightseers who descended on the village the day after the zeppelin landed.
In January 1918 Captain Matthew Benjamin Dipnall Ffinch, J.P. Assistant Chief Constable in Charge of Special Constabulary, Essex, was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE).
In 1919 Matthew was made one of the Deputy Lieutenants of the County of Essex. In a 1922 directory he was recorded as one of the County Magistrates for the Witham Division.
At the time of the 1921 census, Matthew and Crystal Ffinch were living in a twelve-room house at Langford Mead, Heybridge near Maldon with two live in servants: a cook and house parlour maid.
The British Legion, founded in 1921 as a voice for the ex-service community, had a presence in Maldon, with separate sections for men and women. Crystal, Mrs FFinch, was chairman and her mother, Lady Champion de Crespigny was president. In September 1923 a cavalcade of charabancs took 90 women members, including Crystal and her mother from the war memorial to a garden party hosted by Captain and Mrs Long-Price at their home ‘Rosmeade’ in Ulting.
On 29 September 1939 a Register was compiled of every member of the civilian population. The information was used to produce identity cards and, once rationing was introduced in January 1940, to issue ration books. Information in the Register was also used to administer conscription and the direction of labour, and to monitor and control the movement of the population caused by military mobilisation and mass evacuation. In 1939 Crystal was recorded as living in Langford Meads, Heybridge. Her entry on the 1939 Register is annotated “Vice President British Red +”. In the same house was William Lyddon, a retired colonel of the Royal Artillery, William and Mary Rawlings, who served as chauffeur and parlourman, and a cook. Matthew was recorded at the Grange, Newton Regis, Warwickshire.
Matthew died in 1951. His death was announced in The Daily Telegraph of 15 February 1951:
FFINCH.—On Feb 14. at 85. Campden Hill-court, Kensington, W.8. Captain MATTHEW BENJAMIN DIPNALL FFINCH, C.B E.. late The North Staffordshire Regiment, formerly of Langford, Essex, in his 85th year. Funeral at Ulting Church, Essex, Saturday. Feb . 17, at 12 noon. Flowers may be sent to J H Kenyon Ltd.. 12. Kensington Church-st.. W.8. by tomorrow (Friday).
His death notice in The Times of 20 February 1951 stated:
Captain Matthew Benjamin Dipnall Ffinch, C.B.E., Assistant Chief Constable of Essex from 1914 to 1919, died at his home in London recently at the age of 84.
Crystal died ten years later. Her death was announced in The Times of 17 November 1961:
FFINCH.-On 16th November, 1961, in a London nursing home CRYSTAL, aged 84 years of Langford Meads, Maldon, Essex Widow of CAPTAIN MATTHEW BENJAMIN DIPNALL FFINCH. C.B.E.. and daughter of the late Sir Claude and Lady Champion de Crespigny. Funeral Tuesday, 21st November (arrangements later)
- Index to articles concerning the de Crespigny baronets including her father the 4th baronet and her brothers and sisters: de Crespigny family index 3 – the baronets and their descendants