Charlotte Wilkes Empson - The Cottage, Dawlish, Devon & family

Charlotte was the widow of Professor William Empson who had died in 1852. More information about whom can be found in the article extracted from the Dictionary of National Biography - see below. She was the only daughter of (Lord) Francis Jeffrey the founder and original editor of the Edinburgh Review.

The couple had married in Edinburgh on 27th June 1838 and the birth of their first child was recorded (in Cramond, near Edinburgh) on 7th April 1839. Tracing the family is complicated by their origins having been in Scotland but, from the 1881 census return it seems that they had two other daughters, Ann J born 1843 and Fanny C J born 1853. From reference to wills it is clear that this last daughter's name was properly 'Frances Charlotte Jeffery Empson'. She died at 1 Mill Hill Road, Barnes Common, Surrey, a spinster on 11th April 1920. Her obituary in The Times on 20th April 1920 (originally spotted by Don Empson) read:

Miss F. C. J. Empson

The death took place recently, at Mill Hill Road, Barnes, of Miss Frances Charlotte Jeffrey Empson, daughter of William Empson, Editor of the Edinburgh Review from 1847 to 1852, and grand-daughter of Francis (Lord) Jeffrey, one of its founders, and after the first few months of its existence, the editor of the Review until, on his election as Dean of Faculty in 1829, he resigned in favour of Macvey Napier, Empson's predecessor.

Miss Empson's mother, Charlotte, Jeffrey's only child, was married in 1838 to Empson, then Professor of "General policy and the laws of England" at Haileybury, Sir Thomas Mackintosh's chair, and a valued contributor to the Review. Miss Empson was, it is believed, the last representative of Jeffrey's family. She was in her 68th year.

Frances according to the Wills database (q.v.) had also lived at 'The Shrubbery', Stone in Staffordshire. She left £32,200-19-2d to Arthur Herbert Empson Esq and William Henry Anstey, a gardener.

I can place Arthur Herbert in the family tree of 'Yorkshire Empsons' - he was the son of Christopher Empson of Elvington and a 'Woolen Manufacturer'. I cannot place William Anstey as yet, although Arthur had three sisters about whom I have little information and it is possible that he was a brother-in-law.

Of Ann J, Charlotte's older sister, I have little information. It is likely that it is she recorded in the wills database (q.v.) as Ann Sarah Empson who died, a spinster at 'The Cottage', Dawlish on 24th February 1906. She left £27,881-7-1d with Charlotte as her executrix.

Their mother, Charlotte Wilkes Empson, died at 'The Cottage', Dawlish on 15th June 1897. She left £20,186-3-9d probate being granted to the two daughters, Ann Sarah and Frances Jeffery.

In 1870 however the death is recorded on Francis Jeffery Empson who died, a bachelor, at 6 Marlborough Buildings, Bath Somerset on 2nd February 1870. Probate was granted to Charlotte Wilkes Empson of that address, a widow, the mother and only next of kin of the said deceased. He left "under £2,000". I have yet to place this person into the scheme of things (but have a photograph of the house if anybody is interested).

Professor William Empson's own death of course preceded the commencement of the wills database however his will is preserved in the Public Record Office. It is complicated as it makes reference to a marriage settlement made by Lord Jeffrey on his daughter Charlotte - in the happy days before women had any rights to property! Her father then having inconveniently died before he made a will. However it states that he leaves an annual value to his wife of 400 pounds and the interest on 10,000 pounds (the value of the marriage settlementent).He then refers to settlements on his children making reference to 'sons'. His executors were his nephew Arthur John and his wife Marianne (Arthur John being the Vicar of Eydon in Northampton - Empsonian Logic q.v.)

I would be very pleased to receive any further information about this family group and would be happy to send copies of the wills and photographs that I have here.

For the article from the Dictionary of National Biography click here