The recent death of Sir Thomas Michael Blake Crawley-Boevey, 8th Baronet, seems like an opportune moment to reflect on the multiple connections between the Crawley and Gibbs families, with 6 marriages between the families from 1784 to 1941. David Hogg wrote “He was an exceptional man with a great deal of knowledge and experience, and a ready sense of humour. We met in Southern India when we were on a Saga holiday – Echoes of Empire. He always liked to be called Tim Boevey and did not like to be know as Sir Thomas, He was a stalwart yet self effacing leader of the Crawley-Boevey family. He enjoyed making films of his travels several of which he sent me. He was a great supporter of the Church at Flaxley Abbey where his influence will be sorely missed. Tim was the Managing Director of ‘Which’”. He lived a modest life in Cambridge, just round the corner from me; his son, also Thomas, is just across the river.
The following chart was drawn up following Raymond Gibbs’ marriage to Kathleen Carnegie in 1941, with some later notes by Ray indicating that they are both descended from Gibbs and Crawley ancestors (they were 3rd cousins). The fascinating inter-weaving of families through cousins that was so common in those past eras of close social circles, before the world opened up to internet dating … It has been observed that most marriages in past times were between people living within a days journey of each other; 20 miles by foot, and that the popularisation of the bicycle in early 20th century increased this to 60 miles, with “trains, planes and automobiles” ever further afield …
The history of the Crawley-Boevey family is well documented in “The Perverse Widow; being passages from the life of Catherina Boevey, wife of William Boevey Esq., of Flaxley Abbey in the County of Gloucester” compiled by Arthur W Crawley-Boevey in 1898. Thomas Crawley was a London merchant, baptised at St. Dunstan’s in the East in 1680, and married to Susanna Lloyd. His father, another Thomas, married to a different Susanna Lloyd, was a friend of William Boevey, whose family came from Flanders in 1573. He acquired considerable wealth, purchasing the estate of Flaxley Abbey and marrying a famous beauty, Catherina. Mr Boevey died at the early age of 35, leaving his estate to his beautiful widow, but by the terms of his will, Thomas succeeded to the estate upon the condition that he took the name Boevey! Flaxley Abbey, founded as a Cistercian Monastery in 1151, dissolved under Henry VIII, remained the Crawley-Boevey’s family home until 1960.
While the first marriage between the families was the Reverend Charles Crawley to Mary Gibbs, sister of Antony, founder of the firm ‘Antony Gibbs & Sons’, the most notable was probably Antony’s son, William Gibbs of Tyntesfield to Matilda Blanche Crawley-Boevey, daughter of the 3rd Baronet of Flaxley, Sir Thomas Crawley-Boevey. Confused with all the namesakes yet! Both families were deeply religious and it has been said that “the Gibbs’ made the money, and the Crawley’s made them give it back”, setting the tone for William’s benevolence to churches and education from his guano wealth.
The family connections were not only through marriage; Rev. Charles and Mary’s son, Charles Crawley, joined the firm becoming a Partner, and went out to Chile with his wife Eliza from 1828 to 1833. Her South American Journal, compiled by a Canadian descendent Linda Crawley, gives an interesting account of their journey from Liverpool, around Cape Horn, to Valparaiso, and travels up to Peru. Charles acquired an album of watercolours depicting many of the indigenous people, some of which he annotated to help with his Spanish vocabulary. A few of them are shown here.
When Charles and Eliza returned to England, they built a house called Lawn Upton at Littlemore near Oxford, where Charles’ friend, the theologian and priest, John Henry Newman was building the Church of St Mary and St Nicholas. On his death, William Gibbs purchased the house for Eliza to live there rent-free.