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.
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.
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 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)
Cerise Boyle née Champion de Crespigny, one of my 5th cousins twice removed, was born on 6 December 1875 in Ringwood, Hampshire. She was the third of nine children and second of four daughters of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the fourth baronet and Georgiana Lady Champion de Crespigny née McKerrell.
The Queen magazine of 12 August 1899 reported the marriage, with illustrations of the wedding gown, bridesmaids’ dresses, and the bride’s travelling dress.
Boyle-Champion de Crespigny
On the 3rd inst., at St George's Church, Hanover-square, the marriage was solemnised of Commander the Hon. Robert Boyle, R.N., son of the fifth Earl of Shannon, and brother of the present peer, with Cerise, second daughter of Sir Claude and Lady Champion de Crespigny, of Champion Lodge, Heybridge, Essex. The church was prettily decorated with palms and white flowers, and the service was choral. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a dress of ivory satin Duchesse, the skirt edged with flounces of chiffon arranged in waves ; the bodice had a chiffon fichu and yoke, and sleeves of silver embroidered lace, and old Venetian lace fell from the left side, where it was fastened with orange blossoms. The Court train of handsom Louis XV brocade fell from both shoulders, and her ornaments were pearls. She was attended by four bridesmaids, wearing dresses of pale poudre blue silk voile, the skirts having flounces edged with narrow Mechlin lace ; draped tucked bodices with tucked chiffon collar edged with frills bordered with narrow lace. They carried bouquets of Germania carnations, and wore gold curb bracelets set with turquoises, the gifts of the bridegroom. The officiating clergy were the Rev. Dr Porte, vicar of St. Matthew's Church, Denmark-hill, and the Rev. E. Galdart, rector of Little Braxted, Witham, Essex. Commander C. Craddock, R.N., was best man. After the ceremony a reception was held at 31, Curzon-street, Mayfair, and later the bride and bridegroom left for Scotland, where the honeymoon will be spent. The bride's travelling dress was of pale Parma violet cloth, the bodice having an inner vest of tucked velvet of a paler shade, and applications of guipure lace, and with it was worn a toque of cloth to match, with velvet and black ostrich tips. Lady de Crespigny wore blue crêpe de Chine, with lace appliqué on the skirt and bodice, and toque en suite ; she carried a bouquet of pink carnations.
They had four children. In 1916 a photograph of Cerise and her oldest son appeared in The Sketch. He was 14 and had just joined the navy.
Cerise painted, and her work was exhibited with the Society of Miniaturists in 1901. Among other exhibitions in 1921 and 1937 she exhibited watercolours at Walkers Galleries. In 1945 the Hon. Mrs Robert Boyle raised £115 for King George’s Fund for Sailors from the sale of her water colour sketches exhibited at the University College Buildings in Exeter. Two of her paintings have been sold in recent times. “A Hunter in a Wooded Landscape” painted in 1900 was sold by Christies in December 2012 as part of a collection from the attic of Harewood House. It had been owned by H.R.H. The Princess Mary, Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood (1897-1965) and her husband Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, (1882-1947). In 2006 Gorringes sold “Portrait of a horse Benedict”.
Robert Boyle died in 1922. His obituary in The Times of 12 September 1922 gives an account of his career:
DEATH OF VICE-ADMIRAL,R. F. BOYLE.
Vice-Admiral the Hon. Robert Francis Boyle, M.V.O., R.N., retired, died suddenly yesterday at Harewood House, Leeds. He had been staying with his cousin, the Earl of Harewood, for the last fortnight. A week ago he did not feel very well, and a nurse and a doctor were called in. He was better on Sunday, but yesterday became suddenly worse. During the early part of his stay Admiral Boyle had a good deal-of shooting on Rigton moors with Lord Harewood. Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles were staying at Harewood at the time, and Admiral Boyle was to have been one of the visitors to Doncaster races.
Admiral Boyle was the third son of the fifth Earl of Shannon by his marriage to Lady Blanche Emma Lascelles, daughter of the third Earl of Harewood, and was uncle and heir presumptive to the present Earl of Shannon. Born on December 12, 1863, the late admiral was a half-brother of Captain the Hon. Edward Boyle, R.N., and of Rear-Admiral the Hon. Algernon Boyle, C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O., now Fourth Sea Lord of the Admiralty. Entering the Navy in 1877, he was midshipman of the Minotaur during the Egyptian War of 1882, for which he received the medal and the Khedive's bronze star, and he obtained his promotion to lieutenant in 1886. Selected to qualify in gunnery, he joined, in 1891, as gunnery lieutenant, the Raleigh, flagship at the Cape. From her he was landed for service in Rear-Admiral Bedford's punitive expedition at Bathurst, on the River Gambia, in February, 1894. In this undertaking, for which he was mentioned-in dispatches, he was dangerously wounded, and had been in receipt of a special wound pension from August 1, 1896, until his death. On returning home he was appointed to the Royal yacht Victoria and Albert, and promoted commander from her in 1897. He afterwards commanded the Caledonia, boys' training ship at Queensferry, and was made captain in 1903. He then served as a member of the Cookery Committee appointed by the Admiralty, but from 1905 to 1911 was continuously afloat, commanding during this period the Leviathan, Prince George, Antrim, and Duke of Edinburgh, in home waters and the Mediterranean. From 1911 to 1914 he had charge of the Eastern Coastguard District, with headquarters at Harwich, until promoted to flag rank.
During the early months of the European War he was on half-pay, but in April, 1915, was appointed in command of the Marne patrol area, and remained in the auxiliary patrol service until after the Armistice. Promoted vice-admiral in February, 1910, he retired forthwith, and last year was appointed a nautical assessor to attend the hearing of Admiralty appeals in the House of Lords.
Vice-Admiral Boyle married, in 1899, Cerise, third daughter of Sir Claude Champion-de-Crespigny, and had two sons and two daughters. The elder son, Vivian Francis, entered the Navy during the war and was promoted sub-lieutenant last January.
Cerise died on 7 April 1951 in Kingston, Jamaica, at the age of 75. Her death was announced in The Times of 12 April 1951:
BOYLE.-On April 7 1951, peacefully, in Jamaica, CERISE, wife of the late VICE-ADMIRAL the HON. ROBERT FRANCIS BOYLE, second daughter of Claude Champion de Crespigny, Fourth Baronet, of Drakelow, Virginia Water, Surrey, aged 75 years.
Claude Vierville Champion de Crespigny, one of my 5th cousins twice removed, was born at Heybridge, Maldon, Essex, on 25 January 1882. He was the seventh of nine children and fourth of five sons of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the fourth baronet and Georgiana Lady Champion de Crespigny née McKerrell. The five sons of the fourth baronet were all given the first name Claude. The younger four sons each had a middle name: Raul, Philip, Vierville, Norman.
On 25 January 1900, just a few weeks after it was established, Vierville joined the Imperial Yeomanry, a volunteer light cavalry force, to serve in the war in South Africa. On the record he claimed to be 20 years old; he was actually 18. Two of his older brothers were already serving in the army, the other was in the navy.
From January 1906 to September 1909 he was employed with the King’s African Rifles. He was said to have spoken Swahili fluently. In 1908 he was tried and acquitted of the charge of causing the death of his native servant by a rash and negligent act.
In 1910 he was promoted to captain. From 1912 he served in the Special Reserve, a force established on 1 April 1908, responsible for maintaining a reservoir of manpower for the British Army and training replacement drafts in times of war.
On 19 July 1911 Vierville married Mary Nora Catherine McSloy on 19 July 1911 at the Brompton Oratory in Kensington, London. They had one daughter together, Mary Charmian Sara Champion de Crespigny (1914 – 1967).
In December 1916 he was appointed Assistant Provost Marshal, with rank equivalent to staff captain. He was promoted to major in 1917. In December 1918 he incurred the Army Council’s displeasure when he turned a water hose on men who were attempting to rush the doors of the Albert Hall during a boxing tournament. He was demobilised in July 1919.
In June 1919 he sailed for Canada with his wife and daughter intending to settle there. They lived on a ranch near the remote settlement of Wilmer, British Columbia. However, Vierville left in December 1920 and returned to England.
Claude Raul Champion de Crespigny, one of my 5th cousins twice removed, was born at Durrington, Wiltshire on 19 September 1878. He was the fifth of nine children of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the fourth baronet, and Georgiana Lady Champion de Crespigny née McKerrell. The five sons of the fourth baronet were all given the first name Claude. The younger four sons each had a middle name: Raul, Philip, Vierville, Norman.
On 24 Jun 1913 Raul married Violet Rose (Vere) Sykes in the Royal Military Chapel (The Guards’ Chapel) on Birdcage Walk opposite St James Park. Vere’s brother Claude Alfred Victor Sykes was also an officer in the Grenadier Guards.
An article in a New Zealand newspaper called the ‘Dominion‘, dated 29 January 1918, with the headline ‘The Perfect Soldier’ described Raul’s distaste for staff work and eagerness to return to his battalion. He was:
'One of those commanding officers who believe in being in the thick of the fighting, he used to lead his men over the top with a 'loaded stick' as a weapon. In one of the recent engagements in Flanders he charged a Hun machine-gunner who was scattering death right and left with his stream of bullets. With one mighty swing of his stick he broke the neck of the Hun, and the regiment went on. The Hun's gas mask and steel helmet are in England now hanging on the walls of Brigadier-General de Crespigny's Essex home among innumerable trophies of the chase, grim relics of a man whose hobby is fighting.'
The article goes on to list his sporting accomplishments in steeple-chasing, boxing, cricket, shooting and aquatic sports.
Though Champion Lodge was certainly cluttered with sporting trophies, bashing a Hun to death then then mounting a trophy of the occasion on your wall seems more likely to have been a literary trope than solid fact. Nancy Mitford’s ‘Uncle Matthew’ comes to mind, in ‘The Pursuit of Love‘:
"THERE is a photograph in existence of Aunt Sadie and her six children sitting round the tea-table at Alconleigh. The table is situated, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, in the hall, in front of a huge open fire of logs. Over the chimney-piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans one by one as they crawled out of a dug-out. It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination to us as children."
Raul’s marriage ended in divorce in 1926.
Raul became the 5th baronet after the death of his father in 1935. He died on 15 May 1941. His obituary in the Chelmsford Chronicle noted that he “settled at Champion Lodge, and took a kindly interest in the affairs of the neighbourhood, especially the British Legion. His last public duty was performed a few months ago, when he opened the gift sale of the Maldon Farmers’ Union in Maldon Market on behalf of the Red Cross.” Members of the British Legion provided a guard of honour at his funeral.
Claude Raul had no children. Of the five sons of the fourth baronet, only Claude Vierville had a daughter, but women could not inherit the baronetcy. The title passed to a cousin, Henry Champion de Crespigny (1882-1946), son of Philip Augustus Champion de Crespigny (1850-1912). Philip was the younger brother of the fourth baronet, second son of the third baronet.
Claude Champion de Crespigny, one of my 5th cousins twice removed, was born in London on 11 September 1873. He was the oldest of nine children of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny the fourth baronet and Georgiana, Lady Champion de Crespigny née McKerrell. The five sons of the fourth baronet were all given the first name Claude. The younger four sons each had a middle name: Raul, Philip, Vierville, Norman.
Claude was an accomplished polo player, on his regiment’s team until his retirement from the army in 1909. In 1907 and 1908 his team the Leopards won the Roehampton Cup, in England the game’s most prestigious trophy. In 1909 he played for England against Ireland, and in 1910, for the English Hurlingham Club touring the United States.
On 18 May 1910 Claude, then thirty-seven, was discovered dead by the side of the road at Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire. A friend lived nearby. The coroner found that Claude had killed himself in a temporary fit of madness which may have been caused by influenza and repeated heavy falls while playing polo. The New York Times however, noted that he had been named as co-respondent in a divorce case, and speculated that Claude had believed the only way to save the woman’s name and honour was to commit suicide. This explanation was not offered at the inquest.