Tuesday 29 August 2023

(554) Benett of Norton Bavant and Bennett of Pythouse

Benett of Norton Bavant and Pythouse 
This article concerns two Wiltshire families of the name Benett (or Bennett), which although initially unrelated were united by marriage at the end of the 17th century. The first family, which usually spelled their name as Benet, Bennet or Benett, was based at Norton Bavant and Westbury; the second, which preferred the common modern form of the name, Bennett, was at Pythouse in Tisbury.

The Benetts are first recorded at Norton Bavant in 1390, when they were yeomen tenants of the Dominican nuns of Dartford Priory (Kent), which had been granted the manor in 1358. In the 15th century they flourished as clothiers, presumably from a base in one of the watermills on the River Wylye. John Benett leased a fulling mill on the river in 1486, and by the early 16th century the family were lessees, under Dartford Priory (and after the dissolution of the monasteries, under the Crown), of most of the land in the manor. William Benett (c.1485-1558), with whom the genealogy below begins, was the third son of John Benett, but ultimately inherited his family's property at Norton Bavant, his eldest brother having died without issue and his next brother, Thomas, having trained as a lawyer and entered the church. The Rev. Dr. Thomas Benett (1480-1558) had a very successful and high profile career as a civil servant, serving as secretary to Cardinal Wolsey and after Wolsey's death, quickly establishing himself in the regard of Thomas Cromwell. The dissolution of the monasteries seems to have caused him few qualms, and he was rewarded with a series of preferments, including prebends at St Paul's Cathedral and the office of precentor at Salisbury Cathedral, where he actually lived. After Cromwell's execution he seems to have decided the time for a quieter retirement had come, and he settled into his role as precentor and choirmaster, and occupied himself with refounding the cathedral school at Salisbury.

Either William Benett (c.1485-1558) or more probably his son, William Benett (d. 1574) was MP for Westbury in 1554. In 1565 the younger William appeared at the herald's visitation for Wiltshire and proved his entitlement to the coat of arms illustrated above, despite his reluctance to be described as a gentleman. It seems likely that the arms had first been granted to his father in the reign of Henry VIII through the influence of his uncle, Dr. Benett. The younger William was also indebted to his uncle for a lease of the rectory manor in Westbury, which he was granted in 1544, and where he made his home and carried on his business as a clothier. He left this property to his eldest son, Thomas Benett (c.1549-1605), who eventually took over his business, but the Crown lease of the manor of Norton Bavant was left to his second son, William Benett (1551-1618), who renewed it in 1583 and in 1611 was the leading partner in a local consortium which purchased the freehold. His son, Thomas Benett (c.1597-1653), consolidated the family's gentry status by building a new house at Norton Bavant in 1641, for which the contract happily survives. It is not clear whether the Civil War interrupted progress on the building, but it seems possible, even though Thomas belonged to the victorious Parliamentarian faction. Thomas was married twice. His first wife died in childbirth and he quickly married again, producing a large family by his much younger second wife, who was the daughter of a well-to-do Bristol merchant. His son by his first wife, Thomas Benett (1623-78?), survived but got rather a raw deal, being on poor terms with his father and stepmother who largely disinherited him and later banished him to a farm at Burghfield (Berks). It was the eldest son by the second wife, John Benett (1630-1707) who was made the heir to Norton Bavant. He married but unfortunately he had no surviving children, so on his death the estate passed to his brother William Benett (d. 1707), a lawyer in Shaftesbury (Dorset).

The second family covered by this post, the Bennetts of Pythouse, had been yeomen in Tisbury for several generations before, in 1565, Thomas Bennett (d. 1591) bought the major portion of the manor of West Hatch in Tisbury when it was dispersed by sale. Thomas' predecessors seem to have used the surnames Pitt and Bennett interchangeably, and their home, Pythouse, probably obtained its name in this way. The house of this name was then in East Hatch, not on its present site. When Thomas died in 1591 he had settled the enlarged estate on his widow Mary (d. 1618) for life, with remainder to his sons. His elder son, John Bennett, may be the man of this name who was MP for Heytesbury (Wilts) in 1586 and/or for Westbury in 1589, but he died unmarried before his mother, so it was the second son, Thomas Bennett (1563-1635) who ultimately inherited Pythouse. Thomas's son, Thomas Bennett (1588-1663) was a Royalist in the Civil War, and as one of the leaders of the 'Club Men' movement was lucky to avoid serious punishment after being arrested by the Parliamentarian forces. His property was sequestrated but he was allowed to recover it on the payment of a substantial fine in 1646. He survived to see the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and when he died in 1663 he left a large family. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Anthony Bennett (1623-88), but for reasons which are unclear, Anthony had inherited or accumulated debts which obliged him to sell Pythouse in 1669, and he lived subsequently at Stour Provost in Dorset. He had children, but little is known about them, and his descendants seem to have slipped out of the gentry. Anthony's younger brother, John Bennett (1625-77) had been a trooper in the Royalist army, 1643-45, and became steward to Lord Arundell at Wardour Castle in 1661. He was a friend of the Earl of Shaftesbury, who secured his election as MP for Shaftesbury, 1667-76, and perhaps helped him to secure several Crown appointments as well. When he died in 1677, however, he owed the Crown £781 which he was unable to pay. The debt was inherited by his son, Thomas Bennett (c.1645-88), who was private secretary to both Prince Rupert, 1678-82 and Lord Shaftesbury, 1679-85, and who succeeded his father as MP for Shaftesbury. He died without issue, when the debt seems to have transferred to his surviving sisters. Among these was Patience (d. 1726?), who had married, as her second husband, William Benett (d. 1707) of Norton Bavant; he arranged a deal whereby the sisters were allowed to compound for half of the outstanding sum. 

When William Benett died in 1707, his estate at Norton Bavant passed to his son Thomas Benett (1687-1755), whose career is a bit of a mystery. He was appointed as one of the registrars of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, which might imply he had some legal training, but he does not seem to have attended a university or inn of court. Perhaps the post was a sinecure which he discharged through deputies? In 1733 he received a commission as a Lieutenant-Colonel of Foot, but there is no evidence that he was qualified for this either! The army is, however, especially poorly documented in the early 18th century, so it may just be that the evidence of his earlier career does not survive. We know more about his building activities, for it was probably soon after he inherited in 1707 that the 17th century house at Norton Bavant was remodelled in its present form. In 1725 he bought the Pythouse estate that had belonged to his mother's ancestors until 1669, and he then built a modest new house on the estate (on a new site) and laid out a park around it. His eldest son, William Benett (1715-49) became a dissolute rake and married an innkeeper's daughter to the dismay of his family, and although he died in his father's lifetime there proved to be a posthumous child, William Benett (1749-81), on whom Norton Bavant was entailed. The child's mother was not on good terms with her husband's family, and did everything she could to prevent contact between them and her son. After Thomas died in 1755, she had her son made a ward of court, and the court made an allowance from the estate for their maintenance and his upbringing. Not until she died in 1768 - reputedly of drink - was any contact renewed between the young man and the Benett family, and although efforts were apparently then made to assimilate him to the gentry, his health deteriorated quickly. He went to Bath to take the waters but got into bad company there, and was married to the young widow of an apothecary just six weeks before he died. He bequeathed his estate to her, provoking accusations of undue influence from his family, who instigated legal proceedings in Chancery. In 1788 the court ordered the sale of the estate and a division of the proceeds, but it remained in the family because it was bought by Catherine Benett (1714-98), the unmarried eldest sister of William Benett (1715-49), whose childhood home Norton Bavant had been.

Norton Bavant may have been entailed, but Thomas Benett (1687-1755) was free to dispose of Pythouse as he chose. He accordingly bequeathed it to his second surviving son, Thomas Benett (1729-97), a far more upright figure than his elder brother. He served as High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1758-59 and twice attempted unsuccessfully to enter Parliament. He married twice and by his second wife produced three sons and three daughters. His eldest son was killed in a shooting accident at Pythouse in 1789, so it was the second son, John Benett (1773-1852) who inherited the estate on his father's death, and in the following year he also inherited Norton Bavant from his aunt Catherine. In 1801 he married Lucy Lambert (1785-1827), the daughter of Edmund Lambert of Boyton House (Wilts), who brought him a substantial dowry. Soon afterwards, he began an extensive rebuilding of Pythouse to his own designs which was completed by 1808 and much admired by his neighbours and friends. John comes across as a highly energetic, determined, and intellectually able man with very limited emotional intelligence or empathy with others. An MP for Wiltshire for more than thirty years, his lack of concern for the welfare of his social inferiors was legendary (although often tempered in practice when he was dealing with individuals), and, perhaps as a result, his estate was one of the chief targets of the "Captain Swing" rioters in Wiltshire in 1830. The profits of his two estates, swollen by the high price of agricultural produce during the Napoleonic wars and by John's energetic schemes of improvement, allowed him to enlarge the estate and to reshape it by selling distant properties in Hampshire and Dorset and buying lands adjoining Pythouse. The most ambitious of these purchases was a large slice of the Fonthill estate, including the site of Fonthill Abbey, but legal difficulties meant that the purchase dragged on until 1838 and he eventually sold this property again in 1844. In 1842 he inherited a life interest in the Boyton Hall estate in right of his wife, who had died in 1827, but at his death this passed to his son-in-law, the Rev. Arthur Fane (1809-72). Unsurprisingly, considering his investment in it, Pythouse was the centre of John Benett's estate. The more old fashioned Norton Bavant House was occupied by his unmarried sisters, Anna Maria (1776-1857) and Etheldred (1775-1845), the latter being a pioneering female geologist.

John Benett outlived both his sons, and was succeeded at Pythouse by his grandson, John Edward Benett (1841-56), who died well before coming of age. His property then passed through the female line to another of John's grandsons, Vere Fane (1839-94), the son of the Rev. Arthur Fane, who took the name Fane-Benett on coming of age in 1860. Seven years later he married Ellen Stanford (1848-1932), the owner of the Preston Place estate at Brighton (Sussex) and they took the name Fane-Benett-Stanford. Then, finding that this was rather a mouthful, they dropped his patronymic and settled on Benett-Stanford. Vere rebuilt the stables in 1880 and ten years later built two new blocks at the north-east and north-west corners of the house to enlarge the service accommodation. When he died in 1897, Vere Benett-Stanford left the house at Pythouse to his widow (who married again) for life, although the estate seems to have passed directly to his son, the divertingly complex and eccentric John Montague Benett-Stanford (1870-1947), who had to rent the house from his mother. After a brief career as a soldier he became a freelance war correspondent, and shot the earliest known movie footage of war at the Battle of Omdurman. He later came to feel that cinematography was no occupation for an officer and a gentleman, and turned his enthusiasm to cars instead. In the First World War he served with the motor volunteer corps, retiring with the rank of Lt-Col, but in the ironic words of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography "his greatest contribution to the war effort seems to have been lobbing rocks at conscientious objectors from the back seat of his Rolls-Royce". After his only son died in 1922 he became increasingly irascible and unstable and conducted feuds with his mother and stepfather, his trustees, his neighbours and some of his acquaintances. Much of the Norton Bavant estate was sold in the 1930s, and after he died in 1947 the house at Norton Bavant was sold and the Pythouse estate passed to his widow, Evelyn Benett-Stanford (1868-1957) for life, and then to his distant kinsman, Sir Anthony Rumbold (1911-83), 10th bt. Sir Anthony chose to live at Hatch House on the estate and sold Pythouse to the Mutual Households Association in c.1959, which divided it into flats. When the Country Houses Association (as it had become) got into financial difficulties in 2004, Sir Henry Rumbold (b. 1947), 11th bt., exercised a right established at the time of his father's sale of the house to buy it back, selling it in 2007 to Jan Murray (otherwise Murray-Obodynski) (b. c.1948), the founder of PC World, who restored it to single occupancy. He has recently put it on the market. 

Norton Bavant House, Wiltshire

The Benett family leased the manor from from 1519, initially from the nuns of Dartford Priory and later from the Crown, and in 1611 they acquired the freehold. At that time, the medieval house traditionally occupied by the farmers of the demesne was ruinous, but the Benetts had long occupied another property, which was no doubt the house which in 1618 consisted, beside domestic offices and servants' quarters, of only a hall, a parlour, and four chambers. In 1641 Thomas Benett made a contract with John Thommes of Andover, bricklayer, to build a house in a meadow called the West Garden adjoining the previous house. Its dimensions were to be 65 by 24 ft., which agrees well with the present north range of the house, as far back as a massive wall which separates the rooms on that side from the rest. The contract specified that the great parlour was to be 34 feet long 'in biggnes and breadeth equally as large as the roomes in the howse of Benjamen Pitt' of Standerwick Court (Som). This building was, however, probably added to an existing one which is represented by the present east wing, for this retains several internal features of the earlier 17th century. In 1654 the house contained hall, parlour, dining chamber, domestic offices and ten chambers. Perhaps after Thomas Benett inherited the house in 1707, it was completely remodelled. The 'decent gable ends' of 1641 were replaced by a hipped tiled roof, and a west wing was added to make the house U-shaped. In the late 18th century the space between the two projecting wings was filled in; the flat lead roof of this addition is dated 1774. 

Norton Bavant House: north front in 2014. Image: David Lovell.
The external appearance is now entirely of the Queen Anne period. The house is now stuccoed, probably to mask the differences in building materials and dates of construction of the building. It has a two-storey, seven bay front with stone cross-windows, which remarkably were never converted to sashes. A deep moulded and coved eaves cornice supports a steep hipped roof with later dormer windows, and over the doorway is a handsome wooden shell-hood on carved brackets. The five-bay side elevation to the right has been more altered, with some plate glass sashes and glazed central double doors. At the rear, the central two bays represent the late 18th century infill between the wings. 

Norton Bavant House: the north front and the 1920s extension to its left. Image: Devizes Museum .
To the left of the entrance front is a fussy 1920s extension which detracts from the effect of the original building, although it adopts the same materials and window proportions, and continues the stringcourse above the first floor windows. It is recessed but has a canted front; the cornice and roof do not match the profiles of the main block; the first floor windows are pointlessly treated as oriels carried on mean brackets, and a (probably later) first-floor extension carried on larger brackets squats awkwardly in the angle between the wings and the main block. 

Inside, the house preserves an early 18th century main staircase with two turned balusters per tread, which was, however, moved in the 1960s from the west entrance hall to the centre of the house. Otherwise, the 18th century interiors seem little altered, with good panelling and cornices in many rooms, especially in the rear drawing room and the billiard room on the first floor. The attic stairs with splat balusters date from the 17th century, and the survival of a single Tudor-arched doorway and some studded timber partitions in the attics of the east wing are evidence that this part of the house pre-dates the 1641 rebuilding. Two of the outbuildings in the stable court also have hipped roofs and cross-windows, and are thought to be mid-17th century in origin, although entirely refitted internally in modern times. One of them is probably the detached brewhouse mentioned in the contract of 1641. The walls of a large garden survive to the west of the house, but a formal canal south of the house shown on 19th century maps seems to have been filled in.

Descent: William Benett (c.1485-1558); to son, William Benett (d. 1574); to son, William Benett (1551-1618); to son, Thomas Benett (c.1597-1653), who built a new house; to son, John Benett (1630-1707); to brother, William Benett (d. 1707); to son, Thomas Benett (1687-1755), who probably remodelled the house; to grandson, William Benett (1749-81); to widow, Jane, later wife of William Parry (fl. 1796); sold 1788 to Catherine Benett (1714-98); to nephew, John Benett (1773-1852); to grandson, John Edward Benett (1841-56); to cousin, Vere Fane (later Fane-Benett, then Fane-Benett-Stanford, then Benett-Stanford) (1839-94); to son, John Montague Benett-Stanford (1870-1947), who sold much of the estate; to widow, Evelyn Benett-Stanford (1868-1957), who sold the house 1948 or 1951 to Sir Kenneth Nicholson (1891-1964), kt.; to daughter, Priscilla Mignon Nicholson (1924-2018), wife of  Sir John Valentine Jardine Paterson (1920-2000); to son, Jonathan James Jardine Paterson (b. 1959). The house was occupied in the early 19th century by Etheldred (1775-1845) and Anna Maria Benett (1776-1857), the unmarried sisters of John Benett (1773-1852). The house was let in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to tenants including Mrs. Torrance (fl. 1884-88), Lindsay Bury (1882-1952), who was resident c.1910-16, and H.W. Whitbread, who was here in the 1930s and 1940s.

Pythouse, Tisbury, Wiltshire


In the 16th and 17th centuries the house called Pythouse occupied by the Benett family stood in East Hatch, but its exact location is unknown. By 1725 it was a mansion house with a terraced garden on its north side, but it was pulled down shortly afterwards, when Thomas Benett (1687-1755) of Norton Bavant, who had bought the estate in 1725, built a new Pythouse with four rooms to a floor on a new site at West Hatch, where the present house stands. The Pythouse built in or soon after 1725-27 was a plain rectangular building of three storeys with a walled forecourt, guarded by the splendid gatepiers that are now set at one of the entrances to the estate. 

Pythouse: the house built in the 1720s, as it appeared before the remodelling by John Benett in c.1802-08.
John Benett (1773-1852) greatly enlarged the house in 1802-08. According to two near-contemporary sources he was his own architect and supervised the building personally, 'rising at five each morning for the purpose'. He cleverly sandwiched the existing house between two new ranges to the north and south and joined their four ends with Ionic porticos in antis which passed in front of the refaced side elevations of the early 18th century house. The south front of nine bays has a rusticated basement and a severe entablature supporting a low parapet, with windows that are simple, unframed, holes in the wall. One hardly notices such details, however, because the fa├žade is dominated by an impressive three-bay giant portico of four unfluted Ionic columns, supporting a pediment decorated with a wreathed heraldic escutcheon. The end elevations of the south range have tripartite windows under a super-arch on the ground floor, and these are repeated on the ends of the north range to frame three-bay Ionic colonnades in antis which conceal the ends of the early 18th century block. John Benett's house was amongst the first in the country to make use of Greek Revival motifs, and was much admired by his friends and neighbours: nearby Philipps House, Dinton (Wilts) is almost a copy by Wyatville, and the great portico on the south front was the model for those by Hopper at Leigh Court, Abbotsleigh (Som,) and Thorington Hall (Suffk). 

Pythouse, Tisbury: engraving of the house as remodelled in 1802-08.
Inside, the portico leads into a modest entrance hall with a black and white tiled floor and a simple anthemion plaster frieze. Behind this, much of the early 18th century centre was remodelled to accommodate an elaborate staircase designed to connect the different levels of the old and new buildings. It rises in a single flight to a landing with Ionic scagliola columns, and returns in two arms that have landings halfway up. The lower part is supported on an innovative cast iron beam, testament to Benett's interest in new materials and new ways of working. The upper part is more conventionally cantilevered but has iron stick balusters. Over the staircase is a coved ceiling and an oval lantern to provide top lighting. 

Pythouse, Tisbury: entrance hall in 2023.

Pythouse, Tisbury: staircase hall in 2023
Either side of the entrance hall are the two principal reception rooms - originally the drawing and dining rooms - which both have richly carved north Italian chimneypieces, one of which was carved in 1553 for the Martinengo family of Brescia (Italy). Julian Orbach has suggested that they may have been acquired at the demolition sale of nearby Fonthill Splendens in 1807 and have been incorporated into John Benett's original scheme, but they could also be a later 19th century interpolation.

Pythouse, Tisbury: drawing room with 16th century Italian chimneypiece, perhaps bought at the Fonthill Splendens sale in 1807.

Pythouse, Tisbury: the west elevation, showing the original symmetrical arrangement and the additional service block of 1891. Image: Historic England.
To expand the service accommodation, two new blocks were built at the north-east and north-west corners of the house in 1891 to the designs of Charles Stanley Peach of London, best known as a designer of infrastructure for the burgeoning electricity industry. In general, his wings tactfully emulate the proportions and forms of the main block, but the curved links which squat in the angles between the new wings and the main block on both sides disturb the illusion of continuity and proclaim their later date. The multi-pane sash windows by which the house was originally lit were perhaps replaced with plate glass sashes at the same time: a sad alteration which one hopes may in future be reversed. The house was divided into flats in 1959 but restored to single occupancy after 2005 and was for sale at the time of writing. 

Pythouse, Westbury: the park as shown on Andrews & Dury's 1773 map of Wiltshire 
Andrews & Dury's 1773 map of Wiltshire shows that the early Georgian Pythouse was set in a small park and approached by a short drive from the south-east and a much longer one from the west. A plantation roughly corresponding to the distinctive kidney shape of the later Chapel Plantation is also shown on the map, as is an unnamed building below the plantation which is probably the surviving mid 18th-century orangery, now set on a terrace above a lawn west of the house. It has five arches between Ionic pilasters, and a three-bay pediment rising through a parapet decorated with ball finials. Another survival from the early 18th century landscape is the roofless cylindrical drum of a dovecote, south of the stables.

Pythouse, Tisbury: the orangery of c.1730-50.

Pythouse, Tisbury: the ruined chapel.
The plantation takes its name from an early 19th-century stone chapel in the Gothic style, which was built, and presumably designed by, John Benett. This has a gabled middle doorway between pointed windows, blank outer bays, and six buttresses, once pinnacled. The window tracery has gone and a doorway was moved to the new church in Newtown built in 1911-12. Inside it has plaster wall shafts and a plaster rib vault, still largely intact. The chapel was actually never consecrated and became simply a decorative building in the park, but has long been in ruins. At some point, probably in the early 19th century, the park was landscaped again.
Pythouse: the 18th century gatepiers at the service entrance,
formerly in the forecourt, with the gates added in 1880.
Image: Historic England
The long drive to the west was redirected to the south-west, to emerge on the public road near Billhay Bridge, while the east drive was made much longer by carrying it over the road from Fonthill Bishop to Semley on a bridge and bringing it down to a new lodge at a crossroads by Pythouse Farm. The stable court east of the house has an impressive pedimented archway dated 1880, with Corinthian columns and a timber lantern. The gate piers to the service entrance are early 18th century, with bands of rocky rustication and tall urns, and were placed here in 1881 with fine iron gates by Macfarlane of Glasgow. The bands of rustication are very reminiscent of those on the entrance archway of the Fonthill estate but the gatepiers were previously around the forecourt of the 1720s Pythouse, so they are evidently not another piece of architectural salvage by John Benett. 

Descent: built for Thomas Benett (1687-1755); to son, Thomas Benett (1729-97); to son, John Benett (1773-1852); to grandson, John Edward Benett (1841-56); to cousin, Vere Fane (later Fane-Benett and then Fane-Benett-Stanford) (1839-94); to widow, Ellen (1848-1932), later wife of Sir Charles Thomas (later Thomas-Stanford); leased and later bequeathed to her son, John Montague Benett-Stanford (1870-1947); to widow Evelyn (1868-1957) for life and then to kinsman, Sir (Horace) Anthony Claude Rumbold (1911-83), 10th bt. of Hatch House; who sold the house c.1959 with a small acreage but not the estate to Mutual Households Association (later Country Houses Association Ltd), which sold 2005 to Sir Henry John Sebastian Rumbold (b. 1947), 11th bt., of Hatch House; sold 2007 to Jan Andrew Murray (otherwise Murray-Obodynski) (b. 1948); for sale in 2023.

Benett family of Norton Bavant and later Pythouse


Benett, William (c.1485-1558). Third son of John Benett of Norton Bavant and his wife Agnes Forwarde of Somerset, and younger brother of Dr. Thomas Bennett, precentor of Salisbury Cathedral, born about 1485. Clothier. Either he or more probably his son was MP for Westbury, 1554. He married Isabel, daughter of Augustine Dursley of Gloucestershire, and had issue:
(1) William Benett (d. 1574) (q.v.);
(2) John Benett (d. c.1565); inherited the parsonage manor of Warminster from his father, but later sold it; not (as has sometimes been claimed) the man of this name who was MP for Heytesbury, 1586 or for  Westbury, 1589, since he was dead long before; married, 1559, Joan Elderton of Sutton Veny and had issue four children; administration of goods granted 18 January 1565/6;
(3) Jane Benett (fl. 1558); married, before 1565, Edmund Wickwick of Salisbury
(4) Jone Benett (fl. 1558); married, before 1565, Robert Chamberlain of Sutton Veny (Wilts);
(5) Margaret Benett (fl. 1558); probably died unmarried before 1565;
(6) Elizabeth Benett (fl. 1558); married, before 1565, William Pyray of Warminster;
(7) Katherine Benett (fl. 1558); married, before 1565, Lionel Tichborne of Salisbury.
He inherited land at Norton Bavant from his father and from 1519 leased the manor of Norton Bavant from Dartford Priory and later from the Crown.
He died about 1558; his will was proved at Salisbury, 16 February 1558/9. His wife is not mentioned in his will and therefore probably predeceased him. 

Benett, William (d. 1574). Elder son of William Benett (c.1485-1558) and his wife Isabel, daughter of Augustine Dursley of Gloucestershire. Clothier at Westbury. Either he or his father was MP for Westbury, 1554. He married 1st, by about 1545, Margaret (d. 1563), daughter of John Aylward of Basingstoke (Hants), and 2nd, 4 June 1564 at Westbury, Katherine, daughter of William Willoughby of Silton (Dorset), and had issue:
(1.1) Thomas Benett (c.1549-1605) of Westbury (Wilts), born about 1645; as a young child, was brought up in the household of Dr Thomas Bennett (1480-1558), precentor of Salisbury Cathedral; inherited the manor of Westbury rectory and a lease of the parsonage of St Martin, Salisbury from his father and settled at Westbury as a clothier; married Margaret (fl. 1610), eldest daughter of Thomas Berington of Streatley (Berks); probably died without issue and was buried at Westbury, 24 June 1605, where he and his widow were commemorated by a memorial brass;
(1.2) William Benett (1551?-1618) (q.v.);
(1.3) Elizabeth Benett (1557-58), baptised at Westbury, 14 September 1557; died in infancy and was buried at Westbury, 15 July 1558;
(1.4) Margaret Benett (1559-67), baptised at Westbury, March 1559; died young, and was buried at Westbury, 11 July 1567;
(1.5) Mary Benett (b. 1562), baptised at Westbury, 9 October 1562;
(2.1) Anne Benett (b. 1569), baptised at Westbury, 22 May 1569;
(2.2) John Benett (b. 1570), baptised at Westbury, 12 October 1570.
He inherited land at Norton Bavant  from his father in about 1566. In 1544 he was granted a lease of the rectory manor of Westbury by his uncle, Dr. Thomas Benett.
He was buried at Westbury, 6 April 1574; his will was proved in the PCC, 6 May 1574. His first wife was buried at Westbury, 19 July 1563. His widow married 2nd, about January 1575/6, William Weston, son of Hugh Weston of 'Calleweston' (Som.); her date of death is unknown.

Benett, William (1551?-1618). Second son of William Benett (d. 1574) and his first wife, Margery, daughter of John Aylward of Basingstoke (Hants), said to have been born in 1551. He married 1st, 16 August 1574 at Westbury, Elizabeth Whitaker (d. 1589), and 2nd, 4 June 1593 at Trowbridge (Wilts), Ann (fl. 1625), daughter of Thomas Wallis of Trowbridge, clothier, and had issue:
(1.1) Adam Benett (b. 1584), baptised at Westbury, 2 February 1583/4; presumably died in the lifetime of his father;
(1.2) Thomas Benett (b. 1585), baptised at Westbury, 6 July 1585; presumably died in the lifetime of his father;
(2.1) Thomas Benett (c.1597-1653) (q.v.).
He inherited a lease of the manor of Norton Bavant from his father in 1574, renewed it in 1583, and purchased the freehold in 1611. He inherited the rectory manor of Westbury from his elder brother in 1605.
He died around the end of 1617 or beginning of 1618; his will was proved in the PCC, 13 February 1617/8 (effects £716) and an inquisition post mortem was held in 1620. His first wife was buried at Westbury, 6 November 1589. His widow was living in 1625.

Benett, Thomas (c.1597-1653). Only recorded son of William Benett (1551?-1618) and his second wife Ann, daughter of Thomas Wallis of Trowbridge, clothier, born about 1597. Educated at Exeter College, Oxford (matriculated 1615) and the Middle Temple (admitted 1617). In 1631 he paid a fine of £28 to avoid knighthood. JP for Wiltshire. From 1639 until his death he was involved, ultimately unsuccessfully, in a long-running legal dispute with Sir Thomas Thynne of Longleat about the ownership of Dartford Woods, a detached part of Norton Bavant parish. During the Civil War, he supported the Parliamentary faction, and he was probably an officer in Denzil Holles' regiment during the fighting in 1642-45, and he may temporarily have lost control of the manor of Norton Bavant as two Royalists were appointed to manage the estate on the king's behalf in 1644. In the same year he was made a member of the Wiltshire County Committee. He married 1st, 19 December 1618 at Bromham (Wilts), Susanna (1594-1623). fourth daughter of Andrew White of Bromham, and 2nd, 19 July 1627 at St Werburgh, Bristol, Elizabeth (1607-81), daughter of Thomas Moore of Bristol, merchant, and had issue:
(1.1) Thomas Benett (1623-78?), baptised at Westbury (Wilts), 13 May 1623, on the same day as his mother was buried; appears to have fallen out with his father and stepmother and to have been substantially disinherited, although he was given a farm at Redwoods, Burghfield (Berks), where he lived; married 1st, Lucy Mervin and 2nd, 19 February 1656/7 at Norton Bavant, Ann (d. 1703?), daughter of Christopher Wrench  of Norton Bavant, yeoman, and had issue at least one son and probably other issue; probably the man of this name buried at Burghfield, 7 May 1678;
(2.1) John Benett (1630-1707) (q.v.);
(2.2) Sarah Benett (b. 1631; fl. 1686), baptised at Westbury, 15 April 1631; married, 27 December 1654 at Inglesham (Wilts), John Goddard (1614-77) of Upham in Aldbourne (Wilts), son of Edward Goddard of Inglesham, and had issue at least one son and one daughter; living in 1686;
(2.3) Elizabeth Benett (b. 1632), baptised at Westbury, 11 October 1632; married 1st, 23 May 1659 at Norton Bavant, Edward Hawtaine (1616-66) of Marlborough, physician, and 2nd, 1670, William Temple (d. 1686?); probably died without issue;
(2.4) Ann Benett (1634-73), baptised at Norton Bavant, 6 August 1634; died unmarried, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 3 November 1673;
(2.5) Mary Benett (1635-96), baptised at Norton Bavant, 1 October 1635; married, 29 December 1656 at Boyton (Wilts), Ven. Thomas Lambert (1616-95), rector of Sherrington and Boyton (Wilts) and Archdeacon of Salisbury, 1674-94, second son of Thomas Lambert of Boyton; died 24 November 1696 and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral;
(2.6) Florence Benett (c.1638-1705), born about 1638; married, 17 August 1682 at Norton Bavant, as his second wife, Edward Garrard (c.1639-1712) of Salisbury; died aged 67 and was buried in the south aisle of Salisbury Cathedral, 16 August 1705;
(2.7) William Benett (d. 1707) (q.v.);
(2.8) Thomas Benett; apprenticed to Jonathan Burmore of Lullington (Som.), clothier, 1656; probably died without issue before 1680;
(2.9) Richard Benett; said to have gone to sea but returned to England and lived at Burghfield (Berks);
(2.10) Samuel Benett (d. 1677); said to have gone to sea 'and did not return', but mentioned in his father's will and was buried at Norton Bavant, 21 August 1677;
(2.11) Margaret Benett; married, 1661, Jerome Richmond (fl. 1681);
(2.12) Martha Benett (fl. 1681).
He inherited Norton Bavant Manor and the rectory manor of Westbury from his father in 1618. He built a new house at Norton Bavant, incorporating part of its predecessor, in 1641. 
He died 18 August and was buried at Norton Bavant, 30 August 1653?*; his will was proved at Westminster, 17 November 1654. His first wife presumably died in childbirth and was buried at Westbury, 13 May 1623. His widow was buried at Norton Bavant, 4 November 1681.
* Some sources give his date of burial as 1654.

Benett, John (1630-1707) Eldest son of Thomas Benett (c.1597-1653) and his second wife, Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Moore of Bristol, merchant, baptised at Westbury (Wilts), 21 January 1629/30. High Sheriff of Wiltshire, 1697-98. He married, 1673 (licence 16 January), Frances (c.1655-1719), daughter of Charles Garrard of Lambourn (Berks) and had issue:
(1.1) Thomas Benett (1674-76), baptised at Westbury, 16 January 1673/4; died in infancy and was buried at Westbury, 3 March 1676/7;
(1.2) Elizabeth Benett (b. & d. 1675), baptised at Westbury, 8 June 1675; died in infancy and was buried at Westbury (Wilts), 23 March 1675/6.
He inherited Norton Bavant Manor from his father in 1653.
He died suddenly and was buried at Norton Bavant, 17 January 1706/7. His widow married 2nd, 1 July 1708 at Upton Scudamore (Wilts), Henry Coker (1656-1736) of Hill Deverill (Wilts); she was probably the Frances Coker buried at Hill Deverill, 15 October 1719.

Benett, William (d. 1707). Second son of Thomas Benett (1597-1653) and his second wife, Elizabeth Moore. Educated at Middle Temple (admitted 1669; called 1677). Barrister-at-law; Deputy Recorder of Shaftesbury, 1688; Recorder of Bridport (Dorset), 1693-1707. JP and DL (from 1702) for Dorset. He married, 5 October 1686 at Stockton (Wilts), Patience (d. 1726?), daughter of John Bennett (1625-77) and widow of William/John Bishop (c.1649-82), son of Humphrey Bishop of Chilcombe (Dorset), and had issue:
(1) Thomas Benett (1687-1754) (q.v.).
He inherited Norton Bavant Manor from his elder brother in 1707 but died less than a year later. He lived at Shaftesbury.
He was buried at Norton Bavant, 3 December 1707. His widow is said to have died in 1726 and been buried at Shaftesbury; her will, written in 1716, was proved in the PCC, 28 June 1726.

Benett, Thomas (1687-1755). Only son of William Benett (d. 1707) and his wife Patience, sister and sole heir of Col. Thomas Benett of Pythouse and widow of William/John Bishop, said to have been baptised at Norton Bavant, 8 November 1687. He does not appear to have attended either university or any of the inns of court, but he does seem to have received some legal training, as he became one of the registrars of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, a post held until his death. JP and DL (from 1727) for Wiltshire. He was made a Lt-Col. of foot, 1733, but had left the army by 1740. He married, 6 October 1713 at Canterbury Cathedral, Etheldred (1689-1766), daughter and co-heir of Most Rev. William Wake DD, Archbishop of Canterbury, and had issue:
(1) Catherine Benett (1714-98) (q.v.); 
(2) William Benett (1715-49) (q.v.);
(3) Ethelred Benett (1717-78), born 15 March 1716/7 and baptised at Norton Bavant, 12 April 1717; died unmarried and was buried at Norton Bavant, 20 May 1778;
(4) Francis Benett (1719-34), born 8 February and baptised at Norton Bavant, 5 March 1718/9; died young and was buried at Norton Bavant, 27 September 1734;
(5) Thomas Benett (b. & d. 1720), born about 1720; died in infancy and was buried at Norton Bavant, 13 November 1720;
(6) Thomas Benett (b. & d. 1722), born about 1722; died in infancy and was buried at Norton Bavant, 14 August 1722;
(7) Patience Benett (b. & d. 1723), born at Lambeth Palace but died soon afterwards and was buried at St James, Piccadilly, Westminster (Middx), 10 November 1723;
(8) Elizabeth Benett (b. & d. 1725), baptised at Norton Bavant, 3 February 1724/5; died in infancy and was buried at Norton Bavant, 19 March 1724/5; 
(9) Thomas Benett (1729-97) (q.v.);
(10) Rev. John Benett (1730-1808), born 21 February 1729/30 and baptised at Norton Bavant, 25 March 1730; educated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1754; BCL 1760; DCL 1770); rector of Donhead St. Andrew (Wilts) and Owermoigne (Dorset), 1761-1808; married, 18 March 1780 at St Clement Danes, London, Frances (d. 1795), daughter of William Turton of Nettlebed (Oxon) and Kingston Lisle (Berks) and sister of Sir Thomas Turton, 1st bt., of Starborough Castle (Surrey), and had issue five sons and three daughters; buried at Donhead St. Andrew, 16 June 1808; will proved in the PCC, 6 August 1808;
(11) Wake Benett (1731-32), born 29 April and baptised at Norton Bavant, 15 May 1731; died in infancy and was buried at Norton Bavant, 8 January 1731/2;
(12) Anne Benett (1737-88), born 6 March 1736/7 and baptised at Norton Bavant, 20 May 1737; died unmarried and was buried at Norton Bavant, 26 September 1788;
(13) Frances Benett (1738-50), born 5 December 1738 and baptised at Norton Bavant, 2 January 1738/9; died young, 12 August, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 19 August 1750.
He inherited Norton Bavant Manor from his father in 1707 and was probably responsible for remodelling the house soon afterwards. In 1725 he purchased the Pythouse estate from Richard Dove, and built a new house on a different site there, but he continued to live at Norton Bavant until his death.
He died 2 January, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 11 January 1754/5; his will was proved in the PCC, 4 February 1754/5. His widow was buried at Norton Bavant, 11 April 1766; her will was proved in the PCC, 30 May 1766.

Benett, William (1715-49). Eldest son of Thomas Benett (1687-1755) and his wife Etheldred, daughter and co-heir of Most Rev. William Wake DD, Archbishop of Canterbury, born 15 October and baptised at Norton Bavant, 17 November 1715. According to his sister Catherine, "very early in life he grew refractory, and being heir apparent to so good an estate, he did not want for abettors of his folly. Drinking and other intemperance soon destroyed an original and good constitution... he used to spend much of his time in the lowest company... and married an innkeeper's daughter". He married* Mary (1717-68), daughter of Samuel Mountain, innkeeper, of Stockbridge (Hants), and had issue:
(1) William Benett (1749-81) (q.v.).
He died of dropsy at Stockbridge, 28 April, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 5 May 1749. His widow is said to have drunk herself to death; she died 27 October and was buried at Norton Bavant, 4 November 1768.
* I have not been able to trace this marriage, although William's widow was evidently able to satisfy the lawyers that it had taken place. The names of the parties are entered in the register for Morestead (Hants) but crossed out, and no date is given for the ceremony, so it probably did not take place there.

Benett, William (1749-81). Only son of William Benett (1715-49) and his wife Mary, daughter of Samuel Mountain of Stockbridge (Hants), innkeeper, born posthumously about 10 June 1749, and baptised at Stockbridge, 11 June and 4 October 1749. His aunt Catherine described him as having 'a tender constitution and [being] subject to fits'. He was educated privately, and is said to have gone to Cambridge University, but there is no record of him in the Alumni Cantabrigiensis. His mother tried to prevent contact with her husband's relatives, arranging for him to become a Ward of Court after 1754, but after her death some contact was re-established. He is said to have joined the militia, but in the late 1770s his health deteriorated and he lived mainly at Bath (Som.), where he married (reputedly while incapably drunk), 29 January 1781 at Bath Abbey (Som.), Jane Harford, an apothecary's widow, but had no issue.
He inherited the manor of Norton Bavant from his grandfather in 1754. At his death he bequeathed his estates to his widow, which led to a lawsuit in Chancery, as a result of which the estate was put up for sale in 1788 and was bought by his aunt, Catherine Benett.
He was buried at Norton Bavant, 14 March 1781. His widow married 3rd, 18 August 1781 at All Saints, Hereford, William Parry (fl. 1796) of Kenchester (Herefs), and was living in 1788.

Catherine Benett (d. 1798) 
Benett, Catherine (1714-98).
Eldest daughter 
of Thomas Benett (1687-1755) and his wife Etheldred, daughter and co-heir of Most Rev. William Wake DD, Archbishop of Canterbury, baptised at Shapwick (Dorset), 24 October 1714. She was unmarried and without issue.
She purchased the manor of Norton Bavant when it was sold in 1788 and bequeathed it to her nephew John Benett (1773-1852). 
She was buried at Norton Bavant, 20 January 1798.







Thomas Benett (1729-97) 
Benett, Thomas (1729-97).
Second 
son of Thomas Benett (1687-1755) and his wife Etheldred, daughter and co-heir of the Most Rev. William Wake DD, Archbishop of Canterbury, born 3 March and baptised at Norton Bavant, 11 March 1728/9. Educated at Wadham College, Oxford (matriculated 1747); Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford (by right of being a descendant of the founder, Archbishop Chichele), 1754-97. High Sheriff of Wiltshire, 1758-59. He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament at Heytesbury (Wilts) in 1754 and 1761, but stood no chance of challenging the interest of the Ashe family in this rotten borough. He may have shared his son's interest in architecture, as he is said to have designed the top stage of the tower of Tisbury church after the original tower had been struck by lightning in 1762, although Richard Colt Hoare later described the result as 'a miserable square embattled turret'. He married 1st, 7 June 1766 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), Frances (c.1742-68), daughter of Rev. Richard Reynolds of Little Paxton (Hunts), Chancellor of the diocese of Lincoln, and 2nd, 3 January 1771 at St James, Piccadilly, Westminster (Middx), Catherine (1745-80), daughter of John Darell of London, banker, and co-heir of her brother, and had issue:
(2.1) Thomas Benett (1772-89), baptised at Tisbury, 16 April 1772; died unmarried when he was accidentally shot near the chapel at Pythouse, 14 March 1789; buried at Norton Bavant, 23 March 1789;
(2.2) John Benett (1773-1852) (q.v.);
(2.3) Catherine Benett (1774-78), born 15 May and baptised at Tisbury, 22 June 1774; died young and was buried at Norton Bavant, 11 June 1778;
(2.4) Etheldred Benett (1775-1845), born 22 July and baptised at Tisbury, 29 July 1775; a pioneering female geologist, who also had antiquarian interests; her collection of fossils was published as A catalogue of organic remains of the county of Wilts (1831); she made a gift of some fossils to the museum at St Petersburg (Russia), in acknowledgement of which the Emperor of Russia, assuming her to be male, arranged for the University of St Petersburg to confer an honorary doctorate of civil law on her; she also published her great-grandfather Archbishop Wake's history of the Wake family (1833); lived at Norton Bavant Manor; died unmarried, 11 January 1845, and was buried at Norton Bavant; will proved in the PCC, 8 April 1845;
(2.5) Anna Maria Benett (1776-1857), born 16 September and baptised at Tisbury, 4 October 1776; died unmarried, 8 November, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 14 November 1857;
(2.6) William Benett (1779-1859), born 24 February and baptised at Tisbury, 24 June 1779; educated at Wadham and Merton Colleges, Oxford (matriculated 1796; BA 1801) and Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1800); evidently a stipendiary magistrate in the east end of London for many years; married, 26 June 1815 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster (Middx), Ellen (c.1791-1845), daughter and heir of Thomas Gore of Tring Park, and had issue two sons and three daughters; died at Sydenham (Kent), 25 August and was buried at Norton Bavant, 1 September 1859; his will was proved 26 October 1859 (effects under £50,000).
He inherited Pythouse from his father in 1755, and subsequently expanded the estate, buying property at Enford (Wilts) in 1769 and at Semley and Chicklade (Wilts) in 1796-97. His second wife brought him a dowry of £18,000. By the time of his death he also owned land at Sutton Veny and Warminster (Wilts) and South Litchfield, West Stour and Askerswell (Dorset) and Kingsclere (Hants).
He died 16 May and was buried at Norton Bavant, 24 May 1797; his will was proved in the PCC, 4 August 1797. His first wife died without issue and was buried at Norton Bavant, 13 April 1768. His second wife died in childbirth and was buried at Norton Bavant, 7 December 1780.

John Benett (1773-1852) 
Benett, John (1773-1852).
Eldest surviving son of Thomas Benett (1729-97) and his second wife, Catherine, daughter of John Darell of London, born 20 May and baptised at Tisbury, 6 July 1773. An officer in the Wiltshire Yeomanry Cavalry (Cornet, 1800; Lt., 1802; Capt. 1811; Maj., 1825; retired 1837). High Sheriff of Wiltshire, 1798-99. Despite being a man of generally Whiggish views, he had protectionist views throughout his political career, and sat in Parliament as Independent MP for Wiltshire, 1819-32 and Conservative MP for Wiltshire South, 1832-52. An able amateur architect, who was said by two near-contemporary sources to have designed the extension and remodelling of Pythouse for himself, and who also designed new stables at Stockton House (Wilts) and probably advised his friends and neighbours on architectural matters. During the digging of the foundations for his new house, a trunk of letters - apparently part of the correspondence of Prince Rupert -  was discovered, most of which were sold in 1848 and found their way to the British Library; the remainder were partly published in 1879. He was noted as active 'improving' landowner, and was one of the leading figures in the creation of the Wiltshire Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture, founded in 1813, of which he was President until 1849. 
In 1814 he published a pamphlet calling for the compulsory commutation of tithes, which provoked an acrimonious correspondence in the public press in 1815-16 with the Ven. William Coxe, Archdeacon of Wiltshire. While keen to foster a prosperous tenantry (who could pay increased rents), his attitude to farm labourers was much harsher, and he was an active supporter of the Corn Laws and an opponent of reforms to the settlement laws. In 1830, his neighbour Lord Arundell called Tisbury 'a parish in which the poor have been more oppressed and are in greater misery... than any parish in the kingdom', and Pythouse was attacked by a mob of between 300 and 500 'Swing' rioters, who destroyed his threshing machinery and many of his outbuildings before the militia turned up and dispersed the rioters, one of whom was killed. A tall, thin man, John's unpopularity with the poor earned him the nicknames Black Jack and, more colourfully, 'the Devil's Knitting Needle', but he was evidently a complex man, whose actual actions were frequently more humane than the rhetoric of his political and social opinions. He was ambitious, determined and obstinate, and possessed a self-confidence that others often perceived as a sense of entitlement. He lacked strong religious views, and his first five surviving children were not baptised until 1820, for reasons which are unclear. He might almost be considered an atheist, and certainly the religious enthusiasm which some of his children and grandchildren developed distressed him. He married, 30 May 1801 at Boyton, Lucy (1785-1827), only surviving daughter of Edmund Lambert of Boyton House (Wilts), and had issue:
(1) Lucy Harriet Benett (1802-45) (q.v.);
(2) Etheldred Catherine Benett (1805-39), born 19 January 1805 and baptised as an older child at Norton Bavant, 22 July 1820; married, 24 August 1827 at Tisbury, Lord Charles Spencer Churchill (1798-1840), second son of George Spencer (later Spencer-Churchill) (1766-1840), 9th Baron Spencer and 5th Duke of Marlborough, and had issue two sons and three daughters; died 6 December and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, 12 December 1839;
(3) Anna Maria Benett (1806-77), born 15 September 1806 and baptised as an older child at Norton Bavant, 22 July 1820; married, 25 January 1840 at Tisbury, Marmaduke Robert Jeffreys (1807-98) of Sedgehill House (Wilts), barrister, son of Rev. John Jeffreys, and had issue one son and one daughter; died at Surbiton (Surrey), 21 October, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 25 October 1877;
(4) Emily Ellen Benett (1808-09), born in London, April 1808; died in infancy, 6 February, and was buried at Tisbury, 11 February 1809;
(5) John Benett (1809-44) (q.v.);
(6) Thomas Edmund Benett (1812-29), born 29 November 1812 and baptised as an older child at Norton Bavant, 22 July 1820; died unmarried, 20 October, and was buried at Boyton, 3 November 1829;
(7) Frances (k/a Fanny) Benett (1821-58), born 24 February and baptised at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster (Middx), 19 March 1821; lived at Norton Bavant House; died unmarried, 28 April, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 4 May 1858; will proved 16 June 1858 (effects under £9,000).
He inherited Pythouse from his father in 1797 and Norton Bavant Manor from his aunt Catherine in 1798. He remodelled Pythouse to his own designs in 1802-08. He also reshaped the estate, buying land in Semley, Tisbury and the adjacent villages and selling his outlying property. In 1825 he bought (although the sale was not finally concluded until 1838) the site and part of the estate of the collapsed Fonthill Abbey (partially clearing the rubble and making the surviving east wing into a new house as cheaply as possible), but sold it again in 1844. In 1842 he inherited a life interest in the Boyton estate which had belonged to his wife's half-brother; at his death this passed to the eldest son of his son-in-law, the Rev. Arthur Fane.
He died of a stroke, 1 October, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 11 October 1852; his will was proved in the PCC, 10 December 1852. His wife was buried at Boyton, 16 February 1827.

Benett, John (1809-44). Elder son of John Benett (1773-1852) and his wife Lucy, daughter of Edmund Lambert of Boyton House (Wilts), born 10 August 1809 and baptised as an older child at Norton Bavant, 22 July 1820. Educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College, Cambridge (but did not matriculate). He converted to Roman Catholicism, probably after his marriage. He married, 25 July 1836 at Tichborne (Hants), Emily Blanche (1818-86), daughter of Sir Henry Tichborne, 8th bt., and had issue:
(1) John Edward Benett (1841-56) (q.v.);
(2) A daughter (d. 1842); died in infancy and was buried at Tichborne, 5 July 1842.
He died in Madeira in the lifetime of his father, 1844/5, and was buried in the RC cemetery at Wardour Castle. His widow married 2nd, 2 July 1850 at Holy Trinity, Chelsea (Middx), Matthew James Higgins (1810-68) and had further issue one son and two daughters; she died 29 December 1886; her will was proved 22 March 1887 (estate £5,296).

Benett, John Edward (1840/1-56). Son of John Benett (1808-44) and his wife, born either Jul-Sep 1840 or Jan-Mar 1841. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Pythouse and Norton Bavant estates from his grandfather in 1852. At his death they passed to his cousin, Vere Fane (1839-94).
He died young at Nice (France), 29 April 1856.

Benett, Lucy Harriet (1802-45). Eldest daughter of John Benett (1773-1852) and his wife Lucy, daughter of Edmund Lambert of Boyton House (Wilts), born 3 October 1802 and baptised as an adult at Norton Bavant, 22 July 1820. She married, 27 August 1832 at Tisbury, Rev. Arthur Fane (1809-72), vicar of Warminster (Wilts), 1841-63, rector of Fulbeck (Lincs), 1863-72 and prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral, 1854-72, illegitimate son of Gen. Sir Henry Fane GCB (1778-1840), and had issue:
(1) Isabel Anna Fane (1835-1912), born 29 March and baptised at Boyton, 17 May 1835; converted to Roman Catholicism; lived at Speke Hall, Garston (Lancs); married, 29 September 1881 in the RC chapel at Wardour Castle (Wilts), Andrea Pio Lazzani (1850-1914); died in Florence (Italy), 13 February 1912; will proved 27 March 1912 (estate £1,973);
(2) Amy Fane (1836-1902), born 17 May and baptised at Semley (Wilts), 3 November 1836; married 1st, 24 February 1859 at St Swithin, Walcot, Bath (Som.) (div. 1868 on the grounds of her adultery with the man who became her second husband), Charles Langford Oliver (1835-1908), son of Thomas Oliver of Child Okeford (Dorset) and had issue two sons and three daughters; married 2nd, Robert Farie (1844-1912) of Victoria (Australia); emigrated to Australia with her second husband and is said to have died there, 10 April 1902;
(3) Sir Edmund Douglas Veitch Fane (1837-1900), kt., baptised at Sopley (Hants), 24 September 1837; inherited the Boyton (Wilts) estate, 1852; educated at Merton College, Oxford (matriculated 1855); joined diplomatic service (second secretary, 1866; first secretary, 1880; minister at Belgrade (Serbia), 1893-98 and Copenhagen (Denmark), 1898-1900) appointed KCMG, 1899; JP and DL for Wiltshire; married, 10 July 1875 at St Peter, Eaton Sq., Westminster (Middx), Constantia Eleanor (1851-1940), daughter of Gen. R. Blucher Wood and had issue at least one son and two daughters (of whom Ethelred (1879-1964) married Sir Henry Rumbold (1869-1941), 9th bt., whose son inherited Pythouse and Norton Bavant in 1957); died in Copenhagen, 20 March 1900; will proved 13 June 1900 (estate £27,427);
(4) Anne Elizabeth Fane (1838-91), born 18 March and baptised at Boyton, 15 July 1838; married, 20 October 1873 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster (Middx), James Land (c.1834-1915), army surgeon, son of Holmer Land, and had issue at least one daughter; died Oct-Dec 1891;
(5) Vere Fane (later Fane-Benett, Fane-Benett-Stanford and Benett-Stanford) (1839-94) (q.v.);
(6) Henry Arthur Fane (1841-1914), baptised at Boyton, 10 March 1841; educated at Marlborough; employed as a clerk in the War Office (retired 1871); lived latterly at Tite St., Chelsea (Middx); died 12 May 1914; will proved 19 June 1914 (estate £773).
She died 6 April and was buried at Boyton, 12 April 1845. Her husband married 2nd, 29 October 1853 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster (Middx), Charlotte (1814-92), daughter of Richard Watt of Bishop Burton (Yorks ER) and Speke (Lancs), and widow of Harrington George Frederick Hudson (1798-1848); he died 11 June and was buried at Boyton, 18 June 1872; his will was proved 3 September 1872 (effects under £4,000).

Vere Fane-Benett-Stanford (1839-94) 
Fane (later Fane-Benett, Fane-Benett-Stanford and Benet-Stanford), Vere (1839-94
). Second son of Rev. Arthur Fane and his wife Lucy Harriet, daughter of John Benett of Pythouse (Wilts), born 29 June and baptised at Boyton (Wilts), 15 December 1839. Educated at Marlborough. An officer in the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry Cavalry (Cornet, 1860; retired 1873) and the Shaftesbury Rifle Volunteers, 1871-87 (Capt., 1871; Maj., 1878; hon. Lt-Col., 1887). Conservative MP for Shaftesbury, 1873-80; DL for Wiltshire and JP for Wiltshire, Dorset and Sussex. He took the additional surname Benett in 1860, and the further additional surname Stanford on his marriage, but later discontinued the use of his patronymic. He married, 1 October 1867 at Preston (Sussex), Ellen (1848-1932), only daughter and heiress of William Stanford of Preston Place, and had issue:
(1) John Montague Benett-Stanford (1870-1947) (q.v.).
He inherited the Pythouse and Norton Bavant estates from his cousin in 1856. He built new stables at Pythouse in 1880 and extended the service range in 1891. His wife inherited the Preston Place estate from her father and came into possession of the estate in 1869 at the age of 21, but in 1883 they sold most of it to Brighton Corporation, which laid out a public park. After his death his estates passed to his widow, who leased Pythouse to their son. Much of the Norton Bavant estate was sold in the 1930s.
He died at Quinta Vigia, Funchal, on the island of Madeira, 8 May 1894; his will was proved 16 June 1894 (effects £6,926). His widow married 2nd, 19 May 1897 at All Saints, Ennismore Gardens, Knightsbridge (Middx), Sir Charles Giesler Thomas (later Thomas-Stanford) (1858-1932), barrister-at-law, son of David Collet Thomas, and died 11 November 1932; her will was proved 9 March and 29 April 1932 (estate £299,597).

John Montague Benett-Stanford (1870-1947) 
Benett-Stanford, John Montague (1870-1947).
Only son of Vere Fane (later Fane-Benett, Fane-Benett-Stanford and Benett-Stanford) (1839-94) of Pythouse and his wife Ellen, only daughter and heir of William Stanford of Preston (Sussex), born 5 February and baptised at Tisbury, 7 March 1870. Educated at Eton. Apprenticed to London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, 1886 before becoming an officer in the Royal Dragoons (2nd Lt., 1890; Lt., 1891; retired 1892) and Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (Lt., 1892; retired 1900; recalled 1914 (Capt.)). He undertook surveying work in Kenya and East Africa in the 1890s and later worked as a war correspondent and photographer during the Sudan campaign and the Boer War, shooting some of the earliest moving picture footage of combat at the Battle of Omdurman. In 1900, having been wounded, he returned to England and evidently gave up cinematography, having decided that it was not a suitable activity for an officer and a gentleman. An interest in motor cars seems to have replaced his enthusiasm for photography. In the First World War he served with the motor volunteer corps, retiring with the rank of Lt-Col, but "his greatest contribution to the war effort seems to have been lobbing rocks at conscientious objectors from the back seat of his Rolls-Royce". After the First World War he settled down to the life of an increasingly eccentric country squire, serving as a JP and County Councillor for Wiltshire, and occupying his time with hunting, shooting and occasional antiquarian activities. He became more irascible with age, particularly after the death of his son, and conducted feuds with his mother and stepfather, his trustees, his neighbours and some of his acquaintances, and gained the nickname 'Mad Jack'. He was a freemason from 1891. He married, 4 July 1893 at Clewer (Berks), Evelyn (1869-1957), daughter of Capt. Burchell Helme of Broadfield Court, Leominster (Herefs), and had issue:
(1) Vere Benett-Stanford (1894-1922), born 3 April and baptised at Semley (Wilts), 26 April 1894; an officer in the Royal Artillery (2nd Lt., 1913; Lt., 1915; Capt., 1917); awarded MC; died of tuberculosis in the lifetime of his father, 30 May, and was buried at Norton Bavant, 2 June 1922; will proved 1 August 1922 (estate £62,493);
(2) Patience Mary Benett-Stanford (1899-1904), baptised at Preston (Sussex), 23 July 1899; died young and was buried at Norton Bavant, 21 March 1904.
He leased Pythouse from his mother until her death in 1932, when he inherited it and the remainder of the Norton Bavant estate, including the house, which he sold in 1948. At his death Pythouse passed to his widow for life, and then to his distant kinsman, Sir (Horace) Anthony Claude Rumbold (1911-83) , 10th bt. who chose to live at Hatch House on the estate and sold Pythouse to the Mutual Households Association in c.1959.
He died of heart failure at Pythouse, 18 November 1947; his will was proved 10 June and 16 June 1948 (estate £203,339). His widow died 5 March 1957; her will was proved 31 December 1957 (estate £244,577).


Bennett family of Pythouse


Bennett, Thomas (d. 1591). Son of John Bennett (fl. 1573) of Pythouse and his wife Agnes, daughter of Thomas Topp of Fenny Sutton. He married Mary (d. 1618), daughter of Christopher Ashlock of Heytesbury (Wilts), and had issue:
(1) John Bennett; possibly the man of this name who was MP for Heytesbury, 1586 or for  Westbury, 1589; living in 1591 but died unmarried and without issue;
(2) Thomas Bennett (1563-1635) (q.v.);
(3) Maria Bennett (fl. 1591); married Andrew Blackman (d. 1588) of Chicklade (Wilts) and East Knoyle (Wilts), and had issue two daughters.
He inherited the original Pythouse at East Hatch from his father and settled it on his wife before his death. In 1565 he bought the major portion of the manor of West Hatch when it was dispersed by sale, and he and his father subsequently bought further parts of this property from their first purchasers.
He was buried at Tisbury, 11 June 1591. His widow was buried at Tisbury, 7 March 1617/8.

Bennett, Thomas (1563-1635). Second but probably only surviving son of Thomas Benett (d. 1591) and his wife Mary, daughter of Christopher Ashlock of Heytesbury (Wilts). He married, 5 July 1585 at Tisbury, Margaret (1565-99), daughter of William Grove of Grays Inn, and Ferne in Donhead St Andrew (Wilts), and had issue:
(1) Mary Bennett (1586-1634), baptised at Tisbury, 29 May 1586; married, 13 September 1602 at Tisbury, Robert Goldsborough (1579-1654) of East Knoyle, yeoman, and had issue four sons and four daughters; buried at East Knoyle, 3 March 1633/4;
(2) Thomas Bennett (1588-1663) (q.v.);
(3) Anne Bennett (b. 1589; fl. 1635), baptised at Tisbury, 30? November 1589; married 1st, James Parham of Stratford-sub-Castle (Wilts) and 2nd, 7 May 1618 at Salisbury Cathedral, John Brether (d. 1632) of East Knoyle, but probably had no surviving children; living in 1635; 
(4) Christopher Bennett (c.1591-1636) of Shaftesbury (Dorset), born in 1590 or 1591; married, 1616, Dorothy (fl. 1635), daughter of Oliver Lotesham of Foxington (Som.), and had issue one son and twin daughters (who died young); died 22 April 1636; will proved in the PCC, 6 July 1636;
(5) Joan Bennett (1592-1651), baptised at Tisbury, 18 June 1592; married, 19 November 1610 at Tisbury, William Jesse (d. 1657) of Chilmark (Wilts); died 21 May 1651 and was buried at Chilmark, where she is commemorated by a brass plaque;
(6) William Bennett (1596-1661) of Berwick St John (Wilts), baptised at Tisbury, 8 February 1595/6; married, 1620, Agnes (d. 1673), fourth daughter of John Hitchcock of Preshute (Wilts), and had issue at least three sons and one daughter; died 16 June 1661 and was buried at Berwick St. John.
He inherited the Pythouse estate from his mother in 1618.
He died 20 March and was buried at Tisbury, 1 April 1634/5, where he was commemorated by an altar tomb which has since been lost; an inquisition post mortem was held 18 August 1635. His wife was buried at Tisbury, 2 March 1598/9.

Thomas Bennett (1588-1663) 
Bennett, Thomas (1588-1663).
Eldest son of Thomas Benett (1563-1635) and his wife Margaret, daughter of William Grove of Grays Inn and Ferne (Wilts), born 1588. JP for Wiltshire. He was a Royalist in the Civil War, and his property was sequestrated, but he compounded for his estates in 1646. He was also one of the leaders of the 'Club-Men' movement, which brought together groups of men under the control of the gentry to protect property from plunder by the armies of both sides, but who were generally perceived as being more sympathetic to the Royalist faction, and in 1645 he was arrested at Shaftesbury and briefly imprisoned with his son John by the Parliamentary faction. He married, about 1612, Melior (1596-1669), daughter of Richard Thomas of Stockton (Wilts), and had issue:
(1) Anne Bennett (b. 1613), baptised at Tisbury, 1 September 1613;
(2) Richard Bennett (1614-16), baptised at Tisbury, 20 November 1614; died in infancy and was buried at Tisbury, 23 February 1615/6;
(3) Maria Bennett (b. 1617?), said to have been baptised at Shaftesbury, 18 March 1616/7, but no corresponding entry in the parish register has been traced; 
(4) Dorothy Bennett (b. 1619), baptised at East Knoyle, 27 March 1619; married, 17 July 1634 at Tisbury, William Barnes, and had issue at least one daughter; 
(5) Thomas Bennett (1620-41), baptised at East Knoyle, 23 April 1620; educated at Hart Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1637); MP for Hindon, 1641; died of smallpox, 1 August and was probably buried at St Clement Danes, London, 13 August 1641;
(6) Margaret Bennett (b. 1622), baptised at Tisbury, 23 March 1621/2;
(7) Anthony Bennett (1623-88) (q.v.);
(8) Francis Bennett (b. & d. 1624), baptised at Tisbury, 13 August 1624; died in infancy and was buried at Tisbury, 3 December 1624;
(9) John Bennett (1625-77) (q.v.); 
(10) William Bennett (1627-99), baptised at Tisbury, 1 April 1627; an officer in the army; one subject of a double portrait formerly at Pythouse; later steward to Thomas Freke of Shroton (Dorset); married, 22 May 1646 at Tisbury, Edith Snook, and had issue; buried at Margaret Marsh (Dorset), 1 August 1699; will proved 17 August 1699;
(11) James Bennett (1628-61), baptised at Tisbury, 25 July 1628; an officer in the Royalist forces bv 1647; died, reputedly following an assault by a highwayman, and was buried at Tisbury, 1 December 1661;
(12) Christopher Bennett (1629-67?), baptised at St James, Shaftesbury, 10 January 1629/30; perhaps married before 1657 and had issue three sons and one daughter; said to have died in 1667;
(13) Frances Bennett (1631-1711), baptised at St James, Shaftesbury, 20 February 1631; married, 12 January 1654/5 at Tisbury, Richard Hurman (fl. 1687), who was intruded as mayor of Shaftesbury by King James II; died 24 January and was buried at Stockton (Wilts), 27 January 1710/11, where she was commemorated by a monument;
(14) Matthew Bennett (1633-91), baptised at St James, Shaftesbury, 2 June 1633; an officer in the army (Capt. in Prince Rupert's Regiment of Dragoons, 1678); one subject of a double portrait formerly at Pythouse;
(15) Repentance Bennett (1634-1704), baptised at Tisbury, 25 December 1634; died unmarried and was buried at St James, Shaftesbury, 6 March 1704.
He inherited the Pythouse estate from his father in 1635.
He was buried at Tisbury, 24 April 1663; his will was proved in the PCC, 18 November 1663. His widow died 30 November and was buried at Stockton (Wilts), 1 December 1669.

Bennett, Anthony (1623-88). Third, but eldest surviving son of Thomas Benett (c.1587-1663) and his wife Melior, daughter of Richard Thomas, baptised at Tisbury, 25 March 1623. He married, 1641, Ellen/Eleanor, daughter of Richard Snooke of Donhead St Mary (Wilts), and had issue:
(1) Thomas Bennett (d. 1712?) of Semley; married and had issue at least two sons and several daughters; said to have died in 1712;
(2) Samuel Bennett (fl. 1688);
(3) Christopher Bennett (fl. 1688) of Kingsclere (Hants);
(4) Frances Bennett (fl. 1688); married John? Petteridge of Semley;
(5) Richard Bennett (fl. 1688);
(6) Mary Bennett (d. by 1688); married John Browne (fl. 1688) of Semley, and had issue at least one son and one daughter;
(7) Sarah Bennett (fl. 1688). 
He inherited the Pythouse estate from his father in 1663 but sold it to Peter Dove in 1669. He lived latterly at Stour Provost (Dorset)
He died in 1688; his will was proved in the PCC, 4 July 1688. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Bennett, John (1625-77). Fifth son of Thomas Benett (c.1587-1663) and his wife Melior, daughter of Richard Thomas, baptised at Tisbury, 15 January 1725. A trooper in the Royalist army, 1643-45. He later took an active part in the activities of the 'club-men' in the south-west under the leadership of his father. Steward to 3rd Baron Arundell of Wardour by 1661. He was a friend of the Earl of Shaftesbury who secured his election as MP for Shaftesbury, 1667-76. Receiver-General for Dorset and Somerset, 1660-76 and Receiver of Hearth Tax for Wiltshire, 1663-74? Under-Sheriff of Dorset, 1668-69. Despite holding these potentially profitable offices, he owed the Crown £781 at his death, which remained outstanding until after 1688, when his son-in-law, William Benett, was allowed to compound for it at 10 shillings in the pound. He married, c.1645, Frances (1629-93), daughter of Robert Toope (d. 1673) of Shaftesbury (Dorset) and had issue:
(1) Thomas Bennett (c.1645-88), born about 1645; educated at Winchester, New College, Oxford (matriculated 1664) and Middle Temple (admitted 1667; called 1673); Fellow of New College, 1666-67; private secretary to Prince Rupert of the Rhine, 1678-82 and to Lord Shaftesbury, 1679-85; an extreme Whig in politics, he succeeded his father as MP for Shaftesbury, 1677-85 and was Chairman of the Green Dragon Club (a Whig club), 1679; married, 1677 (licence, September), Catherine (d. 1693), daughter of John Ryves and widow of John Topp (d. 1675) of Stockton (Wilts), but had no issue; died 6 May 1688 and was buried at Holy Trinity, Shaftesbury, where he was commemorated by a monument; his will was proved in the PCC, 26 February 1688/9;
(2) Arundell Bennett (d. 1682); died unmarried, 28 May 1682 and was presumably buried at Holy Trinity, Shaftesbury, where he was commemorated by a floor slab (since lost); administration of goods granted 29 April 1684;
(3) Ann Bennett (b. c.1647; fl. 1693), born about 1647; married, 1667 (licence 22 April), probably at Motcombe (Dorset), Robert Toope (b. c.1641; fl. 1693) of East Knoyle (Wilts), and had issue three daughters;
(4) Ashley Bennett; died unmarried in the lifetime of his father;
(5) Patience Bennett (d. 1726?), born after 1650; married 1st, 7 January 1677/8 at Stockton (Wilts), William/John Bishop (c.1649-82), son of Humphrey Bishop of Chilcombe (Dorset), and had issue one son and one daughter; married 2nd, 5 October 1686 at Stockton, William Benett (d. 1707) of Norton Bavant [for whom see above]; said to have died in 1726; will proved in the PCC, 3 May 1726;
(6) Repentance Bennett (d. 1709), born after 1650; married, 1683 (licence 20 June), Edward Grimstead (d. 1739) of Yetminster and Shaftesbury (who m2, 16 July 1711 at Marnhull (Dorset), Mary Gragrin, and had further issue), and had issue at least one daughter; buried at Shaftesbury, 7 March 1709.
By 1653 he was living at Hook Manor, Semley (Wilts), which he held on lease from Lord Arundell. He also owned property at Motcombe (Dorset), in right of his wife. His widow lived latterly at Shaftesbury.
He died 9 February 1676/7 and was presumably buried at Holy Trinity, Shaftesbury, where he was commemorated by a monument; his will was proved in the PCC, 5 March 1676/7. His widow died about 1693; her will was proved in the PCC, 12 August 1693.

Principal sources

Burke's Landed Gentry, 1886, vol. 1, pp. 118-19; VCH Wiltshire, vol. 8, 1965, pp. 47-58; vol. 13, 1987, pp. 195-248; J. Eyre, Pythouse and the Benetts, 2002; R. Moody, John Benett of Pythouse: his life and ancestors at Norton Bavant and Pythouse, c.1450-1852, 2003; Sir H.M. Colvin, A biographical dictionary of British architects, 4th edn., 2008, p.119; J. Orbach, Sir N. Pevsner & B. Cherry, The buildings of England: Wiltshire, 3rd edn., 2021, pp. 487-88, 493; ODNB entry for John Montague Benett-Stanford (1870-1947).

Location of archives

Benett family of Norton Bavant and Pythouse: deeds, legal, estate and family papers, 15th-20th cents [Wiltshire & Swindon Archives, 413, 843, 1938, 2599]; correspondence and papers concerning Prince Rupert of the Rhine, 1628-1909 [British Library, Add MSS. 62081-86]

Coat of arms

Gules, three demi-lions rampant argent, a mullet or. The arms were latterly quartered with those of Fane and Stanford.

Can you help?

  • Does anyone know more about the career of Thomas Benett (1687-1755) as a registrar of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury as an infantry officer?
  • Can anyone provide portraits or photographs of the people whose names appear in bold above, for whom no image is currently shown?
  • If anyone can offer further information or corrections to any part of this article I should be most grateful. I am always particularly pleased to hear from current owners or the descendants of families associated with a property who can supply information from their own research or personal knowledge for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 29 August 2023 and updated 2 March 2024. I am grateful to Heather Sykes for a correction.