Reflections on the will of James Champain

The last will and testament of James Champain, the London wine cooper who died in 1785, a transcription of which I reproduced in the last post, contains some useful information about James and his family.

Firstly, we learn that at some stage James and his second wife Ann must have moved to Weymouth in Dorset, where he made the main part of his will in 1781. We know that both James and Ann were living in Surrey at the time of their marriage in 1785, and that James maintained a business address in London until at least the mid 1770s. His will also confirms that, between the writing of his will and the addition of a codicil three years later, James and his family made another move, this time to Exeter in Devon. This explains why both James’ daughter Ann and his stepdaughter Sarah Eaton Andrews were married in that city, the former in 1782 to William Horabin, the latter in 1790 to James Dowsett Rose Clealand.

Georgian Exeter

Georgian Exeter (via demolition-exeter.blogspot.com)

Secondly, we learn from the will that all of James’ children from his first marriage to Hannah Hawkins appear to have survived, except one. Thomas Champain, who was born in Weybridge in 1766, is not mentioned in his father’s will: perhaps he died in infancy, and his mother died giving birth to him?

James’ eldest daughter Elizabeth had married William Edwards, a London merchant, in 1772. I haven’t been able to find out if there were any children from this marriage, but obviously both Elizabeth and her husband remained close to her father, since he makes William one of the executors of his will and bequeaths a significant amount of property to him and his co-executor, at least partly in trust for James’ younger children. This property includes land in Essex, perhaps inherited from James’ father John Champain who had died there in 1756, or his sister Ann who married Epping landowner Richard Collins.

The significant role given to James’ son-in-law William in managing his property can perhaps be explained by the absence overseas of James’ two eldest sons. We learn from the will that both James Champain junior and his younger brother John, who would have been aged forty and thirty-five respectively when their father died, were ‘in the East Indies’ at the time that he wrote his will. I assume that they were merchants involved in trade with the expanding Indian colonies, perhaps as part of the East India Company, like my Gibson and Boulton ancestors whose contemporaries they were. James senior gives his two sons his ‘sincerest blessing’ and, reading between the lines, we gather that both men had become wealthy enough not to be in need of any inheritance from their father.

James’ third son William Burgundy Champain would have been considerably younger – not quite twenty-one, in fact – when his father made his will. We learn that he was already ‘a Lieutenant in his Majesty’s Navy’, so he may have been overseas as well. There was also a fourth son, George Hawkins Champain, who was only nineteen when his father died.

A ship of the East India Company at Blackwall

A ship of the East India Company at Blackwall

Finally, James makes provision for his three younger daughters, Ann, Sally, and Frances, all of them still unmarried when the will was written though, as we have seen, Ann at least had married by the time of her father’s death.

As for Thomas Hill Esquire, the other person appointed as co-executor of James’ will, together with his son-in-law William Edwards, I haven’t been able to discover any familial tie with him. He was said to be of Lincoln’s Inn, so it’s possible he was James’ lawyer. From his will of 1790 we can deduce that, like James Champain, Thomas Hill owned property in Dorset, and that Charles Cookney, one of the witnesses to James’ will, who also seems to have been a lawyer, was an ‘old acquaintance’ of his.

This entry was posted in Champain, Collins, Gibson. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s