Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
On the 23rd June 1804, Claude and his wife Mary Champion de Crespigny held a Fete Champetre (an outdoor entertainment) at their home, Champion Lodge in Camberwell which stood on the block that today corresponds with Love Walk and Denmark Hill. The Fete Champetre was a grand affair and conjures up a very different world to the Camberwell of today. According to the Gentleman’s Magazine, the entertainment was attended by “five hundred noble and distinguished persons, including His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales [later George IV], whose condescension and politeness added dignity to rank and affection to royalty. The company began to assemble about one o’clock, and at three the Prince and his suite entered the apartments. …
"A beautiful fairy-like lady presented the Prince with a bouquet containing white and red roses united.
“Mrs de Crespigny then led her royal guest through a winding, shaded walk on the right side of the park, and which at length opened to view a group of Gypsies, some of whom, from the grace of their manners, the company seemed desirous of contemplating without their masks. In prosecuting the meandering walks, the Prince and company were led to a complete fair, kept in several booths erected for the purpose of exhibiting various articles for sale; and few of the company could resist the temptation of purchasing some of those pretty articles from the hands of the beautiful young ladies who kept the booths, and whose cheerfulness inspired greater pleasure under the benevolent consideration that the product of the sale was destined to purposes of charity; for the character of Mrs de Crespigny is uniformly to render pleasure rational by making it subservient to virtuous sentiment …
Lady Mary and Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny (1st baronet)
“In the vicinity of this virtuous traffick, so happily calculated to combine the feelings of humanity with the exercise of active beneficence, groups of ladies, with rakes and light implements of rural employment, danced round a garland of rich festoons of foliage and flowers, whilst musick of different kinds in tune reverberated upon the ear, or in soft melody died on the delighted senses, and afforded gratifications equally cheerful and intellectual. Looking from hence through the foliage of the spreading trees, haymakers neatly dressed were seen in the park, busily employed in turning, loading and conveying home the heavy growth of the meadows. Whilst the umbrageous trees shaded the walks, the company was supplied with ices, lemonades and various refreshments, till they arrived at the Alcove and Hermitage, where additional refreshments were presented, and seats and chairs were placed under the shade of the trees, whose branches seemed everywhere to convey musick from the numerous instruments which echoed through the groves.
“After leaving this enchanting scenery, by pursuing the walk to the other side of the park, the company passed by the Aviary … From hence to the Lodge or family residence is shaded by lofty cedars of Libanus, acacias and chestnuts. Under their shade the company had collected together soon after four o’clock, when glees were repeated, and followed by musick of serpino horns and savoyards; after which the company were invited to refreshments in the Lodge. All the rooms on the ground floor were soon filled, as well as the suite of seven rooms over them. The tables in every apartment were loaded with the richest and most plenteous refreshments of ices, fruits, cakes, wines as well as of the more substantial viands.
“The prince and his suite then withdrew, and the rest of the company returned to the lawn, when the sportive dance commenced with appropriate musick, and continued till past seven; and at 8 o’clock cold meats, coffee, tea, lemonade and wines were presented to the guests, who departed with the close of the evening, delighted with every department of the entertainment, and in the highest degree with the affability and attentions of the distinguished persons whose taste and liberality diffused so much rational enjoyment and mental gratification.
“The whole of the day was brilliant, and was succeeded by a clear full moon which greatly contributed to the pleasurable enjoyment of the occasion.”
Claude Champion de Crespigny was made a baronet the following year. Champion Lodge was pulled down in 1841 and large Victorian houses built on the cleared site. The Champion de Crespigny family moved to Essex.