I’ve written before about the appropriately-named John Champain, wine cooper of Tower Street, London, and later of Epping, Essex. His daughter Ann married Richard Collins of Epping, the older brother of John Collins, who was the first husband of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson (1733 – 1809).

18th century coopers or barrel-makers

I’m interested in the Champain family for a number of reasons. Firstly, they were relations by marriage, and also neighbours in both London and Essex, of my Gibson ancestors. Secondly, their shared experience of keeping homes in town and country, and of marrying into the landowning Collins family, may help us to understand my own ancestors’ lives a little better. And thirdly, by tracing the lives of the Champains and their connections with the Collins family, we might discover clues to the remaining mysteries of Elizabeth Gibson’s life.

I haven’t been able to find out much about John Champain’s origins, his marriage, or the births of his children, which suggests these might have occurred somewhere other than London. Since his son James married for the first time in 1744, and his daughter Ann or Anna in 1747, it’s likely they were born in the 1720s, and that John himself was born around 1700. It’s possible that he is the John Champain whose marriage to Sarah Stumphouse(r?) was recorded in the Fleet Registers on 20 December 1735. If so, then this must surely have been a second marriage.

Part of Rocque's 1746 map of London, showing Tower Street, Beer Lane and Thames Street

The first edition of Osborn’s ‘Compleat Guide to All Persons Who Have Any Trade or Concerns Within the City of London, and Parts Adjacent’, published in 1740, lists John Champain as a wine cooper with premises ‘at the corner of Beer Lane, Thames Street’. The third edition of 1744 describes him as a merchant of Tower Street. The 1741 edition of the Universal Pocket Companion also lists John Champain as a wine cooper at ‘the corner of Beer Lane, Thames Street’. The 1745 edition has an identical listing.

Beer Lane ran north to south between Tower Street and Thames Street. Trinity House and the church of St Dunstan in the East were to the west, the Custom House to the south, by the river. To the east was the church of All Hallows, Barking, and beyond that Tower Hill, where the Gibsons lived.

A John Champain was buried at St Dunstan in the East in 1746, and another person of the same name in July of the following year. Since we know that ‘our’ John Champain lived for another ten years and was buried elsewhere (see below) it’s likely that at least one of these people was another son who died at an early age, and/or John Champain’s father.

We don’t know when John Champain purchased his house in Epping Long Green, the address he gave at the time of his 1756 will. When his son James married Hannah Hawkins, a minor from ‘Abbington’ (presumably Abingdon) in Berkshire, on 29 May 1744 at the church of St Anne and St Agnes, he was said to be of the parish of St Dunstan in the East. However, when his sister Ann (or Anna) married Richard Collins three years later, they were both said to be ‘of Epping’, even though their wedding took place (on 15 September 1747) at the church of St Peter, Cornhill.

The Essex Archives include the record of a marriage settlement for £1200 ‘in trust for purchase of estate’ and dated 14 September 1747 ‘on the marriage of Richard Collins and Ann Champain’. It involved the following parties:

(i) Richard Collins of Epping, gent.; (ii) John Champain of Tower Street, London, citizen and wine cooper and Philip Martin of Theydon Garnon, gent.; (iii) Ann Champain, daughter of John Champain

James Champain is listed in Kent’s Directory for 1753 and 1755 as a wine cooper in Thames Street, London, so he obviously followed his father into the family business. James and Hannah Champain had at least seven and possibly ten children. James Champain junior was baptised in 1745, Elizabeth in  1748, John in 1750, and Ann in 1755, all at St Dunstan in the East.

Their next child, William, was christened in 1759 at All Saints, Edmonton, suggesting either that the family had moved or that they maintained an additional house in what was then a rural suburb. In what may now seem a rather excessive reference to his father’s trade, William was given the middle name of Burgundy. By the time his younger sister Sally was born two years later, the Champains had moved south of the river to Greenwich, where she was christened at the church of St Alfege.

According to another family tree at Ancestry, James and Hannah had three further children – George (1764), Francis (1765) and Thomas (1766), all born in Surrey – but I’ve been unable to find independent evidence of these births. The same source claims that James Champain, now a widower, married Ann Andrews, a widow, at St Giles without Cripplegate in 1755. However, it’s uncertain that this is the right James.

James Champain’s sister Ann and her husband Richard Collins had two children who survived: a daughter Ann and a son named Champain. So far, I’ve been unable to find a record of the latter’s birth or baptism. However, the parish register of Great Parndon, Essex, records that on 26 April 1757 Ann Collins, daughter of Richard and Ann, was baptised.

Passmores and Epping Long Green are visible on this early 19th century map

The family’s address is given as Passmores, an 18th century country house built on the site of a medieval moated manor house. In the 20th century it was absorbed into the new town of Harlow and for a time housed the town museum, before being taken over by a rehabilitation clinic.

Passmores House in 1974

On 3 October 1750 John Champain, ‘late of Tower Street London Citizen and Wine Cooper but now of Epping Long Green in the County of Essex’, drew up his last will and testament. Having ‘fully advanced’ his only daughter Ann, wife of Richard Collins, John left ‘all my estate and effects’ to his son James, who he also appointed sole executor of the will. The will, which was proved in April 1756, expressed a desire ‘to be buried according to such directions as I shall leave in writing for that purpose’. On 4 April, ‘John Champaigne [sic] Gentleman of Tower Street London’ was buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s, South Weald. Why he should have chosen this particular location is a mystery.

Perhaps it had something to do with his daughter Ann’s move to that part of Essex. When her husband Richard Collins composed his will in 1770, he described himself as a gentleman of Shenfield, which was only a few miles from South Weald. Does this connection between the Collins and Champain families and South Weald offer a clue as to how my ancestor Elizabeth Gibson, who was married to Richard Collins’ younger brother John, met her second husband Joseph Holdsworth, who had a farm there?

When Richard died in 1770, his wife Ann was still alive (she was appointed his executor) and their children Ann and Champain were not yet adults (Ann was about 13; Champain’s age is unknown). Richard left a considerable amount of property to his children, including some in Epping Long Green, which perhaps had been left by John Champain.

It seems likely that Richard Collins also left Passmores to his wife and/or his children, though it is not mentioned specifically in his will. According to one source, ‘Mrs Collins of Epping’ held the manor in about 1771: I assume this means Ann, who would have been recently widowed. The same source states that from 1775 Passmores was owned or occupied by ‘Mr. Collins.’  I believe that this was Richard and Ann’s son Champain, who is mentioned as owner of the property, and ‘son and heir of Richard Collins’, in a document of 1778 concerning the assignment of a mortgage in relation to the ‘Manor of Passmores and capital messuage called Passmores and land in Great Parndon’, and a similar document concerning a mortgage of £1500. These documents concerned the transfer of the property to Francis Bayley, whose family was still there in the 1850s.

From these documents, we can ascertain that Champain had come into his inheritance, meaning that his mother Ann had probably died at some point between 1771 and 1775. One of the documents also mentions Champain’s sister Ann, by now married to ‘William Lake of Epping, yeoman’.  It seems likely that they are the couple who were married at the church of St Benet, Paul’s Wharf, London on 10 November 1777, even though they are both described in the register as being ‘of this parish’: but then, as we know, the Collins and Champain families both had a penchant for London weddings and for keeping a house in town as well as in the country.

A conveyance record of 1812-14, concerning permission to enclose a piece of ground belonging to Gaines Park, Theydon Garnon, mentions ‘Champain Collins of North Weald Bassett, schoolmaster’, but I’ve been unable to find any further records for him, nor for his brother-in-law William Lake, farmer, ‘parish not given’, who is also named.