LTC George Blicke Champion De Crespigny: The Mad Minute

Researched and written by Karl Neve, introduction by Carole M

Hythe School of Musketry was mentioned by Rob on history ‘walk and talk,’ round the Cheriton Road Cemetery when we stopped at George de Crespigny’s memorial. He was Paymaster at the barracks there in 1871.

The school taught skills in firearms and musketry to officers, who then returned and trained their men. The school’s success coined the phrase “the mad minute,” the ability of soldiers to fire their rifles 15-20 times in 60 seconds. The site is now occupied by a supermarket. This inspired Karl, one of our experienced researchers, who then discovered much more about George:

His family, of Huguenot descent, can be traced back to the 13th Century in Normandy. Marguerite Champion, nee Richard, the wife of Richard Champion (1597-c1667) inherited property at Crespigny when her father died in 1624. From that time the family name became Champion De Crespigny. Richard & Marguerite’s son, Claude, left France for England in 1685. Philip Champion de Crespigny was the grandson of Claude & the first generation born in London, 1704. His son, also Philip, was The King’s Proctor (1768-1784) He was elected as an MP for Sudbury in 1774.

Philip’s son, Charles Fox Champion De Crespigny (1785-1875) attended Cambridge University at the age of 18 (1803) & became a JP for Suffolk. Charles married Eliza Julia Trent in 1813. They had their first child, Charles James, in 1814 in Suffolk. Their other children were: George 1815, born and baptised in Antwerp, Philip Robert 1817, Julia Eliza 1819 & Eliza Constantia Frances 1825, all born in France.

George Blicke attended Cambridge University. He entered Trinity Hall in 1832, aged 17 & Lincolns Inn in 1833. He enlisted on the 29th January 1836 in the 20th Foot Lancashire Fusiliers, as an Ensign. On the 28th June 1838 the regiment performed public duties at Westminster for the coronation of Queen Victoria. Also that month, their Colours were presented at the Tower of London by the Duke of Wellington.

In June 1840 the regiment was in Ireland, by September 1841 in Bermuda and in April 1847, Nova Scotia. Captain George Blicke married Elizabeth Jane Buchanan in Christchurch Cathedral, Montreal, Canada on 11th June 1851. Their first child, Julia Constantia, was born in 1852 at Uxbridge, but the regiment didn’t return to England until June 1853. So it’s possible he was still in Canada when his daughter was born. A second daughter, Georgina Elizabeth, was born in Hythe in 1856 & a son, George Harrison, in Folkestone in 1863.

The census for 1861 shows the family living at West Cliff Terrace, Folkestone. George is now a Lieutenant Colonel in the army. 1871 shows the family at 111 Sandgate Road. George, now Colonel, is also Paymaster at the School of Musketry in Hythe. 4 servants are employed, including a 13 year old housemaid. From about 1881 the family are living at 19 Bouverie Square, where they will stay until George’s death on the 30th June 1893. By 1891, George had retired from the army, but had become a JP.

Probate 25th May 1900 to son, George Harrison Champion Holden De Crespigny, Captain Auxiliary Services, effects £25.00. Buried 4th July 1893