This is the story of how a father and son gave up their Coxon name to inherit a large estate in England.
The story begins in the early 1800’s when Major Michael Coxon and his wife Deborah lived at Flesk Priory, Killarney, Ireland. The Coxon family were strong Catholics and previous generations had been supporters of the Stuart Monarchy. They had three sons – Michael Agnew Coxon (who became a Judge in Mumbai, India), Septimus Coxon (who joined the Church) and John Stuart Coxon (b.1827).
John Stuart Coxon married Millicent Maria Johnes Cary (1829-1901) the daughter of Henry George Cary. The Cary’s were a very old family whose lineage dated back to 1162. John Stuart Coxon and Millicent Coxon had a daughter and a son (Lionel Henry St Croix Coxon) and this son was to change his Coxon name to Cary.
Lionel Henry St Croix Coxon was born in Paris in 1859. He was always destined for a career in the Royal Navy and passed his cadetship examinations at the age of 12. He joined the Royal Navy in 1874 at the age of fifteen. In 1876 he was a midshipman on HMS Duke of Wellington. In 1881 he was a sub-Lieutenant serving on HMS Foam. In 1890 he was a Lieutenant on HMS Assistance.
In 1884, he married Edith Selina Sussex Meyrick the daughter of Lieutenant-General Augustus Meyrick. Their first child, Henry Lionel Meyrick Coxon was born in 1885. In 1891 the family were living in Portsmouth and Lionel Henry St Croix Coxon was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. In 1892 a daughter Winifred was born. In 1901 the family were still living in Portsmouth and Lionel Henry St Croix Coxon was a Commander in the Royal Navy. In 1906 a second daughter, Margaret was born.
By 1911, Lionel Henry St Croix Coxon had left the Royal Navy and the family were living in Mayfair, London on private income.
The second strand of this story is the Cary family of Somerset, England.
The Cary family can trace its heritage to Adam de Karry who was born about 1169 in Castle Cary, Somerset, England. There are then twenty-one generations of family lineage to our story in 1916. An amazing lineage which includes involvement in all historical events in the history of England but particularly related to the role of Roman Catholics in society.
The Cary family home from 1662 to 1930 was Torre Abbey which had been built in 1196 as a monastery. With the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII the Abbey became a grand private house. The Cary family were strong Catholics, a dangerous position during those times and their wealth was taken by the King. However by a series of marriages they where able to rebuild their fortunes and purchased Torre Abbey and its estates in 1662.
For hundreds of years and through generations of family members Torre Abbey remained the home of the Carey family. In 1830 the head of the family was Henry George Carey (1800-1840) and it was his daughter that John Stuart Coxon married.
Later, in the early 1900’s the head of the Cary line was Colonel Lancelot Sulyarde Robert Cary. However following his death in 1916, the estates passed to the only direct male relative, 26-year-old Lieutenant Lancelot Sulyarde Robert Cary. Tragically, less than three weeks later, Lieutenant Cary was killed in the Battle of the Somme bringing to an end the direct male line of the Cary’s of Torre Abbey.
The will of Lieutenant Cary bequeathed Torre Abbey and its estates to Captain Lionel Henry St. Croix Coxon R.N. as the only son of Colonel Cary’s eldest sister, Millicent Cary – however there was a condition in the will.
The condition was that both Captain Coxon and his son Lieutenant Henry Lionel Meyrick Coxon R.N. should change their name to Cary. To do this required Royal assent which was given by King George V and so the two Coxon’s became Cary’s. The Cary line to the present day is in fact a Coxon line.
Captain Lionel Henry St. Croix Coxon Cary as he was now called had no fortune of his own, and in view of the accumulation of mortgages, annuities, and death duties, there was no way that the Captain and his family could afford to live at Torre Abbey. However, when the First World War ended in 1918, the Captain was determined to try.
To pay the bills the contents had to be sold and the Cary’s (Coxon’s) made do with a few items of furniture belonging to Mrs Cary (Coxon). After 18 months the money ran out. In 1920, they leased the Abbey to another family but retained ownership.
Captain Lionel Henry St. Croix Coxon Cary died in 1929 and the following year his son Henry sold Torre Abbey to Torquay Council but retained ownership of the surrounding land and estates. After 270 years that was the end of the Cary link with Torre Abbey. The Abbey remains in the ownership of Torbay Council to this day.
[Acknowledgements and thanks: National Library of Ireland, Torre Abbey, Caryfamily.co.uk, Western Times, London Evening Standard Naval Announcements, London Daily News]