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De Crespigny, Eyre Nicholas Champion (1821 - 1895)

Biographical notes

Dr Eyre Nicholas Champion de Crespigny is known mainly from his botanical specimens, which are to be found in many British herbaria, and his New London flora of 1877.

Despite his exotic sounding name, Swiss birth and German education, Eyre's family were English and well connected to English society. His father was the impecunious Rev Heaton Champion de Crespigny who had married Caroline Bathurst in 1820. Caroline was the youngest daughter of the Bishop of Norwich, from whom Heaton not only acquired a wife but also his Holy orders. Eyre was the first of three sons born of this marriage and his childhood can only be described as chaotic. His father, despite having the livings of Neatishead (Norfolk) and Stoke Doyle (Northamptonshire), became embroiled in scandalous court cases, a duel with the Duke of Wellington's nephew, a failed attempt at extortion and got hopelessly into debt. This eventually resulted in periods of imprisonment, leaving his wife and two young sons in desperate circumstances. Despite this Eyre managed to gain an education at Seagrave House School, Cheltenham from which he proceeded to St Paul's School, London at the age of 13. There may have followed a short period of family stability - his third sibling, Augustus, being born in 1836 - before he accompanied his mother to Heidelberg where he attended the medical school. His mother, Caroline, was by this time a respected poet with a high standing in the artistic English community which flourished there. His father left for the gold-fields of Ballarat, Australia, where he died in 1850. His mother died in Heidelberg in 1861.

It appears that he returned to London for a few years after his graduation in 1842, before departing for Bombay as an assistant Naval Surgeon in 1846. While in India he married Augusta Cunningham who bore him three daughters and two sons, only one of whom survived infancy. While in Bombay he was involved with the Government Botanic Gardens at Dapsorie. After 16 years in India, deteriorating health prompted him to return to England around 1862. He seems to have been financially sound at this point and does not appear to have needed to practice medicine. Although he was clearly involved in botanical work while in India, he can have had little practical experience of the British flora before his return home. Over the next few years he made botanical observations and collections within the vicinity of London, resulting in the publication in 1877 of his New London flora. This volume appears to have received much, justifiable, criticism. In 1876 he became a member of the Botanical Exchange Club,contributing a large amount of material. These specimens, mainly from the south-eastern counties, are now to be found in many herbaria. He died in early 1895.

1821 May : Birth He was born at Vevey, (near Montreux), Switzerland where his mother was a visitor. Although 5th is generally given as his birthday, Crawford D. G, 1930. Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930 vol 2 794. gives the 7th.
1829 January : Family destitute Jane Mary Oglander, late of Oxford, died leaving a paper which indicated a desire to give financial support (by liquidating £5000 of stock) to "those poor children of the two destitute families ...". One of these families was that of Heaton and Caroline de Crespigny, the other that of Caroline's brother Robert. The discussion of the case brought to test the validity of this wish post mortem gives an insight into the family's condition.
" ... that Mrs De Crespigny (Mr Bathurst's sister) the god-daughter of Mrs. Oglander, was also in distressed circumstances, and had two infant sons and was pregnant at the time of the deceased's death."
This was tested in the Canterbury Ecclesiastical Court but the judgement was that it had no standing and they did not get any money.
(Google Books)
1834 June : School prize 1Leamington Spa Courier: 1834 June 28
 "SEAGRAVE HOUSE SCHOOL - at the Thirteenth Half-yearly Examination of Pupils of Seagrave House School, Cheltenham, conducted by the Rev. H. W. Gleed Armstrong, M.A., of St. John's College, Oxford ... 2nd Class, Classical Prize, (Book) Eyre C. De Crespigny ..."
Around this time he is listed as joining St Paul's School (at age 13), his fathers address is given as 27, Queen street, Grosvenor Square.
1842 August 11 : Medical degree Chronik der Universität Heidelberg
" INTELLIGENZBLATT Nr 1 Januar und Februar. 1843. ... fur das Jahr 1842. In der medicinischen Facultät erhielten de Doctotwü : ... am 11. August Eyre Champion de Crespigny aus London;"
1846 August 20 : Assistant Surgeon Allen's Indian Mail : 1846 September 8 p 581
 "ASSISTANT SURGEONS FOR BOMBAY. ... To rank from the date of the departure from Southampton of overland mail, he having proceeded via Trieste to join the same at Alexandria, viz. :- Eyre Nicholas Champion de Crespigny, M.D., 20th August.
The date of his appointment is given in "The India Office and Burma Office List - BOMBAY" for 1849. - He is described as with the Indian Navy.
1850 November 5 : Marriage The Indian News: 1850 December 20 p.548
  MARRIAGES. Malligaum, Nov. 5, Eyre Nicholas Champion de Crespigny, esq., M.D. Bombay Medical estab., to Augusta, sixth daughter of the late George Cunningham. Esq. of Landsdowne-crescent, Bath, and Trelawney, Jamaica.
1859 : Appointment He was appointed Acting Conservator of Forests and Superintendent of the Government Botanical Gardens at Dapsorie. (Britten, 1895) - an entry in Allen's Indian Mail (1859 July 11, p585) indicates that this was a temporary appointment while Dr. Gibson was on leave to England.
1860 March 10 : Medical and Physical Society of Bombay 1Dublin Medical Press: 1860 July 4 -
  MEDICAL AND PHYSICAL SOCIETY OF BOMBAY ... The last monthly meeting of the Medical and Physical Society for the Session 1859-60 was held in the Library of the Grand Bedical College, the 10th March 1860 ... Specimens of arrow-root, indigenous and foreign, were exhibited from Rutnagherry, having been forwarded by Dr. De Crespigny, ..."
1862 : England Ill health forced him to return to England.
1876 : BEC De Crespigny was noted as a new member of the Botanical Exchange Club.
1877 : Publication New London Flora.
1877 June : Poor review ... De Crespigny's flora was not well received and the review by Reginald Prior in The Journal of Botany 15 311-314 is rather bleak.
(Biodiversity Heritage Library)
1881 : Coincidence? On the night of the census he was staying, with his wife and daughters, at Oaklands, a boarding house in Clifton, Gloucestershire. Also staying there was Alice M Paddey, of Wolverhampton, sister of James Smith Paddey (aka Padey Pennington) who was later to become John Fraser's son-in-law.
1895 February 15 : Death Obituary by James Britten in the Journal of Botany 33 p127
(Biodiversity Heritage Library)

1 Transcription reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive

Managed by Richard Middleton; last updated 2016 February 18


1821 Vevey, Switzerland.
1822 Neatishead, Northamptonshire
1830 (about) Cheltenham
1834 London, St Paul's School
1838 (about) Heigelburg
1845 (about) India
1850 Malligaum, India
1855 (by) Rutnagherry, India
1862 Return to England
1871 3 Park Villas, Tottenham
1876 25, Oxford Road, Kilburn
1879 Willesden


Additional links

Annotated family tree of his close family with some material concering his mother Caroline Bathurst. link
Press cuttings relating to his father. link
His early life was rather eventful as can be seen from the biographical material relating to his mother, in Caroline de Crespigny Translates Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski: Forgotten Romantic Poetess as Translator of Neo-Latin Verse. by Krzysztof Fordoński 2013. link
Over 800 sheets relating to Eyre de Crespigny have been catalogued by the Herbaria @ Home project. link
Chronologically arranged list of specimens known to be in British herbaria. link
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