Monday, 24 March 2014

Claude de Crespigny balloonist

Claude Champion de Crespigny (1847-1935), the fourth baronet, was my fourth cousin three times removed.

He was a notable sportsman and he wrote several books about his sporting adventures, including "Forty Years of a Sportsman's Life", published in 1910.

On the publication of this book, the New York Times quoted a review in the Globe which had commented that Sir Claude appeared to have never begun a day without considering in what new and unheard-of way he could put his life and his limbs in danger.

The book is at

New York Times 9 October 1910
Claude's first experience of balloons was shooting at them outside Paris during the summer of 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war. He was with the Prussian army at St Denis.  Small balloons were ascending from Paris for the "purpose of disseminating false information about the state of things prevailing in the front". As they weren't flying at a great height, "we were sometimes able to riddle them with bullets". (page 38 of Forty Years)

Claude's first balloon voyage was in 1882, an attempt to cross the channel from Essex to Calais. He was accompanied by Joseph Simmons, who had attempted the crossing previously. When the balloon was being launched, assistants held onto the basket for too long. The basket collided with a wall and Sir Claude broke his leg and some ribs fending off. Simmons continued without him and made it to France. According to Sir Claude, Simmons travelled one hundred and seventy miles in just over an hour and a half. This claim seems unlikely. (pages 127-131 of Forty Years)

In July 1883 Claude crossed the North Sea with Simmons, landing near Flushing.  He was awarded the Balloon Society's gold medal for the voyage as the first man to cross the North Sea in a balloon.  (pages 134-142 of Forty Years) The journey was described in newspapers around the world. An account of this adventure appeared in New Zealand's Timaru Herald on 27 September 1883.

In July 1909 Claude was pictured in a balloon at Hurlingham. Based on his reminiscences this was probably in the "St Louis" piloted by John Dunham (whose wife accompanied them). (page 316 of Forty Years)

There were several races that year from Hurlingham, and in May Claude also participated in the  1909 Hurlingham International Balloon Race.. Claude travelled in a balloon with H. Hassac Buist, the author of an article for the Flight Magazine published 29 May 1909. They were passengers of Mr Griffith Brewer on the "Vivienne," of 75,000 cubic feet capacity, the biggest balloon of the afternoon.
There were five of us aboard, and everyone was busy throughout, including Sir Claude, as the self-appointed honorary look-out man, than whom none could have been better chosen for the purpose in that hereabout was all his own country, every hedge and ditch of which was familiar to him through hunting. In brief, what he did not know, had he chosen to communicate it, concerning such-and-such a hall that had been in the hands of three generations of drunkards; such-and-such a house, where is the finest cellar of port to be found in England; such-and-such a lodge, the heir to which married so many tens of thousands a year and got through the lot in as many months; such-and-such another place, where a disastrous fire had reduced a palatial residence to Goldsmith's "four naked walls that stared upon each other," and so forth, was not knowledge. Seemingly, our genial fellow-passenger and impromptu cicerone had advised all his friends for miles around to be on the look-out for us so that we should be sure of a hearty welcome anywhere within a wide range of the winning post, not omitting Champion Lodge.
 The "Vivienne" came fourth. His son, Captain V. C de Crespigny (Vierville 1882-1927), flew in "Kismet" with Philip Gardner but they were unplaced.

1909. Griffith Brewer's 'Vivienne' balloon and Frank McClean's 'Corona' balloon. retrieved from
 More pictures of the balloon race can be viewed at

Sir Claude also took part as a passenger in the race in 1908. The winner that year was Mr Griffith Brewer in the "Lotus" and Claude was a passenger in that balloon. (Race in the Air. (1908, July 18). The World's News (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 1955), p. 9. Retrieved March 24, 2014, from (pages 312-314 of Forty Years)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A pirate in the family tree

Sir Henry Mainwaring (1587-1653) was an English seaman who spent some of his career as a pirate on the Barbary coast. He was afterwards pardoned and knighted by King James.

My son, who is studying history, came across the pirate Henry Mainwaring and asked if we were related to him.  I replied that I did not think so, but I decided to check for a relationship.  Henry Mainwaring, I discovered, is my third cousin eleven times removed, a relative indeed, though not a close one.

The common ancestor of me and the pirate is Sir John Mainwaring (1470-1515) my 13 times great grandfather.  Sir John had gone to the French wars in the train of the Earl of Shrewsbury. He was knighted at Tournai in 1513. ( Metcalfe, Walter Charles, ed., Book of Knights Banneret, Knights of the Bath et., IV Henry VI to 1660, London (1885) page 50 ) Sir John Mainwaring was Henry Mainwaring's great great grandfather.

Henry Mainwaring was the second son of Sir George Mainwaring and Ann More.  Henry studied at Oxford University. In 1604, about seventeen years old, he was admitted to the Inner Temple as a lawyer.

It is not clear how Henry became a seaman, but in 1610, at the age of about twenty-three, he was commissioned by the Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, to capture the pirate Peter Easton, who had been raiding Newfoundland.  Mainwaring was unsuccessful.  He was then given a letter of marque, becoming a privateer against Spanish shipping in the West Indies.  En route there he decided instead to attack Spanish shipping from the coast of Morocco.

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Mainwaring was based at La Marmora, present day Mehdya, on the Morocco coast near Rabat, for four years from 1612. He had a fleet of thirty captured Spanish ships.  He claimed that he never attacked English ships.  The French and Spanish governments complained about Mainwaring to the English government and King James I sent an envoy with an offer of a free pardon if he promised to give up piracy. He was pardoned in 1616 and all those who served under him were granted an amnesty.

Later, Mainwaring became a hunter of pirates. He wrote a book on piracy, Discourse of Pirates, which he dedicated to the King.  He was knighted on 20 March 1618 and became one of King James's courtiers and a friend of the King.

In 1620 he was appointed Lieutenant of Dover Castle and Deputy Warden of the Cinque Ports. In 1621 he was elected Member of Parliament for Dover. Around this time Mainwaring wrote the Seaman’s Dictionary. It was not published until 1644 but manuscript copies were distributed before then. It is considered the first authoritative treatise in seamanship.

Mainwaring offended Lord ZoucheLord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and was dismissed from his post at Dover Castle. Mainwaring sought the patronage of the Duke of Buckingham. At that time Buckingham was Lord High Admiral and it has been asserted that Buckingham and his masters made a serious attempt to reform the naval administration, and that in this Mainwaring played a considerable part. However Buckingham was assassinated in 1628 and Mainwaring lost his patron.

Mainwaring was not wealthy, and after Buckingham's death, he attempted to improve his fortunes by marrying a rich widow.  She rejected him and in 1630 he eloped with a twenty-three year old heiress.  His father-in-law refused to provide a dowry until Mainwaring had made a settlement. Mainwaring's wife died in 1633 and their only daughter died about 1640. Mainwaring was outlawed for debt in 1641. In 1651 an assessment of his worth in considering his debt stated that his entire property consisted of ‘a horse and wearing apparel to the value of £8’.

Mainwaring had joined the navy as a captain in 1636.  He was a Vice-Admiral by 1639.

During the English Civil War (1642-1651), Mainwaring joined the King at Oxford. Later he served with Royalist fleet.  He was with the sixteen-year-old Prince Charles, later King Charles II, at Jersey in 1646.

Mainwaring died in 1653, leaving no will.  He was buried at St Giles, Camberwell.  No gravestone, if there was one, has survived.

References and further reading

E. Hunt, “MAINWARING, SIR HENRY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 20, 2014,

Mainwaring, G. E. (ed.). 1920. The Life and Works of Sir Henry Mainwaring. London: The Council of the Navy Records Society.

Pringle, Patrick Jolly Roger : the story of the great age of piracy. Dover Publications, 2012. pages 43-45 retrieved from Google Books

Thrush Andrew "MAINWARING, Sir Henry (1586/7-1653), of Dover Castle, Kent; later of Camberwell, Surr." The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1754-1790, 1964. Member Biographies from The History of Parliament Online. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. <>

"SIR HENRY MAINWARING.*." The Spectator Archive. The Spectator, 19 Feb. 1921. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. <>.

(Library Assistant), Nabila. "The Seaman's Dictionary: 'This Book Shall Make a Man Understand'" Royal Museums Greenwich. National Maritime Museum, 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. <>

PEN PICTURES OF THE PAST. IN PIRATE DAYS. (1914, July 9). Cobram Courier (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 6. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 - 1803)

Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 - 1803) was my fifth great grandfather (5*great).

Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738–1803), MP by John Opie; Oil on canvas, 47 x 36 cm Collection: Kelmarsh Hall. Image retrieved from
Philip was the fifth of seven children of Philip (1704-1765) and his wife Anne née Fonnereau.  He was born on 1 April at his father's house at Doctors Commons in London. He was christened on 11 April at St Benets, Pauls Wharf. Philip senior was Marshall of the Court of Admiralty and Secretary of the French Hospital.
Extract from 18th century plan of Plan of Baynards Castle Ward & Faringdon Ward Within retrieved from
In 1741 the family moved to Denmark Hill, Camberwell where Philip senior had taken a lease of a house and sixteen acres.

Philip's older brother Claude (1734 - 1818) was educated at Eton and it is likely that Philip was also. ( )

In 1759 at the age of twenty-one, Philip became an advocate at Doctors' Commons and was King's Proctor from 1768  to 1784.  ( )  

A proctor was a legal practitioner in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts. A King's Proctor acted in all causes concerning the King. ( Doctors' Commons, also called the College of Civilians, was a society of lawyers practising civil law in London. The proctors, who were also associated with Doctors' Commons, were like present-day common law solicitors. (

Marriages and children

Philip married four times. On 24 November 1762 Philip married Sarah Cocksedge in Norfolk. They married by licence; this licence was issued on 11 November.  Sarah and Philip had four children:
  • Thomas (1763 1799)
  • Philip (1765 - 1851)
  • Jane (1766 - 1785)
  • Anne (1768 - 1844)
Sarah died in April 1768 and was buried at St Marylebone on 13 April 1768. ('Marylebone', The Environs of London: volume 3: County of Middlesex (1795), pp. 242-279. URL: Date accessed: 27 January 2014.)

Sarah was the daughter of Thomas Henry and Lydia Cocksedge. In 1764 title of Tottington manor passed to Philip as husband of Sarah.(Deeds of messuage held by Norfolk Record Office Philip probably sold his Norfolk holdings in 1772 as recorded in a private act of Parliament: Philip Champion Crespigny's estate: sale of hereditaments in Weeting (Norfolk) and purchase and settling others. (

Philip's second marriage was to Betsy Hodges in about 1771.  Betsy was the widow of George Borradale whom she had married in 1765 (Parish Records Collection - marriage 1765 Hodges Borradale) Philip and Betsy had one son, Charles (1772 - 1774) who was christened 1 June 1772 in St Giles, Camberwell, and buried 21 October 1774 in the Church of St Albans. Betsy died in 1772, probably not long after giving birth to her son.  She was buried at St Marylebone on 22 May 1772.
Betsy Hodges (d.1772), Second Wife of Philip Champion de Crespigny by George Romney(circle of) Oil on canvas, 75 x 62 cm Collection: Kelmarsh Hall retrieved from
Philip's third marriage was to Clarissa, daughter of James Brook of Rathbone Place. They married on 1 July 1774 at St Marylebone by licence with the consent of her father. She was a minor, of the parish of St Marylebone. Philip was recorded as an Esquire of Walton upon Thames, County of Surry, widower. He signed his name PC Crespigny. The witnesses were James Brooke and Hester Brooke.
The Gentleman's Magazine London, England July, 1774 retrieved from
 Clarissa and Philip had four children:
Clarissa and her children were painted in 1780 by George Romney.  Romney's diary notes that the painting was oval and he charged fifty pounds.  In 1780 Horace Walpole apparently noted George Romney's "rise to fashion". (

Clarissa Champion de Crespigny and her children by George Romney. The painting was last sold in 1986 from a private seller to a private buyer through the London dealers Leger Galleries.  This image is from a reproduction of the painting and came from Alex Kidson, Research Fellow of the Romney Society.

Clarissa died in 1782 and was buried at St Marylebone on 22 May. She was about twenty-seven years old. A short biographical piece about her father refers to her as an amiable and accomplished lady who died in the prime of her life.
Smith, Thomas. (2013). A Topographical and Historical Account of the Parish of St. Mary-Le-Bone, Comprising a Copious Description of Its Public Buildings, Antiquities, Schools, Charitable Endowments, Sources of Public Amusement, &c. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1833)retrieved from The same obituary appeared elsewhere, for example in the Hampshire Chronicle of 2 November 1807.
Philip's fourth marriage was in 1783 to Dorothy Scott (1765 - 1837), daughter of Richard Scott of Betton Strange Hall near Shrewsbury. (London Magazine vol 52 pg 103 1783)

Jonathan Scott (1754 - 1829), one of Dorothy's brothers,  was an early translator of what was then called ‘The Arabian Nights Entertainment’, better known now as ‘The 1001 Nights’. (

Dorothy and Philip had four children
  • George (1783 - 1813) killed in Spain
  • Eliza (1784 - 1831) who married the first Lord Vivian having eloped to Gretna Green ( Gretna Green, Scotland, Marriage Registers, 1794-1895 [database on-line].)
  •  Charles Fox (1785 - 1875) my fourth great grandfather
  • Dorothea (1800 - 1800) born and died in Bath (I am not sure where I have the information for this child, I am unable to find any records associated with her and it seems surprising that she was born so many years after her siblings, though her mother did have a child after 1804 following her second marriage).
After Philip's death Dorothy married again to Sir John Keane (1757 - 1829) and had a son, George Michael Keane.

Dorothy's portrait was painted by George Romney in 1790 with Romney's diary noting "1790 Wed 17 March Mrs Chrspaney at 1/2 pt 2". He charge forty-two pounds for the oil on canvas. Dorothy's great grandson George Harrison Champion de Crespigny (1863 - 1945) sold the painting through Christies on 27 April 1901 for ₤5,880-00. ("HIGH PRICES FOR PICTURES AND ENGRAVINGS." Otago Witness 3 July 1901: 75. Papers Past — Otago Witness. National Library of New Zealand. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <>) The painting is now in the John Howard McFadden Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (

Portrait of Mrs. Champion de Crespigny [née Dorothy Scott] from

 Parliamentary career

In 1774 Crespigny was returned on the Fonnereau interest at Sudbury after a contest, but lost his seat on petition. (Drummond, Mary M. "CRESPIGNY, Philip Champion (d.1803), of Burwood, Nr. Cobham, Surr." The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1754-1790, 1964. Member Biographies from The History of Parliament Online. Web. 28 Jan. 2014. <>.)

Philip's mother was  the daughter of Claude Fonnereau, a wealthy merchant. Her brother,and thus Philip's uncle,  Thomas Fonnereau (1699 - 1779) was returned for Sudbury in 1741 and sat for that consituency until 1768. Several of those years were in conjunction with Thomas Walpole who was a business connection. Thomas later sat for Aldeburgh from 1773 until his death in 1779. (Namier, Sir Lewis. "FONNEREAU, Thomas (1699-1779), of Ipswich, Suff." The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1754-1790, 1964. Web. 28 Jan. 2014. <>.) (Thomas Fonnereau. (2013, December 23). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:03, January 28, 2014, from

In 1780 Philip was returned unopposed at Aldeburgh on the Fonnereau interest, and at Sudbury after a contest. He held both seats until 1781 when he lost Sudbury on petition, and continued to sit for Aldeburgh until 1790.

Only one speech is recorded from Philip when he spoke in 1781 against the bill for excluding contractors from the House of Commons.
Extract from the debate in the House of Commons (Debrett, ii. 296.) retrieved from Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. The Parliamentary Register: Or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the House of Commons. Vol. 2. page 296.: J. Debrett, 1781. Google Books. 2007. Web. 28 Jan. 2014. <>.

The exclusion of contractors from the House of Commons was first introduced in 1779 and was part of political reform receiving an impetus from the American Revolution. The bill finally passed at the end of 1782 and it placed on the exclusion list anybody who had a contract with the treasury, the navy, the victualling office, the master-general, or the board of ordinance, ...  Before this reform, "the fact that a man had a contract with the Government laid him under the necessity of receiving orders from the Treasury as to his political conduct."  George III was said to turn all government expenditures to political account and "maintained a corps of subservient members in the House of Commons". Vast sums were disbursed to contractors for the navy and army between 1770 and 1782 which some asserted were an abuse of the contract process and designed to buy political support. (Porritt, Edward. The Unreformed House of Commons. : Cambridge UP, 1963. Google Books. CUP Archive. Web. 29 Jan. 2014. <>. pages 219-220)

 Philip supported the administration of Lord North who was prime-minister from 1770-1782 and who later served in a coalition, the Fox-North coalition, with Charles James Fox in 1783. Philip named his youngest son, Charles James Fox Champion de crespigny,  after Charles James Fox.


Philip died in his house at 5 Portland Place, Bath.  The house is one of ten symmetrical terrace houses built in 1786 by John Eveleigh. Number 5 is the largest house in the terrace and was built for P. C. Crespigny. 
Portland Place, Bath image from Google street view Number 5 is the house centred on the triangular pediment.  It has five windows across and a central front door. Its neighbours' front doors are aligned either to the left or the right. To the front of the house is a ramp which was provided for easier access by sedan chairs.
The house together with number 4 was converted into a school from 1875 until 1994. In 1994 both houses were converted to flats. The house, together with its neighbours, is Grade II heritage listed.  ("List Entry: 1-10, PORTLAND PLACE." National Heritage Protection Plan. English Heritage, 15 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 Jan. 2014. <>.)

Philip de Crespigny leased Hintleham Hall near Ipswich in Suffolk. His children George, Eliza, and Charles were born there between 1783 and 1785. In 1785 his daughter Jane died at Hintlesham Hall. At that time Hintlesham Hall was owned by Richard Lloyd, a political lawyer who became Solicitor-General.(

In 1794 Philip de Crespigny bought Talyllyn  House and the Manor of Llangasty Talyllyn in Breconshire together with 2000 acres for £1600. In the advertisement for the sale the house was described as “a good old stone built and slated Mansion House... to which the present Proprietor meant to have added a regular Building” While owned by the de Crespignys, the house and outbuildings were extensively remodelled.  From 1810 the estate was leased as a farm. It was sold in 1838 by Philip's son Charles Fox de Crespigny. Philip and his son Charles both served as High Sheriff of Brecknockshire or Breconshire, Philip in 1796 and Charles in 1812. The house was destroyed in the nineteenth century. ("History of the Farm." Tŷ-Mawr. Tŷ-Mawr Lime Ltd, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2014. <>.)

Tal-y-llyn: St. Mary's church and the hamlet at the end of the lake, photograph about 1885. Image retrieved from,_Gwynedd

Other land purchases by Philip include Creeting All Saints in Surrey bought from the Bridgeman family. (


Philip was a Freemason. In 1781 he was Grand Steward for Somerset House Lodge. (

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Sepia Saturday: My grandfather's back garden

This week's Sepia Saturday blog prompt is a picture of back gardens.

As a child I spent many happy hours in my grandfather's back garden in Canberra.

There was a sandpit that my grandfather had built for my aunt. This picture is of my brother and I playing in it.

My grandfather, Hans Boltz, working on his lawn mower.  My brother is looking on (I cropped him out of the picture). Kenny the canary is also enjoying the sunny day.
Me on the swing that was set up between two apple trees.  There was also a pear tree, plum trees, a cherry, nectarine, a peach and an almond tree, as well as sour cherry trees.

My mother pushing my aunt on that same swing about ten years earlier

Here I am helping to gather some of the garden's produce