My great great grandfather Philip Champion de Crespigny was born on 4 January 1850 in St. Malo, Brittany. He was the son of Philip Robert Champion de Crespigny, who later became a police magistrate and goldfields warden in Australia, and his wife Charlotte Frances née Dana. Philip junior was the second of their five children.
Philip Champion de Crespigny had a long career with the Bank of Victoria from 1866, and he became the bank’s General Manager in 1916. Early in his career, however, he resigned from the bank to travel in the Pacific islands with his cousin George Dana.
On 28 July 1871 George Dana’s two partners, James Bell and William Ross, were murdered by natives on Tanna island. George Dana gave evidence at the inquest and conducted the burial service. Philip Crespigny is not mentioned in reports, perhaps because was not on Tanna at the time. Many years later he recalled to his grandson Philip George de Crespigny (1906 – 2001) the uneasy feeling of being moored in the evening on a small ship just offshore, with a strong sense of hostile eyes in the jungle a short distance away.
With his cousin George, and Henry Bell (brother of James who was murdered), Philip Crespigny, age 21, is recorded on the passenger list of the Gem when it returned from New Caledonia to Melbourne on 4 October 1871.
Philip decided that the life of an island trader was not for him and decided to return to the bank. He regarded himself as very fortunate in being allowed to rejoin, for it was a general rule that a man who had left that service should not be employed again.
My great great aunt Helen Rosalie Champion Crespigny, called Rose, was born on 15 October 1858 at Daisy Hill, later known as Amherst, near Talbot, Victoria to Philip Champion Crespigny and Charlotte née Dana, the youngest of their five children.
On 3 February 1876 she married Francis Beggs in Ararat by license, according to the rites of the Church of England. Rose was 17 and her father provided his written consent to the marriage. Rose lived in Ararat, where her father was the Police Magistrate. Francis Beggs was 25, a squatter living at Eurambeen. Eurambeen is about 40 kilometers south-east of Ararat.
BEGGS-CRESPIGNY. — On the 3rd inst., at Christ Church, Ararat, by the Rev. Canon Homan, Francis Beggs, eldest son of Francis Beggs, Esq., of Eurambeen, to Helen Rosalie, third daughter of P. C. Crespigny, Esq., P.M., Ararat.
[The marriage notice seems to be in error. The Anglican Church in Ararat was then known as Trinity Church, later Holy Trinity.]
The photograph album compiled by Rose Beggs includes photographs of them taken at the time of their wedding. The photographer was Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co. of 3 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Perhaps they travelled to Melbourne after the wedding and had their photographs taken then as a memento. Or perhaps a photographer from the studio was visiting Ararat at the time.
Frank died in 1921. Rose Beggs died on 28 March 1937 in North Brighton,Victoria. They had no children.
BEAUFORT.-The death occurred at North Brighton of Mrs. Helen Rosalie Beggs, widow of the late Mr. Francis Beggs, the original owner of St. Marnock's Estate, Beaufort. She lived in the district many years and was closely associated with the local branch of the Australian Women's National League. The burial took place in the family burial ground at Eurambeen Estate.
A few weeks ago I received an email from my father’s cousin, the son of my great aunt Nancy Movius nee Champion de Crespigny (1910-2003), offering me the custody of several collections of photographs:
“We have unearthed three Victorian photo albums that my mother seems to have brought from Adelaide with her. They came to light when we moved out of our house by the seaside, and are filled with deC's and others among our forebears. We are no longer living in space sufficient to store them safely. You should have them for your archive. It would be a shame not to have them preserved and I am happy to ship them to you. Please say you want them and furnish an address.
The three albums have arrived, a most exciting event. They include more than 200 photographs, most of them cartes de visite, with some cabinet cards.
Cartes de visite, first produced in the 1850s, were small photographs. They were usually made of an albumen print, with the thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card. Cabinet cards, of a larger format, date from the 1870s.
One the albums is inscribed “Rose from her brother Loo”. Loo or Loup was the pet name for my great great grandfather Philip Champion de Crespigny (1850-1927). Rose (1858-1937) was his youngest sister. She married Frank Beggs. This album has an index to people in the photos, and my great aunt Nancy has also annotated some of the photographs.
The second album has no inscriptions nor annotations.
The third album has been partly annotated by Nancy, who refers to the album as belonging to Charlotte Frances Champion de Crespigny nee Dana. Charlotte was my third great grandmother, the mother of Philip and Rose.
I think that Rose gave the albums to Nancy, her great niece.
Most of the photographs are new to me. It is marvellous to be able to see photographs of people I had previously only known as names. I look forward to sharing the photographs, and perhaps some of the stories that go with them, in forthcoming posts.
In Great Britain 21 October is celebrated as Trafalgar Day. During the Napoleonic Wars, as part of Napoleon’s plan to invade England, the French and Spanish Naval fleets combined forces to take control of the English Channel. On this day in 1805, the Royal Navy under the command of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson intercepted the would-be invasion off Cape Trafalgar, on the south-west coast of Spain. Nelson’s battle tactics claimed 22 of the 33 allied ships, while the smaller British fleet lost none. Nelson was fatally wounded in the battle.
The Naval General Service Medal (NGSM) was a campaign medal approved in 1847, and issued to officers and men of the Royal Navy in 1849. It was awarded retrospectively for various naval actions during the period 1793–1840. Each battle or campaign covered by the medal was represented by a clasp on the ribbon. The medal was never issued without a clasp, 231 of which were sanctioned. The clasps covered a variety of actions, from boat service, ship to ship skirmishes, and major fleet actions such as the Battle of Trafalgar. The medal was awarded only to surviving claimants. A combination of factors, from illiteracy to limited publicity, meant that many of those eligible did not apply for the new medal. The Admiralty awarded 20,933 medals in total.
I have several relatives who served in Trafalgar. They are remembered in the 1913 book compiled by Colonel Robert Holden Mackenzie: “The Trafalgar Roll : Containing the Names and Services of All Officers of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines Who Participated in the Glorious Victory of the 21st October 1805, Together with a History of the Ships Engaged in Battle.” Mackenzie’s Trafalgar Roll, compiled 107 years after the battle, was the first attempt to list “the names of all the officers of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines who by their valour contributed to the day’s success”.
Mackenzie wrote: “… with the exception of the admirals, and the captains of ships, who were rewarded with gold medals, comparatively few of those who contributed to the victory of Trafalgar received any official recognition of their services: the majority had gone to their last berths by the time Queen Victoria, on the 1st June 1847, nearly forty-two years after the fight, graciously repaired the omission of her predecessors by bestowing a silver medal with clasps on the survivors of the various actions, including Trafalgar, fought between 1793 and 1840.”
James Bayly was a midshipman on the Euryalus, a 36 gun frigate
Captain J. Bayly, one of five brothers in the navy and army, was the son of the Rev. Henry Bayly, Rector of Nenagh and Nigh, Co. Tipperary. Born at Nenagh, and entered the service in 1799 as a Volunteer. Served in Penelope at blockade of Malta, and at the capture of the Guillaume Tell, 1800 ; and in the expedition to Egypt in 1801. Served as Mid. of Euryalus at Trafalgar, 1805—promoted to Lieutenant. Lieutenant of the Ganges at capture of the French frigate Le President, 1806; and in the expedition to Copenhagen, 1807. Did good service in rescuing the Euryalus and Shearwater, brig, from six of the enemy’s ships in a gale off Toulon, 1810. Commander, 1828. Retired Captain, 1856. War medal and three clasps. Died in 1857.
August James De Crespigny was a midshipman on the Spartiate, 74 guns
Commander A. J. De Crespigny, was 3rd son of Sir William Champion De Crespigny, 2nd Bart., M.P., and Sarah, daughter of the 4th Earl of Plymouth. Born in Italy. Entered service as Volunteer 1st Class, 1805. Mid., 1805. Mid. in the Spartiate at Trafalgar, 1805. Lieut., 1811. Received Royal Humane Society’s medal, 1815, for gallantry in saving life from drowning. Commander, 1825. In command of Scylla, and died off Port Royal, Jamaica, of yellow fever, 1825.
Benjamin Mainwaring was a volunteer 1st class (rated as A.B. able seaman) on the Temeraire, 98 guns
Lieut. B. Mainwaring was son of Edward Mainwaring, and second cousin of Vice-Admiral T. F. C. Mainwaring, who served in the Naiad at Trafalgar, and died in 1858. Born in 1794. Borne on ship’s books of Temeraire as A.B. at Trafalgar, 1805. Served in boats of Revenge at cutting out of two privateers from under the enemy’s battery on the coast of Catalonia, 1814. Lieut., 1814. Served in Coastguard, 1831-36. Medal and clasp. Died in 1852.
Thomas Francis Charles Mainwaring was a lieutenant on the Naiad, a 36 gun frigate
Vice-Admiral T. F. C. Mainwaring was the eldest son of Charles Henry Mainwaring, of Whitmore Hall, Co. Stafford, and Julia, daughter of Rev. Philip Wroughton. He was second cousin of Lieut. Benjamin Mainwaring, R.N., who served in the Temeraire at Trafalgar. Born in 1780, he entered the service from the Royal Naval Academy in 1796, as a Volunteer 1st Class. Lieut., 1800. Lieut, of Naiad, 1802-6, including the battle of Trafalgar, 1805. Commander, 1806. Commanded the Tartarus, fireship, in the expedition to Copenhagen, 1807; at the sinking of two French privateers off Pillau, 1810; and conveying the ex-King of Sweden from Riga to England, 1810. Captain, 1810. Retired Rear-Admiral, 1846. Medal and clasp. Died in Marlborough Buildings, Bath, 1858.
Further reading and related posts
Mackenzie, Robert Holden. “The Trafalgar Roll : Containing the Names and Services of All Officers of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines Who Participated in the Glorious Victory of the 21st October 1805, Together with a History of the Ships Engaged in Battle.” G. Allen, [London : Cornmarket Press], 1913, retrieved through archive.org
Naval General Service Medalpictued above was awarded to Corporal Henry Castle, Royal Marines, with clasps ‘Trafalgar’ (HMS Britannia) and ‘Java’ (HMS Hussar). From the Auckland Museum, CC BY 4.0, image retrieved through Wikimedia Commons
Today is Trafalgar Day. In Napoleon’s effort to invade England, the French and Spanish Naval fleets combined forces to take control of the English Channel. On 21 October 1805, under the command of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, the British Royal Navy intercepted the would-be invasion off Cape Trafalgar, along the south-west coast of Spain. Despite being greatly outnumbered, Nelson’s battle tactics claimed 22 of the 33 allied ships, while the British fleet lost none, though Nelson was fatally wounded during the battle.
Augustus James Champion de Crespigny (1791-1825) was at the battle on board HMS “Spartiate”. He was 14 years old.
Augustus James Champion de Crespigny (1791-1825), my second cousin five times removed, died of yellow fever on board HMS Scylla. and was buried at Port Royal, Jamaica. Augustus was the third son of the second baronet, Sir William Champion de Crespigny (1765-189) and his wife Lady Sarah née Windsor (1763-1825).
Augustus James Champion de Crespigny, portrait in the collection of Kelmarsh Hall. Published on artuk.org
The monumental inscription at the Port Royal Parish Church in Jamaica reads:
Sacred to the memory of Augustus James DE CRESPIGNY, 3d son of Sir W. Chn & Lady Sarah De Crespigny, who died on board H.M.Ship ‘Scylla’, Oct. 24, 1825. Capt De Crespigny went first to sea under the patronage of Ld. St Vincent & served under the flag of Nelson, at Trafalgar. From thence he was taken under the patronage of Ld. Collingwood, who made him study the duties of a…
My great great grandfather Philip Champion de Crespigny (1850 – 1927) was General Manager of the Bank of Victoria.
One of my cousins recently obtained a photograph of the staff of the bank in 1917 from the Historical Services Curator of the National Australia Bank (which was formed by the amalgamation of the Bank of Victoria with the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney in 1927 and the National Bank of Australasia in 1982).
The photo appears to have been taken on the roof of the bank’s head office in Collins Street. There are no names with the photo, but clearly recognisable seated at the centre is Philip Champion de Crespigny.
[Crespigny] joined the service of the Bank of Victoria in June, 1866, as a junior clerk. After spending a few years in country districts in service of the bank he was promoted to the position of manager at Epsom, and he filled a similar position at other country towns. Subsequently he was placed in charge of the South Melbourne branch of the bank. At the end of 1892 he was appointed assistant inspector, and he continued to act in that capacity until 1908, when he took the office of chief inspector. In 1916 he became general manager of the bank in succession to Mr George Stewart.
At the time of his first marriage, to Annie Frances Chauncy in 1877, Philip de Crespigny was the manager of the Bank of Victoria branch at Epsom five miles north-east of Bendigo. His oldest son Philip was born there in 1879. In early 1882 Philip moved from Epsom to Queenscliff, a small town on the Bellarine Peninsula, 30 kilometres south-east of Geelong. The Bank of Victoria was at 76 Hesse Street. Philip’s son, my great grandfather Constantine Trent, was born at Queenscliff in March 1882. Philip’s wife Annie died at Queenscliff in 1883.
In 1886 Philip transferred to be manager of the Elmore branch, forty kilometres northeast of Bendigo. In 1887 he was appointed manager of the South Melbourne branch. In 1888 he became Assistant Inspector of Branches, and was appointed Inspector of Branches in 1908. In 1916 he became the bank’s General Manager.
Another obituary, in the Melbourne Herald of 11 March 1927, notes that Philip was remembered for his “ability as a financial expert [and this] was known throughout Australia. During the war period, he gave his services freely to the Government, his advice having been of the greatest value to the country.”
A 1918 photograph of the Bank of Victoria’s office in Collins Street shows an advertisement for the 7th War loan.
Today in 1849, 173 years ago, my 3rd great grandparents Philip Robert Champion Crespigny and Charlotte Frances Dana were married at the British Embassy in Paris.
The official residence of the British ambassador to France since 1814 has been the Hôtel de Charost, located at 39 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, just a few doors down from the Élysée Palace. It was built in 1720 and bought by the Duke of Wellington in 1814.
Philip was recorded as bachelor of Boulogne-sur-mer. Charlotte was a spinster of Albrighton in the County of Salop. Her previous marriage had ended in divorce. This was not mentioned on the registration.
The marriage was performed by Archdeacon Michael Keating, witnessed by a Fred Shanney or Channey. I do not know who he was.
Soon after their marriage Philip and Charlotte Crespigny emigrated to Australia.
On 28 April 1916 a man calling himself Eric Claude Champion de Crespigny married Eileen Barbara Lamport by licence at Holy Trinity Church in Vauxhall Bridge Road, London. He stated that he was a soldier, age 22 [so born about about 1894], the son of Claude de Crespigny (deceased). He gave his address as 13 Stafford Road, Stockwell.
On 5 December 1917 he was at reported to be a prisoner at Dulmen, he had previously been in Dendermonde camp; Dendermonde is a city in east Flanders and Dülmen is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia. Records of the International Committee of the Red Cross give de Crespigny’s service number as 10882, stating that he was born 1 February 1894 at Maldon. His next of kin was recorded as his wife, who lived at “Wyvern House”, Llandrindod Wells, Wales.
In a report of 8 February 1918 he was stated to be in 1 Münster having previously been in Lager Dülmen (Camp Dulmen) which was just over 30 kilometers south-west of Münster. There was a slight variation in some of the details reported. He was captured 10 September 1917. He was wounded: “Kugel 1 Bein und Schamleiste” or “Ball [bullet] 1 leg and groin”. His birthdate was given as 1 February 1893 and place of birth London.
Eric de Crespigny is recorded on Medal Index Cards, compiled towards the end of the war, as ERIC C C D’CRESPIGNY. I cannot find any earlier military records that name him.
Eric Claude Champion de Crespigny was recorded on the 1918 electoral roll for the City of Westminster as living at 48 Eaton Square.
Eileen remarried on 10 November 1919 to a man called Cyril Wardale King, giving her name as Kathleen Barbara Lamport. I have found no record of a divorce, nor have I found any other record naming Eric de Crespigny before his marriage in 1916 or after the 1918 electoral roll.
So who was Eric Claude de Crespigny?
The only man who fits the surname, was possibly the right age in 1892 or 1893 to father a child, and who in 1916 was describable as ‘deceased’ is Claude Champion de Crespigny, who was born in 1873 and died in 1910. Claude did not marry. He possibly fathered an illegitimate son, and this may be the man who called himself Eric de Crespigny.
His signature on the 1916 marriage record of ‘Eric Claude Champion de Crespigny’ bears a strong resemblance to the signature of Claude Edmund Alexander Champion de Crespigny on 1923 and 1927 petitions for United States naturalization.
Why assume somebody else’s surname and then their identity? I think Eric/Edmund/Claude gained a social and perhaps some financial advantage by pretending to be connected to the Champion de Crespigny family.
He did get somewhat out of his depth though when in 1930 in Chicago he claimed to have a PhD and joined the faculty of Loyola University. (A significant shift from his occupation as typewriter salesman reported on the census of 1 April 1930). As Professor Claude Champion de Crespigny, he gave a talk on “Britain in India today”. Professor de Crespigny was said to have ‘served with the British Legation in India’. Since India had not yet gained independence, the term ‘British Legation in India’ makes no sense. Perhaps no one noticed the slip.
Nothing was heard of ‘Professor’ de Crespigny after this. When he died in 1967 his occupation was hotel clerk, of Houston, Texas.
Claude had come down in the world, poor chap. In the long run, stealing another man’s name didn’t do him any good.
Philip Robert Champion Crespigny (1817 – 1889), one of my third great grandfathers, was the third of five children of Charles Fox Champion de Crespigny and Eliza née Trent.
Philip was born in Boulogne-sur-mer, France, 35 kilometres south-west of Calais. His older brothers, Charles and George, had been born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk in 1814, and in Antwerp in 1815. Philip’s two younger sisters were born in Boulogne in 1819 and 1825.
I am not sure when the family returned to England or where they lived. In October 1830 the three boys were admitted to the Royal College of Elizabeth on the Island of Guernsey. Charles was sixteen years old, George fifteen, and Philip thirteen.
Guernsey is an island in the English Channel (in French, La Manche) on the coast of Normandy, west of the Cherbourg peninsular. A hundred kilometres south is Saint Malo, where Philip later lived before emigrating to Australia.
Elizabeth College, Guernsey was founded in 1563. In 1826 it was re-chartered and renamed the Royal College of Elizabeth. The Rev. Charles William Stocker, D.D. was appointed principal; he set out to raise the academic standing of the school and oversee the construction of the new main building, which was completed in 1829, three years later.
353. Crespigny (afterwards de Crespigny) Charles John
Champion — born at Aldborough, June 20, 1814; son of Charles John Champion Crespigny and Julia Eliza Champion ; left 1831.
Reverted to the family name of de Crespigny ; no profession ; died in London in 1880.
354. Crespigny (afterwards de Crespigny) George Blicke
Champion — born at Antwerp, October 31, 1815 ; brother of No. 353 ; left 1832.
Ensign, 20th Regiment, 1836; Major, 1864; Paymaster of the School of Musketry at Hythe, 1855-1881; Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, 1869; reverted to the family name of de Crespigny in 1874 ; Colonel (half -pay) 1881 ; died in 1893.
355. Crespigny (afterwards de Crespigny) Philip Robert
Champion — born at Boulogne, October 4, 1817 ; brother of No. 353 ; left 1831.
Reverted to the family name of de Crespigny ; emigrated to Australia and engaged in farming; became a Police Magistrate at Daisy-hill, near Maryborough, Victoria; Warden of Goldfields and Coroner; died at Brighton, Melbourne, in 1889.
It looks as though Charles and Philip lasted a year or less and George lasted perhaps two years.
In 1831 there were 192 students, an increase from 1826 attributed to the arrival of eighty-nine migrants from England.
The Rev. George Samuel Proctor succeeded Stocker as principal from 1829 to 1832, resigning from the post after a disagreement with the College Directors.
It has been suggested that Proctor was the prototype of Dr. Blimber in Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (1846-8).
...'I believe the Doctor's is an excellent establishment. I've heard that it's very strictly conducted, and there is nothing but learning going on from morning to night.'
'And it's very expensive,' added Mr Dombey.
'And it's very expensive, Sir,' returned Mrs Pipchin, catching at the fact, as if in omitting that, she had omitted one of its leading merits.
Whenever a young gentleman was taken in hand by Doctor Blimber, he might consider himself sure of a pretty tight squeeze. The Doctor only undertook the charge of ten young gentlemen, but he had, always ready, a supply of learning for a hundred, on the lowest estimate; and it was at once the business and delight of his life to gorge the unhappy ten with it.
In fact, Doctor Blimber's establishment was a great hot-house, in which there was a forcing apparatus incessantly at work. All the boys blew before their time. Mental green-peas were produced at Christmas, and intellectual asparagus all the year round. Mathematical gooseberries (very sour ones too) were common at untimely seasons, and from mere sprouts of bushes, under Doctor Blimber's cultivation. Every description of Greek and Latin vegetable was got off the driest twigs of boys, under the frostiest circumstances. Nature was of no consequence at all. No matter what a young gentleman was intended to bear, Doctor Blimber made him bear to pattern, somehow or other.
George de Crespigny left Elizabeth College in 1832 and was admitted to Trinity Hall Cambridge University. From Alumni Cantabrigienses:
CRESPIGNY or DE CRESPIGNY, GEORGE BLICKE CHAMPION. Adm. pens, at Trinity Hall, Oct. 17, 1832. [2nd s. of Charles Fox Champion (1803), Esq., of Tal-y-Ilyn House, Brecon.] Adm. at Lincoln's Inn, Nov. 4, 1833; age 17. Lieut. -Col., late 20th Regt.; Paymaster, Army service, 1880. Sometime on the staff of the School of Musketry, at Hythe, Kent. Married Elizabeth Jane, dau. of Alexander Buchanan, Esq., of Montreal, Canada, Q.C (Canadian Bar), June 11, 1851. Brother of Philip R. C. (1838). (Foster, Baronetage, 1883.)
Philip also attended Cambridge from 1838, admitted to Downing College. I do not know where he received his education from 1831 to 1838.
CRESPIGNY, PHILIP ROBERT CHAMPION. Adm. Fell.-Com. at Downing, Nov. 7, 1838. [3rd s. of Charles James Fox (1803).] B. Oct. 4, 1817- Went to Australia. Some time Warden and Police- Magistrate of goldfields, Ararat, Victoria. Married Charlotte Frances, dau. of William Pulteney Dana, Capt., 6th Foot, July 18, 1849. Brother of George B. C. (1832). (Foster, Baronetage, 1883.)
Charles attended neither Cambridge nor Oxford.
I would like to know more about the education of Charles, George and Philip, and I am curious as to what induced my fourth great grandfather C F C de Crespigny to send his boys to a school in Guernsey.
Valerie Lady Smiley née Champion de Crespigny, one of my 5th cousins twice removed, was born on 26 May 1883 in Maldon, Essex. She was the eighth of nine children and youngest of four daughters of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the fourth baronet and Georgiana Lady Champion de Crespigny née McKerrell.
At the time of the 1891 census Valerie was recorded as seven years old and living at Champion Lodge in Camberwell, London, with her mother and two brothers. Her father and other siblings were away from home. The household also included four female servants including a parlourmaid, housemaid and cook.
Ten years later, at the 1901 census Valerie was the only member of the family at home at Champion Lodge in Heybridge, Maldon, Essex. The household included one visitor, a professional music singer, and eight servants: a butler, lady’s maid, two housemaids, a kitchenmaid, a cook, and a groom.
In 1903 Valerie married Captain John Smiley. The Chelmsford Chronicle reported on the engagement on 24 July:
ENGAGEMENT OF MISS VALERIE DE CRESPIGNY. A marriage will shortly take place between Valerie, youngest daughter of Sir Claude and Lady Champion de Crespigny, and Capt. John Smiley (late Carabiniers), eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh H. Smiley, of Gallowhill, Paisley, and Drumalis, Larne. County Antrim.
On 27 November the same newspaper published a report of the wedding:
SMILEY—CHAMPION DE CRESPIGNY. A wedding of great interest to Essex, took place yesterday afternoon at StGeorge's, Hanover-square, when Miss Valerie Champion de Crespigny, youngest daughter of Sir Claude and Lady Champion de Crespigny, of Champion Lodge, Maldon, was married to Captain John Smiley (late Carabiniers), eldest son of Sir Hugh and Lady Smiley, of Gallow-hill, Paisley, and Drumalis, Larne. Miss de Crespigny is pretty and has a very charming manner. Capt. Smiley is one of the officers who went all through the South African campaign. He resigned from the 6th Dragoon Guards only a year ago. The bride's dress was of white satin covered with old point de Gaze lace, The train was composed of cloth of silver and lace, was borne by two small boys and two girls, viz., Master Claude Lancaster, nephew of the bride, and the Hon. Hercules Robinson, son of Lord and Lady Rosmead, Miss Valencia Lancaster, niece of the bride, and Miss Smiley, sister of the bridegroom. The bride also wore orange blossoms and had in her hair a large diamond shamrock, which, with a pearl necklace and tiara, were the gilts of the bridegroom. The four bridesmaids were Miss Brouncker, cousin of the bride, Miss Talbot, Miss Crichton, and Miss Ramsay. They wore dresses of eau de Nil voile, worked with green lace, and with long green sashes; green hats with green feathers, and green shamrock brooches set with pearls, the gift of the bridegroom. They carried pink carnation bouquets. Lady Champion de Crespigny, the bride's mother, wore brown poplin trimmed with velvet, with lace bolero, and brown velvet picture hat. The Church had been beautifully decorated with palms, lilies, and other flowers. The service was fully choral, the hymn “O Father, all creating," being sung at the entrance of the bride, later Psalm lxvii., and finally the hymn “O perfect love." The clergymen conducting the service were the Rev. H. T. W. Eyre, vicar of Great Totham, and Dr. Robert Port, vicar of Champion Hill, London. The bride was given away by her father, and Mr. P. K. Smiley (21st Lancers), brother of the bridegroom, was best man. Dr. Port gave a brief address, couched in beautiful terms. There was much truth, he said, in the old proverb that marriages were made in heaven and by heaven. Those were indeed happy homes which welcomed Christ as the corner-stone. A reception was held at Claridge's Hotel, Brook-street, W., after the ceremony, and there the handsome presents were viewed, numbering over 400. The bride received a wealth of jewels. Captain Smiley's gifts included a pearl and diamond tiara, an emerald and diamond ring, a diamond and peridot pendant, and some lovely Irish lace. Sir Claude gave his daughter a miniature of an ancestor set in diamonds, and Sir Hugh and Lady Smiley gave some lovely pearls. Other presents were : —Lady Smiley, pearl necklace; Sir Hugh Smiley, brougham and cheque; Miss Eileen Smiley, necklace and pendant of turquoise and diamonds ; Sir Claude de Crespigny, diamond pendant; Lady de Crespigny, inlaid writing table ; Captain de Crespigny, gold bag and gold purse; Norman de Crespigny, silver ringstand ; Vierville de Crespigny, silver napkin rings ; Rupert de Crespigny, silver fitted writing case; Mrs. Robert Boyle, painting ; Mrs. Granville Lancaster, alver tureen ; Captain K. Smiley, gold watch and pearl and diamond pendant ; Mr. H. S. Smiley, silver tureen; Mr. John M. Smiley (Philadelphia), silver tureens ; and other gifts from Col. and Mrs. L. Horace Phillips, Colchester ; Sir Daniel Dixon, Bart., Sir James and Lady Guthrie, Field-Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, V.C., Capt. and Mrs. Ffinch, Lady Maud Barutt, Professor and Mrs. Dewar, Sir Leslie and Lady Falkiner, Prince and Princess de Cassano, etc. The honeymoon is to be spent in Paris. The bride's going away costume was of dark green cloth, trimmed with velvet, with large hat to match.
The wedding present from Sir Claude de Crespigny of “a miniature of an ancestor set in diamonds” was quite possibly the miniature bequeathed by Mary Feillet née Champion, Valerie’s 5th great aunt, in 1736 to Mary’s nephew Philip Champion de Crespigny (1705 – 1765), Valerie’s 4th great grandfather.
The miniature is apparently no longer in the family. It may have been sold, or perhaps destroyed in one of the two house fires Valerie suffered.
The Smiley family wealth came from cotton and shipping. John’s father, Sir Hugh Smiley, was made a baronet in 1903. He had been prominent in Ulster politics and owned a staunchly Unionist newspaper, the Northern Whig, which was vehemently opposed to Irish Home Rule. Sir Hugh’s wife, Elizabeth Kerr, was a cotton heiress from Paisley in Scotland.
On the death of his father on 1 March 1909 John Smiley became the second baronet Smiley of Drumalis. Valerie was then known as Lady Smiley.
In March 1911 Lady Smiley was photographed by Tatlertaking a stroll in Monte Carlo as part of “society seeking sunshine on southern shores” and “avoiding London’s fogs and damp”.
By April that year, when the census was taken, the Smileys were back in England, at Saxham Hall, Bury St Edmunds. The census lists John, Valerie, their three children aged five, three, and one, with sixteen servants and two visitors to the servants. The servants comprised: housekeeper, two domestic nurses, four housemaids, a kitchenmaid, scullerymaid, a lady’s maid, three footmen, two chauffeur mechanics, and a cook. Saxham Hall had 38 rooms.
On 24 May 1911 Lady Valerie Smiley was presented at Court by the Marchioness of Donegall, widow of the fifth Marquess.
Unlike her sister Crystal Ffinch, Valerie Smiley was frequently pictured in society magazines. In July 1911 Lady Smiley, her husband and two children were pictured at a children’s day at Ranelagh Gardens.
In 1912 Lady Smiley again attended the children’s day at Ranelagh with her children Hugh and Patricia. This time she was accompanied by her niece Valencia Lancaster, daughter of her oldest sister Cicely.
In January 1914 there was a fire at Barton Hall near Bury St Edmunds, which had recently been leased by the Smileys. The report from the Sunday Times of 11 January 1914:
GUESTS FIGHT FLAMES
BUT LOSE BELONGINGS.
FAMOUS PICTURES SAVED
Barton Hall, the Suffolk residence of Sir John Smiley, near Bury St. Edmunds, was almost totally destroyed by fire early yesterday morning. The outbreak was discovered about one o'clock, and upon the alarm being given the gentlemen of the house party which was being entertained there by Sir John and Lady Smiley turned out in their evening clothes and assisted the estate employees and villagers , who had been hastily called , in their efforts to subdue the flames.
The fire is believed to have originated in the roof while a dance was in progress. Soon after midnight , when the dancing had just ended , one of the guests, going up to his room, detected the smell of burning.
A small room in the roof was broken open and was found to be in flames.
The Bury Fire Brigade and police, in response to urgent messages, also quickly arrived upon the spot to render assistance, but unfortunately the water supply was quite inadequate, and but little could be done to prevent the spread of the conflagration, which soon enveloped practically the whole of the building. Efforts were made to save the personal effects of the occupants as well as the valuable paintings and other effects which the building contained. Fortunately, several paintings were saved, but it is stated that one visitor alone has lost jewellery estimated to be worth £2,000.
Most of the guests lost everything except the evening dress clothes and jewellery which they were wearing for the dance. A few of them had retired for the night, and had to escape hurriedly in scanty clothing. The guests assembled on the lawn in front of the house and watched the blaze until towards dawn , when they were taken in motor cars to the Angel Hotel at Bury St. Edmunds. The house party included Mrs. Loeffler, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Hoare, the Hon. Mrs. Robert Boyle , Mr. Christopher Anstey, Mr. Graham, Herr von Schubert, Mr. F. Watt, Mr. Edmund Folgambe, Mrs. von Vrumalius, Mr. B. J. T. Bosanquet and Miss Bosanquet, - Captain Claude Rome and the Hon. Mrs. Rome. Barton Hall is the property of Sir Henry Charles Bunbury, the lord of the manor. It was long the residence of the late Mr. Frank Riley Smith, the well-known Master of the Suffolk Foxhounds, and had only recently been leased by Sir John Smiley. The mansion was built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was from time to time much modernised. It possessed no fewer than 365 windows . It included a fine gallery of pictures by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Peter Lely, and many Italian and Dutch masters. Reynolds' famous portrait of Annabella Lady Blake was fortunately saved. Other treasures rescued were Kneller 's portrait of Lord Euston, son of the Duke of Grafton; a Romney of great value ; Reynolds's portrait of Henry Bunbury, the famous caricaturist of the early nineteenth century; and Sir John Smiley's valuable collection of books. These treasures were stored for the time in the garage. The handsome library was built after a design by Sir William Chambers between 1766 and 1770. It contained many volumes of great value. The failure of the water supply appears to have been due to the fact that the pumping apparatus, worked by electricity, was damaged and could not be operated. Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury, celebrated as the winner of the first Derby—run in 1780 — at one time lived at Barton Hall.
At the time of the census held on 24 April 1921, Valerie and her husband and their youngest and oldest sons were living at Oakley Hall in Hampshire. Valerie’s niece Moyra Blanche Boyle, daughter of Cerise, was visiting. There were twelve servants: a house steward, a housekeeper, a cook, a kitchenmaid, a footman, three housemaids, a scullery maid, a male servant, a lady’s maid (French), a sewing maid. Oakley Hall had 47 rooms.
In 1927 Sir John Smiley bought Great Oaks at Goring Heath, Oxfordshire, to be the family home. (The house is now a school).
Sir John Smiley died on 13 April 1930. His death was reported in The Times of 14 April 1930:
SIR JOHN SMILEY
Major Sir John Smiley died at Bayonne yesterday at the age of 53.
Born in October, 1876, the eldest son of Sir Hugh Smiley, the first baronet, Sir John Smiley was educated at Eton and entered the Army with a commission in the 4th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Later he transferred to the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers) and with them he served in the South African War, holding the Queen's medal with three clasps and the King's with two. In 1914 he rejoined his old regiment and served throughout the War. As a Liberal Unionist he contested West Belfast in 1906 and 1910. He succeeded his father in 1909.
Sir John Smiley married in 1903 Valerie, youngest daughter of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny. She survives him with one daughter and three sons, the eldest of whom, Lieutenant Hugh Houston Smiley, Grenadier Guards, succeeds him.
There, in November 1969 Valerie Lady Smiley suffered a second housefire. The Daily Telegraph reported:
Paintings saved Police, firemen and neighbours carried valuable paintings and antique furniture to safety during a fire at the home of Valerie, Lady Smiley, in Meadow Road, Virginia Water, last night. Some paintings were destroyed.
Dame Valerie Smiley died 1 September 1978. Her death notice appeared in The Times of 6 September:
SMILEY.-On 1st September, Dame Valerie Smiley, aged 90, wife of the late Major Sir John Smiley, 2nd Bt., and youngest daughter of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, 4th Bt. Cremation private. No letters.