Reflections on the will of Ann Champain (died 1804)

Yesterday I shared my transcription of the last will and testament of Ann Champain of Abingdon, the second wife of London wine cooper James Champain. I noted that this document is a useful source of information about the Champain family, and in this post I want to summarise what it can tell us about them.

The first thing we learn is that, some time after the death of her husband James Champain in 1785, his widow Ann must have moved back to her home town of Abingdon. The will is also one of our main sources of information about Ann’s own family, providing us with the name of her brother George Hawkins and his wife Mary (thereby offering confirmation of Ann’s maiden name), and making reference to her daughter Sarah and the latter’s husband James Rose Clealand, whom I wrote about in an earlier post.

Parish church of St George, Bloomsbury (via londonancestor.com)

Parish church of St George, Bloomsbury (via londonancestor.com)

Ann Champain’s will also provides us indirectly with details about the marriages of two of her late husband’s daughters. Ann mentions Mrs Sally Walker, wife of William Walker Esquire, to whom she leaves ‘my Garnett Bracelets with the pictures thereto one is her father my late husband the other that of my daughter Mrs Clealand I also give the Mourning Ring I had for her Mother Mrs Hannah Champain also my diamond pin set round with pearls’. In other words, Sally was James’ daughter by his first wife Hannah Hawkins. Born in 1761, I’ve discovered that she married her husband William Walker, a bachelor of the Inner Temple, at the church of St George, Bloomsbury, in May 1801. One of the witnesses was her brother, W.B. (i.e. William Burgundy) Champain.

The will also mentions Frances Fletcher, wife of Joseph Fletcher Esquire, to whom Ann Champain bequeaths ‘my Snuff Box which was her Mothers’ – i.e. it originally belonged to James Champain’s first wife Hannah. Born in 1765, Frances Champain married Joseph Fletcher in London in May 1790.

Sadly, Ann Champain had to add a codicil to her will a year after writing it, since Sally Walker née Champain had died in the interim. She was buried at the church of St Mary, Harrow on 5th May 1803 (which a few years later would be the burial place of Lord Byron’s lover Claire Claremont and their daughter Allegra), just two years after her wedding. Perhaps, like so many women at this period, she died in childbirth. Ann Champain redistributes the items originally bequeathed to Sally to her sister Frances Fletcher and to her brother, William Burgundy Champain, who was already due to receive a number of items of silverware that had belonged to his father.

A View of Harrow, with St Mary's Church and the Old Schools Building and Yard, 1813

A View of Harrow, with St Mary’s Church and the Old Schools Building and Yard, 1813

In the two decades or so since his father’s death, William Burgundy Champain had been promoted from Lieutenant to Captain in the Royal Navy. I’ll have more to say about him in another post.

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