Reflections on the will of Captain William Burgundy Champain

What can we learn from the last will and testament of Captain William Burgundy Champain, R.N., who died in 1818? We discover, among other things, that his friends included Lieutenant John Guyon, R.N., who (it turns out) served on the gun vessel Starling in the early 1800s and who was court-martialed and dismissed the service for ‘cruel and un-officer-like behaviour’ towards a seaman in 1815; and Charles Ruxton of Dublin, who was probably a member of the noted Ruxton family of Ardee, County Louth, and a relation of the Irish MP and landowner bearing the same name, who died in 1806. We also gain an insight into the prized personal possessions of a retired naval officer of the early nineteenth century, which included a gold snuff box; a gold watch, worn with gold chain and seals; a chronometer; and an encyclopedia.

However, for my current purposes, the main value of the will is in the information it provides about William Burgundy Champain’s relatives. Since he does not mention any wife or children of his own, we must assume either that William was a confirmed bachelor (the most likely option) or that his wife had died and they had no surviving children. The main beneficiaries of William’s will are his nephews and nieces, and it turns out that all of these are the sons and daughters of his older brother John Champain.

We know from the 1781 will of their father, James Champain senior, that his two elder sons, James junior and John, served in the East Indies. I’ve been unable to discover what became of James junior, but I’m fortunate that the family of his brother John has been researched by Christine Hoey, who has kindly shared her findings with me.

Calcutta in 1786. From an etching by Thomas Daniel. (Via sankalpa.tripod.com)

Calcutta in 1786. From an etching by Thomas Daniel.
(via sankalpa.tripod.com)

From Christine I learn that John Champain was appointed a civil judge in Dacca, India, in 1788, and that in the same year he married Margery Mackintosh in Calcutta. They had nine children between 1789 and 1802, when Margery died, shortly after giving birth to twin boys. Most of these children were born in India, but the twins were born in London in 1802, by which time the family had returned permanently to England. On his return, John Champain lived variously at Great Stanhope Street in Mayfair and at Gloucester Place, New Road.

The children of John and Margery Champain were: Hugh Henry; John; William; Ann; Agnew; Caroline Eliza; Julia Margaret; and the twins Gilbert and Mackenzie. All of these, apart from William, who died in 1809, and the twins, are mentioned in their uncle William Burgundy Champain’s will of 1815. In 1806 John Champain remarried, his second wife being Ann Douglas, widow of Captain Peter Douglas.

Henry Hugh Champain, who was appointed as executor of his uncle’s will, is described as being of the Middle Temple. In fact, having graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1809, Henry studied law at the Middle Temple in 1805 and was called to the Bar in 1813. However, he later took holy orders and served as curate of Winchfield in Hampshire, where he died in 1826. He left a wife named Mary. His younger brother John also trained as a lawyer: there is a record at Ancestry of his articles of clerkship to a William Greaves, dated 1810.

Julia Margaret Champain married Thomas Bateman at St Mary, Marylebone in 1823, and her sister Caroline Eliza Champain married Henry John Bowler at the same church in 1838. According to Christine Hoey, the twins Gilbert and Mackenzie Champain both joined the army and ended up migrating to Australia.

Tipu Sultan (en.wikipedia.org)

Tipu Sultan (en.wikipedia.org)

As for John’s son Agnew Champain, he also followed a military career, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. His destiny seems to have been written in his name: he was probably named after Patrick Alexander Agnew (1765 – 1813) who was the first military governor of Ceylon and later major general of the East India Company. In his will of 1822, John Champain’s bequeaths to his daughter Julia a silver pot ‘which once belonged to Tippoo Sultan and was part of General Agnew’s prize money’. Agnew Champain married Rosaline Sarah Underwood at St Mary, Bryanston Square, in 1830. Among their children was Sir John Underwood Bateman Champain, born in 1835, who also had a distinguished military career; one of his children was a first-class county cricketer who became an Anglican bishop.

John Champain died in 1822 at Gloucester Place and was buried, like his wife Margery and son William, at the church of St Edmund King and Martyr in London.

At this point, I plan to leave the family of James Champain, London wine merchant, and return to his sister Ann, husband of Richard Collins of Epping, and the sister-in-law of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson (1733 – 1809). My exploration of James’ family in recent posts has proved interesting, in providing a broader context for my examination of Elizabeth’s life and times. I’m struck, too, by the parallels between James Champain’s family and that of Elizabeth’s younger brother, Bowes John Gibson (1744 – 1817). The latter was also employed by the East India Company, and he had two sons, George Milsom (1782 – 1814) and John Thomas (1785 – 1851), who served as military officers in India. Like John Champain, he also had a habit of naming his sons after military associates: his son Edmund Affleck Gibson bore the names of a celebrated naval officer and baronet, who was also a witness to Bowes John’s first marriage.

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