Friday, 10 February 2017
How the descendants of Dutch and
Huguenot refugees came to Askeaton
I presided and preaching at the Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, last Sunday [5 February 2017]. It was my first time in the church since my introduction to the group of parishes, and as I prepared to preside I was conscious of the reminders in the windows and the walls of some of my predecessors.
A large plaque on the south side of the chancel area recalls the life and work of the Revd Gustavus Wybrants (1758-1824). He was Vicar of Askeaton from 1790 until he died in 1824, and is buried outside in the churchyard in a railed-off family grave, close to the south-east corner of the church.
Gustavus Wybrants was the fifth son of Stephen Wybrants and his wife Alice Cane, and one of their 12 children.
The Wybrants family came to Ireland from Antwerp almost 400 years ago in 1622. Joseph Peter Wybrants, a Dutch merchant, moved from Antwerp to Dublin in 1622, and was naturalised in 1623. He is thought to have returned to Holland, and to have brought his wife and other children back with him. However, one of his sons, Peter Wybrants, remained in Dublin, and was the father of Alderman Peter Wybrants, who was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1658.
This Alderman Peter Wybrants was the grandfather of the Revd Peter Wybrants, who married Margaret Handcock, a daughter of the Very Revd Stephen Handcock, Dean of Clonmacnoise.
The Revd Peter Wybrants was the father of Stephen Wybrants, who married Alicia Cane in 1752. They had eight children, and their fifth son was the Revd Gustavus Wybrants, who became Vicar of Askeaton and Vicar of Castlelyons.
Gustavus Wybrants was born in Dublin in the then-fashionable Rutland Square, now Parnell Square, in 1758. He studied at Trinity College Dublin from 1776, graduating BA (1781) and MA (1793). He was ordained in 1781, and moved to the Diocese of Limerick in 1783. He became Vicar of Askeaton in 1790 and remained here until his death in 1824.
Three years after he moved to Askeaton, Gustavus Wybrants married the widowed Mary (Homan), whose husband, Canon Arthur Champagné, had died in 1791.
Mary Champagné’s father, the Revd Philip Homan, was the curate of Rathfarnham, Dublin (1774-1789). Her first husband, Canon Arthur Champagné, was typical of late 18th century pluralists in the Church of Ireland: he was canon of both Kildare Cathedral (Prebendary of Castropetri) and of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (Prebendary of Monmohenock), and the incumbent of parishes in the dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough, Elphin and Derry at the same time.
Canon Arthur Champagné was born in the early 1720s at Castle Forbes, Co Longford. He was a son of the Very Revd Arthur Champagné, who was Dean of Clonmacnoise (1761-1800), and his mother, Lady Jane Forbes, was a daughter of Arthur Forbes, 2nd Earl of Granard.
Dean Champagné was the son of Josias de Robillard and Marie de la Rochefoucauld, Huguenot refugees. His family was descended from the ancient family of de Robillard, of Saintonge, in France. His immediate ancestor, Josias de Robillard, was the Seigneur de Champagné, in the parish of Torcé, in Saintonge. He left France at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and changed his name to Champagné. His eldest son, Josias Champagné, accompanied his father into exile, and fought at the Battle of the Boyne when he was only 17.
Canon Arthur Champagné’s sister Jane (1742-1817) married Henry Paget in 1767, and he later became the Earl of Uxbridge. Arthur Champagné also had two brothers who had interesting army careers as generals, General Forbes Champagne, and General Josiah Champagné. Both brothers fought during the American War of Independence. General Forbes Champagné (d. 1816) later became Commander-in-Chief in India (1807-1811), while General Josiah Champagné was a general in Ceylon.
Before she married Gustavus Wybrants, Mary and Arthur Champagné were the parents of two sons: Canon Arthur Champagné, who was Vicar of Castlelyons, Co Cork (1824-1830), and Forbes Champagné, who was born after his father died.
Soon after her first husband died, Mary (Champagné) married the Revd Gustavus Wybrants of Askearon. He was the Vicar of Askeaton from 1793 to 1824, and was also the Vicar of Castlelyons, Co Cork, in the Diocese of Cloyne, from 1796 until his death in 1824.
Mary and Gustavus Wybrants had seven children, including a son Stephen Wybrants, who died unmarried, and six daughters:
1, Mary Anne, married Colonel William Middleton in 1823.
2, Alice, married the Ven Edward Herbert, Archdeacon of Aghadoe, in 1815.
3, Henrietta, married Charles Paul Dawson.
4, Elisabeth, who married Charles Widenham Fosbery.
So in all, the clerical family in Askeaton at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries was a large one, with two Champagné boys, one Wybrants boy and six Wybrants girls. Throughout all the demands of motherhood in these days, Mary Wybrants still managed to spent much of her time in Askeaton as the teacher in the free school beside Saint Mary’s Church. The school was under the patronage of the Kildare Place Society, and all 36 girls at the school were Roman Catholics.
Gustavus Wybrants died at Milltown House, near Askeaton, on 23 March 1824, and he is buried in a family vault in the churchyard at Saint Mary’s. His plaque in the church was erected by his step-sons, Arthur and Forbes Champagné.
Both stepsons had been raised as Gustavus Wybrant’s own children. The elder stepson, the Revd Arthur Champagné, was the curate of Durrow, in the Diocese of Meath, and later the Vicar of Castlelyons, Co Cork, where his stepfather had been the vicar.
The Revd Arthur Champagné resigned from Castlelyons in 1830, and returned to live at his stepfather’s house in Milltown, near Askeaton. He inherited the estates of his uncles, George and Forbes Champagné, and of his brother, Forbes Champagné, and died unmarried in Dublin on 2 November 1862.
Meanwhile, it is interesting to note, that Arthur Champagné had been succeeded as Dean of Clonmacnoise in 1800 by Charles Mongan Warburton, who became Bishop of Limerick in 1806, and his son, the American-born Archdeacon Charles Warburton (1781-1854), was the Rector of Rathkeale (1813-1855) at the time the Revd Gustavus Wybrants died in Askeaton.