Tuesday 31 October 2023

(561) Bennett of Faringdon House

Bennett of Faringdon
The Bennett family noticed here used the same coat of arms as the Earls of Tankerville, and the Bennets of Babraham, Widcombe and Tresillian, and they were presumably distantly related to them, although this branch of the family seem always to have spelled their name with two ts. The family can first be identified as landowners and farmers at Brokenborough and Westport St Mary near Malmesbury (Wilts) in the 18th century, when Daniel Bennett (c.1695-1779) evidently inherited the property from his wife's family. Their lands there descended to his son Giles Bennett (1721-95) and grandson, Giles Bailey Bennett (c.1768-1815). On the death of the latter they passed to Daniel Bennett (c.1760-1826) of Faringdon House (Berks), with whom the genealogy below begins. This Daniel was a grandson of Daniel (d. 1779) and the son of Thomas Bennett (c.1725-1800), a younger son of Daniel (d. 1779) who had moved to London and established a business as a brazier and ironmonger servicing the maritime industries at Wapping (Middx). After beginning his commercial life in the same trade as his father, Daniel (c.1760-1826) invested in the purchase of a vessel engaged in the South Sea whaling industry and built up a substantial business, owning fifteen vessels by 1796 and more than three times as many in the 1820s, when he was in partnership with his son. The firm was based in London, and from 1802 operated from Rotherhithe on the south bank of the Thames. The proceeds of his 
rather gruesome trade enabled Daniel to buy the Faringdon House estate in Berkshire in 1807, and to expand the property subsequently with additional lands at Faringdon and Eaton Hastings (Berks). He also bought a property called The Cliff at West Cowes (IoW), which he probably used as a holiday home. Daniel married three times, producing a daughter by his first marriage and a son by his second, but no other children. His daughter Sarah, who married young and was widowed in 1810, inherited his house at Cowes and one of the Wiltshire farms. His son and eventual partner, William Bennett (1790-1844), inherited the Faringdon House estate.

Vanbrugh House, Greenwich, which was William Bennett's home from 1819-27. The house was demolished in 1902.
William Bennett married in 1817 and settled soon afterwards at Mince Pie House (otherwise Vanbrugh House) at Greenwich, which had been built by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1722 for his brother Charles. The property was conveniently close to the family business in Rotherhithe, but in a select district, and several of his wife's relations also lived nearby. In 1826, William inherited his father's share of the whaling business and the Faringdon estate. He evidently put in hand some improvement works at Faringdon before moving in in 1827. Thereafter, he seems to have slowly run down the whaling business, replacing only some of the vessels that became unseaworthy. Latterly his younger sons, William (1826-48) and John Dunkin (1830-51) were named alongside him as vessel owners, but they would have been too young to be actively involved in the business. After he died in 1844 the five remaining vessels were sold to other owners. His eldest son, Daniel Bennett (1823-87), is not known to have been involved in the company at all and his career was very much the traditional one of a Victorian landed gentleman, with a short stint in the yeomanry followed by public and voluntary service. He inherited the Faringdon estate a few months before coming of age, and did not at first live in the house, but let it and occupied Sudbury House, Faringdon, which his father had acquired as a dower house.
Sudbury House, Faringdon, c.1825. The surviving right-hand part is now
part of an hotel. Image: Abingdon County Hall Museum  2007.500.22

Daniel married in 1847, but he and his wife seem to have struggled to have children, and after at least one stillbirth they produced an only daughter, Marianne Katherine Bennett (c.1858-1918), who suffered from learning difficulties from birth. When Daniel died in 1887 he left the Faringdon estate to his wife (d. 1897) for life and then to trustees for his daughter, who lived with a cousin as companion at Sudbury House. After Marianne died in 1918, both Faringdon House and Sudbury House were sold, but to different purchasers.

Faringdon House, Berkshire

The manor of Faringdon belonged to Beaulieu Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries, and changed hands several times in the second half of the 16th century. In 1590, it was bought by Sir Henry Unton (d. 1596), the English Ambassador to France, who built a fine Elizabethan brick house between the site of the present building and the church. 

Faringdon House: the Elizabethan mansion built in the 1590s for Sir Henry Unton.
Only one drawing of this house, probably of the mid-to-late 17th century, is known to survive. It shows an irregular many gabled house, apparently consisting of a three-storey hall range with three-storey cross-wings. The windows were mainly plain mullioned windows, although the reception rooms in the right hand wing had larger mullioned and transomed windows. The roofscape was given variety by at least thirteen tall chimneys and ball finials on the gables. Sir Henry, who lived nearby at Wadley House, probably died before the house was finished, but it became the home of his widow, who lived here until her death in 1634. An inventory of 1620 mentions the hall, parlour and a great chamber hung with arras and adorned with pictures, but nothing more is known of the interiors. During the Civil War, the Parliamentarian soldier, Sir Robert Pye (c.1622-1701), who was the son of the then owner, was obliged to lay siege to Faringdon town and to attack his father's own house, which suffered considerable damage as a result.

On the death in 1766 of Henry Pye, who had been Tory MP for Berkshire for twenty years, the estate was found to be saddled with £50,000 of debt, and in the same year, the old Elizabethan house was badly damaged by fire. Rather than patch it up again, Henry James Pye decided to build a new house on a site slightly further north, on which work was begun about 1770; the architect is unknown. Perhaps because of the burden of debt on the estate, the new house was still not finished in 1785, by which time Pye was noted as a poet and dramatist, although critics have generally agreed that his appointment as poet laureate in 1790 was perhaps the weakest of all time (Sir Walter Scott waspishly remarked that Pye was eminently respectable in everything but his poetry). 

Faringdon House: entrance front

Faringdon House: garden front
The new house begun in 1770 has a south (entrance) front of five bays and two storeys over a basement, but is made memorable by the central bay, which rises to two and a half storeys and is framed by a giant blank arch surmounted by an open pediment - a motif derived from the works of Lord Burlington and his circle. In front of the central bay is a Doric porch with niches in the rusticated stonework to either side. To either side of the entrance front are rusticated stone doorways with open pediments, beyond which quadrant walls curve forward to enclose the courtyard, terminating in rusticated gatepiers. The north (garden) front is plainer, with just the first, third and fifth windows decorated by triangular pediments. On this side, the basement is hidden by a high balustraded terrace carried on five basket arches and reached by staircases at either end. Inside, the entrance hall is filled with a wooden staircase that rises in two flights and returns in one that flies across the hall to a landing carried on a Doric arcade. The main rooms have simple but elegant plasterwork, including a low-relief Rococo ceiling in the drawing room and a neo-classical plaster overmantel with an urn in the dining room. At the same time as the house was built, the setting was landscaped in a Brownian style, so that the south front has a pleasing prospect over the rolling Thamesside meadows.

Faringdon House: the entrance hall and staircase.

Faringdon House: the drawing room and sitting room along the garden front.

In 1919, the house was sold to Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson (1883-1950), 14th Baron Berners, the eccentric socialite, composer, artist, and bon viveur, who bought it initially for his mother and stepfather, Col. Ward Bennitt, who had been renting it since their marriage in 1908. Two years later he established the Berners Estate Co. to manage the property, since he lived abroad and had at that time no thought over ever living permanently in England. However, when his mother and Col. Ward Bennitt died within three weeks of one another in 1931, he decided to take over the house as his own home, while retaining his other homes in London and Rome. At about the same time, he met Robert Heber-Percy at a country house party at Vaynol (Flintshire). Robert, known with a mixture of affection and exasperation as 'the Mad Boy', was to become Gerald's life partner and heir. His high spirits, elegant appearance and uninhibited behaviour brought a spice to life at Faringdon which Gerald and his constant flow of guests found irresistible.
Faringdon House: dyed doves at a garden party in 1977.
Image: Mary Kingsley
The guests were notable: not just near neighbours like John and Penelope Betjeman from Uffington or Maurice Bowra from Oxford, but Sir Robert and Lady Diana Abdy, Frederick Ashton and Constance Lambert, Noel Coward, Cecil Beaton, the Princesse de Polignac, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, Eva Schiaperelli, and the Marchesa Casati, who travelled everywhere with her python. Penelope Betjeman went riding with Robert Heber-Percy and liked to show off the character of her much-loved horse, Moti, by bringing him inside the house: a photograph of the white horse taking tea in the drawing room at Faringdon has become emblematic of the era. There were other jokes too: the pigeons in the dovecote were dyed pink and blue and green with non-toxic dyes (a tradition still maintained, at least until recently). An elderly parrot was trained to walk across the floor entirely covered by a bowler hat, which thus had the appearance of having acquired the power of independent motion. In 1935, a tall but plain folly tower was built on a hill on the far side of Faringdon town, to the designs of Gerald Wellesley. It was approached by a path between trees, to one of which was the memorable sign: "Please do not throw stones at this notice".

When Lord Berners died in 1950, the house and its contents were left to 'the Mad Boy', Robert Heber-Percy 
(1911-87), who maintained the contents and traditions of the house into the 1980s. He left the house to his granddaughter, the novelist Sofka Zinovieff (b. 1961), who never lived here on a permanent basis but let the house on short-term tenancies as a very grand holiday house. Her book about Faringdon and the family, The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me, is a major source for this account. The house was sold in 2018, and regrettably a sale of many of the period contents followed.

Descent: sold 1590 to Sir Henry Unton (d. 1596); to widow, Lady Unton (d. 1634) and then to his nephew, Sir John Wentworth, who sold his reversionary interest in 1623 to Sir Robert Pye (c.1586-1662); to son, Sir Robert Pye (c.1622-1701); to son, Dr. Edmund Pye MD (c.1640-1705); to son, Henry Pye (1683-1749); to son, Henry Pye MP (1709-66); to son, Henry James Pye (1745-1813); sold before 1791 to William Hallett (1764-1842); sold 1807 to Daniel Bennett (1760-1826); to son, William Bennett (1790-1844); to son, Daniel Bennett (1823-87); to widow, Mary Elizabeth Bennett (d. 1897) and then to trustees for daughter, Marianne Katherine Bennett (1858-1918); sold 1919 to Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson (1883-1950), 14th Baron Berners; to partner, Robert Heber-Percy (1911-87); to granddaughter, Sofka Zinovieff (b. 1961); sold 2018 to Charles Kenneth Crossley-Cooke (b. 1967). The house was let in the mid 19th century; and again (to Col. & Mrs. Ward Bennitt) from 1908.

Bennett family of Faringdon House

Daniel Bennett (1760-1826) 
Image: Faringdon Library
Bennett, Daniel (c.1760-1826).
Son of Thomas Bennett (c.1725-1800) of Wapping (Middx), ironmonger and brazier, and his wife Elizabeth Chambers (b. c.1727), and a grandson of Daniel Bennett of Westport St Mary (Wilts), a gentleman farmer, born about 1760. At the age of 21 he set up his own business as a brazier and ironmonger in Wapping, working chiefly to support the shipping industry of east London. By 1786 he had acquired his first vessel,the Lively, built in America in 1777, which was engaged in the South Sea whaling trade. He gradually expanded his whaling fleet and in 1796 had fifteen vessels with an aggregate tonnage of 1,354 tons. His background in metalworking seems to have allowed him to keep his ships in better condition than his rivals, and he suffered fewer losses and made greater profits as a result. From 1802 he operated from the Oil Wharf at Rotherhithe, and by the 1820s he had a fleet of fifty vessels and was the largest proprietor in the whaling trade, and he had also diversified into general shipping. He married 1st, 1 January 1780 at St John, Wapping (Middx), Mary King of Wapping; 2nd, 
17 May 1786 at High Wycombe (Bucks), Elizabeth (1756-1815), daughter of William Ball of High Wycombe, and 3rd, 2 August 1820 at St Swithin, Walcot, Bath (Som.), Ann Elizabeth Boughton (c.1780-1838), widow, and had issue:
(1.1) Sarah Bennett (1780-1858), born 12 October and baptised Old Gravel Lane Independent Chapel, Stepney (Middx), 25 October 1780; married, 9 December 1801 at St Alfege, Greenwich, John Goodwin (c.1773-1810), and had issue one daughter; buried at Holy Trinity, Cowes (IoW), 15 January 1858;
(2.1) William Bennett (1790-1844) (q.v.).
He purchased the Faringdon House estate in 1807, and a property called The Cliff at West Cowes (IoW). He inherited Boakley Farm at Brokenborough and Backbridge Farm, Westport, both near Malmesbury (Wilts), from his first cousin once removed, Giles Bailey Bennett (c.1768-1815). He sold Backbridge in 1822. Boakley was offered for sale in 1816, but did not sell and was bequeathed to his daughter, who retained it in 1839.
He died 14 October 1826, and was buried at High Wycombe, where he and his two wives are commemorated by a monument designed by Richard Westmacott; his will was proved in the PCC, 2 November 1826. His first wife died 24 November 1815 and was buried at High Wycombe.  His widow died 26 July 1838 and was buried at High Wycombe.

William Bennett (1790-1844)
Image: Faringdon Library 
Bennett, William (1790-1844).
Son of Daniel Bennett (c.1760-1824) and his wife, born 1790. He was in partnership with his father in the whaling industry, but after his father's death he gradually ran the business down, so that at the time of his death he owned only five vessels. High Sheriff of Berkshire, 1836-37. He was an early patron of the artist, Samuel Palmer, who was related to his wife. He married, 25 September 1817 at Ingatestone (Essex), Marianna (d. 1840), daughter of John Dunkin of Fryerning (Essex), and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Emma Bennett (1818-52), baptised at St Alfege, Greenwich (Kent), 29 October 1818; married, 29 July 1845 at Faringdon, Richard Meredyth Richards (1821-73), only son of Richard Richards MP of Caernywch (Merioneths.); died without issue, 10 December, and was buried at Dolgellau (Merioneths), 16 December 1852; will proved in the PCC, 26 February 1853;
(2) Marianne Bennett (1820?-37), said to have been born 5 August 1820 and baptised 6 November 1823; died unmarried, 22 March and was buried at High Wycombe (Bucks), 1 April 1837;
(3) Daniel Bennett (1823-87) (q.v.);
(4) William Bennett (1826-48), baptised at St Alfege, Greenwich, 28 July 1826; an officer in the 15th Hussars (Ensign, 1847; Lt., 1848); died at Madras (India), 29 September 1848;
(5) John Dunkin Bennett (1830-51); born 25 January and baptised at Faringdon, 8 July 1830; died unmarried, 6 November, and was buried at Faringdon, 13 November 1851; will proved in the PCC, 22 November 1851;
(6) Horace Hughes Bouverie Hill Bennet (1836-37), born about March 1836; died in infancy and was buried at High Wycombe, 23 January 1837, where he and his sister Marianne are commemorated by a monument.
He lived at Vanbrugh House alias Mince Pie House, Maze Hill, Greenwich, from 1819-27, while his wife's aunt, Mary Hays, lived in Vanbrugh Castle nearby. He inherited the Faringdon House and West Cowes properties from his father in 1826, and purchased Sudbury House, Faringdon as a dower house.
He died 18 January and was buried at High Wycombe (Bucks), 25 January 1844. His wife died 24 February and was buried at High Wycombe, 3 March 1840, where she is commemorated by a monument signed by Broughton of Wycombe.

Bennett, Daniel (1823-87). Eldest son of William Bennett (1790-1844) and his wife Marianna, daughter of John Dunkin of Fryerning (Essex), born 29 June and baptised at Faringdon, 6 November 1823. An officer in the Wiltshire Yeomanry Cavalry (Lt.) and the Berkshire Rifle Volunteers (Capt., 1860; retired 1873); JP for Berkshire (Chairman of Faringdon Petty Sessions) and Wiltshire and DL for Berkshire, and he also served as a poor law guardian, highway commissioner and local tax commissioner. A Conservative in politics, he was chairman of the Faringdon & District Conservative Association. He was a major contributor to the restoration of Faringdon church. He married, 28 October 1847 at Shifnal (Shrops.), Mary Elizabeth (c.1826-97), eldest daughter of Uvedale Corbett of Aston Hall (Shrops.), barrister-at-law, and had issue, with a stillborn son:
(1) Marianne Katherine Bennett (1858-1918), born 24 January 1858; the 1911 census stated she had been 'slightly deficient from birth'; died unmarried and without issue, 26 August 1918; her will was proved 13 February 1919 (estate £11,524).
He inherited the Faringdon House estate from his father in 1844, but at first let it and lived at Sudbury House. At his death the estate passed to his widow for life, and then to trustees for his daughter, who lived at Sudbury House. Both Faringdon House and Sudbury House were sold after her death.
He died 24 April and was buried at Faringdon, 28 April 1887; his will was proved 8 June 1887 (effects £2,820). His widow died 18 November 1897; her will was proved 2 May 1898 (estate £8,994).

Principal sources

Burke's Landed Gentry, 1894, p. 130; D.A. Crowley (ed), VCH Wiltshire, vol. 14, 1991, pp. 29-31; G. Tyack, S. Bradley & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Berkshire, 2nd edn., 2010, pp. 300-02; S. Zinovieff, The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me, 2014;

Location of archives

Bennett of Faringdon: deeds of manor of Faringdon, 1847-97 [Berkshire Record Office, D/EX 487]

Coat of arms

Gules, a bezant between three demi-lions rampant, argent.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone provide portraits 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 31 October 2023 and updated 2 November 2023. I am grateful to Dart Montgomery for a correction.

Saturday 28 October 2023

(560) Bennet of Tresillian

Bennet of Tresillian
This family used the same coat of arms as the Earls of Tankerville, and the Bennets of Babraham and the Bennets of Widcombe House, but the precise connection to these families is unclear. By the mid 18th century, the Rev. Thomas Bennet (d. 1767) was vicar of St. Enoder in Cornwall, and his son John (c.1735-85) followed in his father's footsteps and became vicar of Gwinear (Cornw.) in 1768. It was the Rev. John Bennet who laid the foundations of the family's rise into the landed gentry by his marriage in 1764 to Philippa Gully (1742-84?), the daughter of Samuel Gully of Tresillian, whose family had owned that estate since 1694. When Philippa's brother, Richard Gully, died unmarried in 1791, the Tresillian estate passed to John and Philippa's eldest son, the Rev. John Bennet (1765-1804), who was then just embarking on an ecclesiastical career, and held a curacy at Anthony (Cornw.). John, who had recently married Elizabeth Wallis, the daughter of another minor Cornish squarson, the Rev. Mydhope Wallis, seems to have abandoned the idea of a clerical career and embraced the life of a landed gentleman; he never proceeded to priestly orders. He and Elizabeth produced four children who were all still young when both parents died within the space of eight months in 1804-05. Under John's will, responsibility for the children - two sons and two daughters - passed to John's unmarried brother, Major William Bennet (1780-1817), and his sister Patty (1777-1851) and her husband, Joseph Norway (1774-1825), who was an attorney at St Columb Major (Cornw.). With Major Bennet serving in the army, the bulk of the responsibility for the young family fell on Patty and her husband. Everything seems to have gone well until the children approached adulthood, when the eldest daughter, Elizabeth Bennet (1792-1842), caught the eye of Francis Camborne Paynter (1785-1858). Paynter had set himself up as a solicitor at St Columb Major in competition with Joseph Norway, and there seems to have been a very real dispathy between the two lawyers. Norway naturally discouraged his ward from having anything to do with Paynter, who responded by persuading the heir to the Tresillian estate, Richard Gully Bennet (1793-1836), that his uncles had been quietly milking the estate during his long minority. Rather than raising these concerns directly with his trustees, however, Paynter helped Gully (as he was usually known), who was then an Oxford undergraduate, to launch a legal case in Chancery, seeking the appointment of Paynter as receiver of the estate revenues, and requiring a complete accounting for the estate income and expenditure since 1805. Norway, who seems to have been largely blameless, was absolutely furious at his integrity being publicly impugned in this way, and at the ingratitude exhibited by his nephew, although he seems to have recognised Paynter as the villain of the piece. The case took several years to unfold - as Chancery cases usually did - but in the end Joseph Norway's stewardship was vindicated and his relationship with Gully Bennet seems to have been repaired. Paynter may have failed to get his hands on the estate revenues, but in 1815 he did marry Elizabeth Bennet, and they went on to have four daughters.

Gully Bennet himself married in 1820, but his wife died less than two years later, leaving him with a single surviving son, called Richard Gully Bennet after his father. Gully Bennet subsequently took a mistress, Elizabeth Mountstevens Tinney, who lived with him as his housekeeper, and by whom he had four children before he died at the age of forty-three in 1836. His will appointed his friends, Edward William Wynne Pendarves MP and Thurston Collins, to be his legitimate son's guardians and trustees, and stipulated that a servant should occupy the house at Tresillian until his son came of age. He probably had Elizabeth in mind for this role, but by 1841 she had become an innkeeper at St Enoder and taken a local farmer as a husband, and Tresillian may have fallen into disrepair. Richard Gully Bennet (1820-1910) came of age in 1841 and decided soon afterwards to rebuild Tresillian House. George Wightwick had produced plans by 1846, which were used as the basis for Twycross' engraving of the intended new house, published in that year, but work did not actually begin until 1848. Part of the new house was ready for occupation in 1849, but work continued in a desultory fashion until final completion in 1862.

Richard Gully Bennet married Mary Jean Hosken in 1846 and the couple had two sons and two daughters. Both of the sons, Edward Gully Bennet (1849-1927) and Ferdinando Wallis Bennet (1850-1929) were career soldiers, achieving the ranks of Lt-Col. and Col. respectively. Edward retired from the army in 1893 and gradually took over some of his ageing father's roles in local government, but he was unmarried, and in 1921 he was living at Tresillian with just one servant. His brother, who inherited the estate in 1927, settled at Northam (Devon) on leaving the army in 1901 and became heavily involved in local government and voluntary work in north Devon for the next quarter of a century. He handed over Tresillian to his son, Major Leonard Wallis Bennet (1897-1957) shortly after his brother's death and it was Major Bennet who led a campaign of restoration work on the then neglected house and grounds, including refitting the library in 1928. Shortly before the Second World War, however, Major Bennet decided to let the house to Thomas Albert Victor Wood (1893-1978), who was looking for a property on which he could selectively breed new daffodils, and moved to Northam Lodge near where his father had lived. Wood remained as tenant at Tresillian until at least 1950, but in 1947 Major Bennet had sold the freehold to Frederick J. Davy, who brought a legal action against the sitting tenant in 1950 for breach of the maintenance conditions in the lease, and seeking possession of the property. His action was unsuccessful, but Wood seems to have left soon afterwards. In due course, the estate descended to Rex Davy (1917-2007) who created the 'Dairyland' farming theme park on the Home Farm in the 1970s. In 2000, he sold the estate to the present owner, a grandson of the Mr T.A.V. Wood who was a tenant in the 1930s and 1940s, and the house has since been thoroughly restored. The sale of the estate in 1947 brought the Bennet family's status as landed gentry to an end. Major Bennet had no son to succeed him, but produced four daughters, at least two of whom settled in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where in 1963 the eldest daughter, Armenell Mary Betty Bennet (1929-2000), married Clifford Walter Dupont (1905-78), a leading figure in the government of the self-styled republic of Rhodesia and its President, 1970-75.

Tresillian House, St Newlyn East, Cornwall

A substantial manorial barton or farm on this site belonged in the medieval period to the Tresilian family, of whom Sir Robert Tresilian was Lord Chief Justice before his execution at Tyburn in 1388. It subsequently passed through the hands of the Hawley and Davies families, before being bought in 1694 by Samuel Gully. Instructions were given for repairs and alterations to the house in 1777, and some accounts suggest that part of the 18th century house is incorporated in the present building, which is a solidly-built but severely plain L-shaped house with a five-bay entrance front, designed by George Wightwick for Richard Gully Bennet (1820-1910), but there is nothing obvious in its plan or appearance to suggest the existence of older fabric. 

Tresillian House: entrance front.
The present building was illustrated in Twycross' Mansions of England and Wales volume on Cornwall, published in 1846, although construction did not actually begin until 1848: his illustration was based on sight of the architect's drawings. The family were able to move into part of the house in 1849, but it was not completely finished until 1863. 

Tresillian House: engraving of the house built for Richard Gully Bennet in 1848-50, from Twycross' Mansions of England & Wales: Cornwall, 1846.

The main block of the house is a double pile, with a central spine wall dividing a hall, dining room and library along the front from a large drawing room and a dramatic top-lit staircase hall at the back. The service wing lies behind the staircase hall and is connected to the dining room by a small room under the staircase which at one time was the butler's pantry. 

Tresillian House: staircase hall. Image: Tresillian House.

Tresillian House: drawing room. Image: Tresillian House.

Tresillian House: library, remodelled in 1928. Image: Tresillian House.
The house has recently been nicely restored, and it seems to have been very little altered since it was first built, apart from a refitting of the library in 1928. The main house and two cottages are now available for holiday lets. A walled kitchen garden was laid out in woodland a short distance from the house in the mid 19th century and is immaculately maintained today. It featured on television recently as part of the Rick Stein's Cornwall series, in which the presenter interviewed the characterful head gardener, John Harris.

Descent: sold 1694 to Samuel Gully; to son?, Enodor Gully (d. 1748); to great nephew, Richard Gully (d. 1791); to nephew, Rev. John Bennet (1765-1804); to son, (Richard) Gully Bennet (1793-1836); to son, Richard Gully Bennet (1820-1910); to son, Edward Gully Bennet (1849-1927); to brother, Ferdinando Wallis Bennet (1850-1929), who gave it to his son, Maj. Leonard Wallis Bennet (1897-1957); sold 1947 to Frederick J. Davy; to son, Rex Davy (1917-2007), creator of the DairyLand Farm World theme park; sold 2000 to George Edward Silvanus Robinson (b. 1956), hedge fund manager and grandson of Thomas Albert Victor Wood (1893-1978), who leased the property from 1937 until after 1950. 

Bennet family of Tresillian

Bennet, Rev. John (c.1735-85). Son of Rev. Thomas Bennet (d. 1767), vicar of St Enoder (Cornw.) 1735-67, and his wife Dorothy Vinicombe, born at Exeter about 1735. Educated at Clare College, Cambridge (matriculated 1754; BA 1758; MA 1761). Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, 1761-64. Vicar of Gwinear (Cornw.), 1768-85. He married, 22 May 1764 at Newlyn East, Phillippa (1742-84?), daughter of Samuel Gully and sister of Richard Gully (d. 1791) of Tresillian House, and had issue:
(1) Rev. John Bennet (1765-1804) (q.v.);
(2) Philippa Bennet (b. 1766), born 20 September and baptised at St Enoder, 2 October 1766; probably died unmarried;
(3) Dorothy Bennet (1767-1815), baptised at St Ewe, 2 December 1767; married, 29 July 1790 at Fowey (Cornw.), Rev. James Pascoe (c.1765-1807), vicar of St Keverne (Cornw.), 1789-1807, and had issue seven sons and three daughters; buried at St Keverne, 22 March 1815; will proved in the PCC, 17 July 1815;
(4) Mary Bennet (b. 1769), baptised at Gwinear, 26 July 1769;
(5) Elizabeth Bennet (b. 1772), baptised at Gwinear, 27 March 1772;
(6) Ann Bennet (b. & d. 1773), baptised at Gwinear, 11 December 1773; died in infancy and was buried at Gwinear, 18 December 1773;
(7) Ann Bennet (1776-1862), baptised at Gwinear, 17 April 1776; died unmarried at Wadebridge (Cornw.), 19 September 1862;
(8) Patty Bennet (1777-1851), baptised at Gwinear, 31 October 1777; married, 28 April 1801 at St Keverne, Joseph Norway (1774-1825) of St Columb Major (Cornw.), attorney, who acted as one of the guardians and trustees of his brother-in-law, Rev. John Bennet's, children from 1805, son of Neville Norway of Lostwithiel (Cornw.), and had issue one son and four daughters; died at St Columb Major, Jul-Sept. 1851;
(9) William Bennet (1780-1817), baptised at Gwinear, 2 March 1780; an officer in the army (Maj.), who acted as one of the guardians and trustees of his brother, Rev. John Bennet's, children from 1805; died 20 April 1817;
(10) Kitty Bennet (1783-1819), baptised at Gwinear, 9 February 1783; died unmarried and was buried at St Columb Major, 22 February 1819.
He was buried at Gwinear, 17 February 1785. His wife is said to have died in 1784, but I have been unable to trace a matching burial in that year.

Bennet, Rev. John (1765-1804). Son of Rev. John Bennet (c.1735-85) and his wife Phillippa, daughter of Samuel Gully of Tresillian House, born 6 June and baptised at St Enoder (Cornw.), 18 June 1765. Educated at Clare College, Cambridge (matriculated 1785; BA 1789). Ordained deacon, 1789. Curate of Antony (Cornw.). He married, 31 October 1791 at Stoke Damerel (Devon), Elizabeth (1770-1805), daughter and heir of Rev. Mydhope Wallis (d. 1791) of Trethill in Sheviock (Cornw.) and vicar of Rame (Cornw.), and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Bennet (1792-1842), baptised at Anthony, 3 October 1792; married, 2 November 1815 at Newlyn East, Francis Camborne Paynter (1785-1858) of St Columb Major, solicitor, and had issue four daughters; died 4 November 1842;
(2) Richard Gully Bennet (1793-1836) (q.v.);
(3) Rev. Mydhope Wallis Bennet (1795-1824), baptised at Newlyn East, 13 April 1795; educated at Pembroke College, Oxford (matriculated 1813; BA 1817); ordained deacon, 1818 and priest, 1819; curate of Talland, 1818; died unmarried at East Looe (Cornw.) and was buried at Morval (Cornw.), 8 November 1824; will proved in the PCC, 10 December 1824;
(4) Ann Bennet (1796-1870?), born 3 November 1796 and baptised at Newlyn East, 2 January 1797; married, 30 December 1818 at St Martin by Looe (Cornw.), Rev. James Pascoe (c.1792-1839), vicar of St. Keverne, and had issue six sons and two daughters; probably the 'Ann Pascoe' buried at Sithney (Cornw.), 10 August 1870.
He inherited Tresillian House from his maternal uncle, Richard Gully in 1791.
He died 31 December 1804 and was buried at Newlyn East, 7 January 1805; his will was proved in the PCC, 28 May 1805. His widow died 17 August and was buried at Newlyn East, 24 August 1805.

Bennet, Richard Gully (1793-1836). Elder son of Rev. John Bennet (1765-1804) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Rev. Mydhope Wallis of Trethill, born 13 November and baptised at Newlyn East, 21 December 1793. Educated at Pembroke College, Oxford (matriculated 1811). JP for Cornwall. He married, 3 January 1820 at St Enoder (Cornw.), Loveday (1798-1821), daughter of William Basset of Pencorse, St Enoder, and had issue:
(1) Richard Gully Bennet (1820-1910) (q.v.);
(2) John Bennet (1821-22), baptised at Newlyn East, 27 December 1821; died in infancy and was buried at St Columb Major, 22 September 1822.
After the death of his wife he seems to have taken as his housekeeper and mistress, Elizabeth Mountstevens Tinney, by whom he apparently had four illegitimate children (mentioned but not named in his will):
(X1) Francis Tinney (b. 1830), baptised at Cuby with Tregony (Cornw.), 13 August 1830; living in 1841 but apparently died in the lifetime of his mother;
(X2) Millicent Tinney (b. 1832), said to have been born in May 1832; baptised at St Columb Minor, 16 March 1837;
(X3) Melissa Tinney (b. c.1834); living in 1841; 
(X4) John Wallis Tinney (b. 1836; fl. 1895), baptised at Newlyn East, 30 August 1836; living in Truro in 1895.
He inherited Tresillian House from his father in 1805 and came of age in 1814.
He died 2 December and was buried at Newlyn East, 9 December 1836; his will made provision for his housekeeper and her children. His wife died 22 December and was buried at Newlyn East, 28 December 1821. His partner became the innkeeper of the Anchor Inn, St. Enoder, and married, Oct-Dec 1841 at Stoke Damerel (Devon), Anthony Cock of St Enoder (Cornw.), yeoman, and had further issue one son; she was buried at St Enoder, 24 October 1846 and her will was proved in the PCC, 27 July 1847.

Bennet, Richard Gully (1820-1910). Only surviving legitimate son of Richard Gully Bennet (1793-1836) and his wife Loveday, daughter of William Bassett of Pencorse, St Enoder (Cornw.), born 31 October 1820 and baptised at Newlyn East, 12 January 1821. Educated at Taunton, Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1839; BA 1843) and the Inner Temple (admitted 1843). JP and DL for Cornwall; County Councillor, 1889-98; chairman of St Columb Board of Guardians, 1845-95. He married, 21 April 1846 at Cubert (Cornw.), Mary Jean (1821-1906), fourth daughter of Richard Hosken of Carines House, Cubert (Cornw.), and had issue:
(1) Kathleen Tryphena Bennet (1848-1931), baptised at Newlyn East, 12 June 1848; married, 9 August 1871 at Newlyn East, William Vigor Fox (1832-95) of Comberbach House (Ches.), son of Rev. William Fox, but had no issue; died 13 April 1931; will proved 16 May 1931 (estate £3,227);
(2) Edward Gully Bennet (1849-1927) (q.v.);
(3) Ferdinando Wallis Bennet (1850-1929) (q.v.);
(4) Edith Mary Bennet (1858-1941), born 27 May 1858; lived with her sister at Comberbach; died unmarried at Newquay (Cornw.), 28 February 1941.
He inherited Tresillian House from his father in 1836, came of age in 1841, and rebuilt the house in 1848-63.
He died aged 89, on 11 January 1910; his will was proved 6 April 1910 (estate £22,179). His wife died 2 June 1906.

Bennet, Edward Gully (1849-1927). Elder son of Richard Gully Bennet (1820-1910) and his wife Mary Jean, fourth daughter of Richard Hosken of Carines House, Cubert (Cornw.), born 24 October and baptised at Newlyn East, 4 December 1849. An officer in the army (Ensign, 1868; Lt., 1871; Capt., 1881; Maj. 1886; retired as Lt. Col., 1893). JP (Chairman of St Columb Petty Sessions) and County Councillor for Cornwall. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited Tresillian House from his father in 1910.
He died 1 August 1927 and his body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, London; his will was proved 12 November 1927 and 19 April 1928 (estate £35,660).

Col. F.W. Bennet (1850-1929) 
Bennet, Ferdinando Wallis (1850-1929).
Second s
on of Richard Gully Bennet (1820-1910) and his wife Mary Jean, fourth daughter of Richard Hosken of Carines House, Cubert (Cornw.), born 13 December 1850 and baptised at Newlyn East, 17 January 1851. Educated at Sherborne School, 1862-67, and Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. An officer in the Royal Engineers (2nd Lt., 1871; Capt., 1883; Maj. 1889; Lt. Col., 1900 retired as Br. Col., 1901). He served as British Vice-Consul at Adana in Anatolia, 1880-82, and later in Egypt, 1882, 1884-85 and the Boer War, 1899-1901. In retirement he was much involved in public affairs in north Devon, serving as a JP for Devon (Chairman of Bideford Petty Sessions); Vice-Chairman of Northam Urban District Council, and as a poor law guardian and hospital trustee. After joining the army he had a brief but spectacular career as a cricketer, playing regularly for the Royal Engineers and also in four first class matches, and he was also a keen golfer. He married, 18 February 1896 at All Saints, Paddington (Middx), his cousin, Evelyn Mary (1865-1944), a nurse in Hong Kong, daughter of Maj-Gen. Henry Spencer Palmer RE (1838-93), and had issue:
(1) Maj. Leonard Wallis Bennet (1897-1957) (q.v.);
(2) twin, Charles Hosken Bennet (1898-1919), born in Belfast (Co. Down), 6 July 1898; educated at Marlborough and Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; an officer in the Royal Artillery (2nd Lt., 1915; Lt. 1917); died of pneumonia, 25 February 1919;
(3) twin, Mary Kathleen Bennet (1898-1985), born in Belfast, 6 July 1898; married, 3 October 1928, Vice-Adm. John Guy Protheroe Vivian CB (1887-1963) of Northmoor (Oxon), son of Rev. Charles Henry Gerald Vivian of Grampound (Cornw.), but had no issue; died 10 July 1985; will proved 16 September 1985 (estate £67,209);
(4) Evelyn Marjorie Bennet (1902-96), born 17 June and baptised at Northam, 23 July 1902; married, 22 December 1923, Wing-Cdr. John Allan Ferguson OBE (1889-1953), who served in the Indian Army (Col.) and later in the RAF, and had issue one son; died 16 January 1996.
After retiring from the army, he settled at Fairlea, Northam (Devon). He inherited Tresillian House from his elder brother in 1927, but handed it on to his elder son in his lifetime.
He died 17 October 1929; his will was proved 15 February 1930 (estate £57,898). His wife died 25 October 1944; her will was proved 23 May 1945 (estate £4,310).

Bennet, Leonard Wallis (1897-1957). Elder son of Col. Ferdinando Wallis Bennet (1850-1929) and his wife Evelyn Mary, daughter of Maj-Gen. Palmer RE, born 3 January and baptised at St Philip, Kensington (Middx), 10 February 1897. Educated at Marlborough, 1910-14, and Royal Military Academy. An officer in the Royal Artillery (2nd Lt., 1915; Lt., 1916; Capt. 1917; A/Maj., 1918; retired 1928; returned to colours, 1939; Br. Maj., 1944; retired 1949), who served in the First World War from 1916 and throughout the Second World War. He was a freemason from 1920. He married, 4 September 1928, Armenell Betty (1897-1958), only daughter of Gerald Merritt Wynter of Luxstowe, Liskeard (Cornw.), and had issue:
(1) Armenell Mary Betty Bennet (1929-2000), born 10 August 1929; married, 23 May 1963 at Salisbury (Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe), as his third wife, Clifford Walter Dupont (1905-78)*, but had no issue; died at Harare (Zimbabwe), 10 April 2000;
(2) Evelyn Jennifer Bennet (b. 1931), born 2 November 1931; married, Jan-Mar 1954, Peter David Raymond (1926-93), stockbroker, son of Joseph Raymond of Kensington (Middx);
(3) Rosemary Ann Bennet (b. 1934), born 29 November 1934; married, 11 August 1954, Thomas Ian Fraser Sandeman (1931-95) of Kilkhampton (Cornw.), farmer, and had issue four children; emigrated to Southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) with her husband, 1959;
(4) Jeanette Elizabeth Bennet (b. 1936), born 21 March 1936.
He was given Tresillian House by his father in about 1927 and undertook repairs to the house and grounds before letting the house in 1937 to Thomas Albert Victor Wood (1893-1978). He lived subsequently at Northam Lodge (Devon).
He died 5 February 1957; administration of his goods was granted 15 May 1957 (estate £18,712). His widow died 2 August 1958; her will was proved 9 October 1958 (estate £9,996).
* After the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith's government in Southern Rhodesia in 1965, Dupont was appointed 'Acting Officer Administering the Government'; he served as President of Rhodesia, 1970-75.

Principal sources

Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, p. 156; E. Twycross, The mansions of England & Wales: County of Cornwall, 1846, pl. facing p. 83; R.G. Kerswell, The Bennets of Tresillian, 1994; D.E. Pett, The parks and gardens of Cornwall, 1998, pp. 180-81; P. Newberry, The country houses of Cornwall, 2023, pp. 165-67;

Location of archives

Bennet family of Tresillian: deeds and papers, 1565-1884 [Kresen Kernow/Cornwall Record Office WH1/5014-5085]

Coat of arms

Gules, three demi-lions rampant couped argent in the centre chief point a bezant.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone demonstrate the connection between this family and another of the other Bennet families which used the same coat of arms?
  • Can anyone provide portraits 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 28 October 2023.

Sunday 22 October 2023

(559) Bennet of Widcombe Manor and Rougham Hall

Bennet of Widcombe and Rougham 
This family traced their descent from the Bennets of Heytesbury (Wilts) but used the same coat of arms as the Earls of Tankerville and the Bennets of Babraham. The family considered here began with Edward Benett or Bennet (1567-1626) of South Brewham (Som.), the fourth son of Edward Benett of Heytesbury, born in 1567. Peach (see Principal Sources below) says Edward was lord of the manor of South Brewham (Som.) but that seems not to be correct, as the family only purchased the lordship in 1668, and Edward's status was probably on the borderline between yeoman and gentleman. The genealogy below begins with Edward's son, Philip Bennet (1610-90), who was named after an uncle, and for nine generations the eldest son in each generation was named Philip, which has led to some confusion between the generations in earlier sources. The first Philip inherited his father's lands at Brewham while still a minor, and came of age in 1631. His marriage, about 1635, was the first of a series of dynastically fortunate unions which rapidly advanced the family's wealth and prestige, in this case bringing him the Bayford estate near Wincanton (Som.). He served in the Parliamentarian army from the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, but perhaps not for very long, for his commanding officer, Col. Denzil Holles (1598-1680) sought a peaceful settlement after the Battle of Brentford in November that year. 

In the next generation, Philip Bennet II (1637-1725) must have had some legal training - probably through a clerkship to a local attorney - for in 1673 he was appointed deputy Clerk of the Peace for Somerset and in 1677 became Clerk himself. This was a position of considerable responsibility in the local government machinery of the day, ensuring regular contact with leading figures in the county, and also brought with it a useful income from fees. Philip II's marriage in 1677 was to Anne Strode (1655-1735), the daughter of Thomas Strode of Maperton (Som.), who was a noted mathematician and an authority on sun dials. The couple seem to have lived at Maperton even before inheriting the estate in 1697, as all their children were baptised there. Their eldest son, Philip Bennet III (1678-1723) probably received a legal training in his father's office, and became Deputy Clerk of the Peace in 1690 and was Clerk of the Peace, 1706-23. He became the third successive generation to marry well, for his wife was Jane Chapman (1672-1722), the only child of Scarborough Chapman of Widcombe near Bath (Som.). Bath was then just beginning its 18th century transformation into a fashionable spa town, and over time the family's focus gradually shifted from Wincanton to Bath. Philip III died in his father's lifetime, leaving as heir to his father's estates at Maperton, Brewham and Bayford and to Widcombe, his eldest son, Philip Bennet IV (1705-61), who came of age and into possession of these properties in 1726. Although possessed of four considerable estates yielding a considerable income, none of them provided a house appropriate to Philip IV's position in the world, so he at once commissioned the remodelling of Widcombe Manor (as it is now called) in 1726-27. His architect was very probably Nathaniel Ireson of Wincanton, who would have been well-known to the family, and who produced an extremely handsome new facade. In the 1730s he strengthened his social status by becoming MP for Shaftesbury, and then in 1741, for Bath. It was probably about this time that he began laying out the Rococo garden at Widcombe which was depicted in the 1750s by Thomas Robins. The years around 1740 probably mark the apogee of the family's fortunes. Philip IV first married in 1729 but his wife died the following year, and he married again in 1733 to Mary Hallam (1712-39), who brought him an estate at Tollesbury (Essex), and provided an heir. However, for reasons we can only guess at, his life began to fall apart in the late 1740s, when he took to 'a career of wild dissipation, squandering his fortune with reckless prodigality'. He mortgaged the Maperton estate in 1741 and sold it in 1748; sold Brewham in 1755; and handed over Widcombe to his son in 1756, retiring to his wife's estate in Essex, where he set up home with a housekeeper who was almost certainly his mistress, and fathered at least one illegitimate child.

Philip Bennet V (1734-74), his father's only surviving son, had only a short life, but he inherited Widcombe and Tollesbury, married a clergyman's daughter - perhaps the first of his family to marry for love rather than for dynastic advantage - and produced a sole heir, Philip Bennet VI (1771-1853), who only came of age in 1792. The house at Widcombe appears to have been let during his long minority, and he was evidently brought up on the Essex estate, as his subsequent connections were all in East Anglia. He sold Widcombe in 1813, bringing his family's long association with Somerset to an end. In 1794 he married Jane Judith (1775-1845), the only child of Rev. Roger Kedington of Rougham Hall (Suffk), and on the latter's death in 1818 they inherited the Rougham estate, together with a large 18th century house. For reasons which are unclear, Philip VI decided to build a new, fashionably Tudor-Gothic, house on a new site on the estate, which was under construction by 1821 and largely complete in 1826. The architect is now known to have been Thomas Hopper, who was remarkably busy in Suffolk at this time (c.f. Thorington Hall, Woolverstone Hall). The old house was retained alongside it, but is said to have burnt down accidentally soon after its successor was finished. Philip's Tollesbury estate was put on the market in 1827, but may not have sold immediately as he was still described as 'of Rougham Hall and Tollesbury Lodge' when he died in 1853.

Philip Bennet VI and Jane Judith Kedington had a large family, but their eldest son, Philip Bennet VII (1795-1866) inherited Rougham Hall. He was MP for West Suffolk, 1845-59, and commanding officer of a troop of Yeomanry Cavalry for more than forty years. In 1823 he married Anne Pilkington (1804-93), a younger daughter of Sir Thomas Pilkington, 7th bt., of Chevet Park (Yorks WR), but they had only one child, Philip Bennet VIII (1837-75), born fourteen years after the marriage. Philip VIII chose the army over Cambridge, but after five years in the regulars he resigned his commission in favour of a captaincy in the Yeomanry Cavalry. He seems to have been a keen sailor and was noted for his hospitality: his obituarist referred to his 'almost excessive open-handed liberality'. By the time of his death in 1875 it required deeper pockets than the Rougham estate afforded to sustain such hospitable traditions, and after he died his widow leased the hall out and sold off many of the contents. Their son, Philip Bennet IX (1862-1913) came of age in 1883 and continued to lease the house out until, in 1893, he sold the estate, bring to an end more than two centuries as owners of landed property. After 1893, Philip IX lived in greatly reduced circumstances in Bury St Edmunds and later at Felixstowe (Suffk). In about 1908, he married a Scottish wife, who emigrated to the USA after his death and married again.

Widcombe Manor, Bath, Somerset

The house was known as Widcombe House until the early 20th century, and it has been one of the city's best-known and most prominent houses for nearly 300 years. Its elevated position next to Widcombe church gives the house extensive views over the city and towards Prior Park, and the rich honey-golden stone of which it is built catches the lowering afternoon sun in the most magical way. 

Widcombe Manor: late afternoon sunlight on the south front. Image: Derek Harper. Some rights reserved.
The core of the house was built in the late 17th century for Scarborough Chapman (d. 1706), who inherited a tenement near Widcombe church from his uncle, Robert Fisher, in 1661. A most intiguing drawing in the sketchbook of Thomas Robins in the Victoria & Albert Museum may record the appearance of the principal front, although by the time Robins made his sketch in the 1750s, it had long since been reconstructed. Presumably Robins had access to an earlier drawing which he copied at the same time as he made a series of contemporary sketches of the house and gardens in the same volume. The topography of the view, showing the house in close proximity to Widcombe church, seems to leave little chance of it being a view of another house, and the building it depicts is just the right size and shape. 

Widcombe Manor: sketch by Thomas Robins, apparently copied from an earlier drawing and showing the south front of the house before the rebuilding of 1726-27. Image: Victoria & Albert Museum E.1308:29-2001
If it is what it appears to be, the drawing tells us that the original house had a low ground floor with mullion and transomed cross windows, which would fit with a building date soon after 1661; but that the upper floor had been altered later, with sash windows, taller rooms, and a deep eaves cornice supporting a hipped roof. Although the sketch is a long way from being a finished drawing, it also records that the house had a forecourt garden protected by handsome gatepiers and iron gates, with service buildings - presumably a stable and coach house - to either side. Also shown are the bare outlines of a formal garden, and a simple octagonal dovecote.

Widcombe Manor: the south front built in 1726-27, probably to the designs of Nathaniel Ireson.
The 17th century house passed in 1721 to Scarborough's grandson, Philip Bennet (1705-61), who, as soon as he came of age, put in hand the construction of a grand new baroque south front, built in 1726-27. This is widely attributed to Nathaniel Ireson of Wincanton (Som.), a place with which the Bennets had close associations, although actual construction was probably in the hands of the mason Richard Jones, surveyor of works to Ralph Allen (to whom the Bennets were related by marriage) and who later claimed to have built it. The design is quite crowded in a rather provincial way, but everything is so nicely balanced that the overall effect is of considerable elegance. The front has two storeys and seven bays, with a pedimented three-bay centrepiece. Coupled giant fluted Ionic pilasters frame the centre, and mark the ends of the elevation. The centre has a Doric doorcase flanked by arched windows and a further arched window on the first floor, flanked by smaller square windows creating a Serlian motif, with garlands and a large oeil-de-boeuf window shoehorned into the pediment. The outer bays of the front, between the coupled columns, have sash windows with expensively moulded architraves, and keystones carved with grotesque masks. The coupled pilasters support an entablature with a pulvinated frieze and modillion cornice, and there is a tall balustraded parapet behind which rises a hipped roof. 

Widcombe Manor: sketch by Thomas Robins, c.1754, showing the south and west fronts of the house as altered in 1726-27.
Image: Victoria & Albert Museum E.1308:46-2001
The original west front was of five bays, but had a partially exposed basement - due to the fall of the land - and dormer windows behind the parapet. The central bay was wider, and on each of the principal floors had a Venetian window overlooking the gardens. The elevations were clearly designed to make an impressive show, but the interior, which must also have been completely remodelled, was much more simply treated. There is a low, panelled hall with bolection mouldings, a good staircase with three twisted balusters per step, and a first-floor landing with groin-vaulted side bays. On the first floor, the two rooms behind the new front were thrown into one entertaining space, some fifty feet long, leaving the house rather short of bedrooms.

Widcombe Manor: the staircase in 1909. Image: Batsford & Co.

Widcombe Manor: the west front created in 1840, and the garden terrace in front of it.
In the early 19th century, the house was first rented and then bought by Capt. Wrench and his sister Mary, who are thought to have added the recessed service wing, north-west of the house, in the 1820s. A little later, General Clapham, who bought the house in 1839, brought in James Wilson of Bath to alter the west front. He gave it coupled giant Ionic pilasters to match those on the south front, and a two-storey canted bay window in the centre which also has Ionic giant pilasters at its angles, an unusually happy and sympathetic alteration for its date. 

Widcombe Manor: plan of the grounds from the sale particulars of 1839. Image: B&NES Record Office 0502.
The gardens were laid out in the mid 18th century for Philip Bennet (1705-61), who created, on a modest plot of about eight acres, a complex and incident-filled garden in the Rococo taste. Adjoining the church was a summerhouse carried on a three-arched loggia, perhaps designed by Richard Jones, and later used as a gardener's cottage, but the bulk of the gardens lay below the house. Broad steps decorated with statuary led down to a small meadow, on the far side of which were three small pools, one of which had a three-tiered cascade, surmounted by a statue of Neptune. The cascade survives and has recently been restored, but the statue has sadly disappeared since the mid 20th century. 

Widcombe Manor: sketch by Thomas Robins of the mound behind the cascade pond, with the Chinoiserie summer house on top of it.
Image: Victoria & Albert Museum E.1308:26-2001

Widcombe Manor: view from the cascade back towards the house, c.1947. Image: Reece Winstone.
Behind the pools, and backing on to what became Prior Park Road, was an artificial mound some thirty feet high, which functioned as a viewing platform. It was originally topped by a Chinoiserie temple, but this had gone by 1792, when the spiral path up the mound led anti-climactically to two yew trees and a straggly fir. The other chief ornament of the grounds was a small grotto, which has recently been restored. More recent additions to the grounds include the double-decker bronze fountain in the forecourt, imported from Italy by Sir John Roper Wright after he bought the house in 1917, which is now thought to have been made new for the purpose. 

Widcombe Manor: the summerhouse of 1961, incorporating stonework from a summerhouse at Fairford Park (Glos).
Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.
In 1961, Jeremy Fry bought the ashlar stonework of a small summerhouse from Fairford Park (Glos), which was re-erected here as the front of a new summerhouse by Didier Bertrand. It has an arched centre carried on rusticated Doric columns, with oculi to either side that have four keystones. The frieze has primitive blocks rather than triglyphs. The gardens have recently been splendidly restored by Andy King of New Leaf Studio in Bristol.

Descent: built after 1661 for Scarborough Chapman (d. 1706); to widow, Anne (d. 1721) and then his grandson, Philip Bennet (1703-61), who came of age in 1727 and built the south front and laid out the grounds; to son, Philip Bennet (1734-74); to son, Philip Bennet (1771-1853), who sold 1813 to John Thomas of Bristol, who let by 1820 and later sold to Capt. Wrench and his sister Mary Wrench (d. 1838); sold 1839 to Maj-Gen. William Clapham (d. 1851); to widow, Ellen Elizabeth Clapham (d. 1869); to niece, Ellen Georgina Jones-Parry (d. 1901), wife of Rev. George Tate (d. 1900); to cousin, Mary Gertrude Jones -Parry (d. 1913), wife of Charles St Leger Langford (d. 1917?); to James Jones-Parry alias Yale; sold 1917 to Sir John Roper Wright; to son, Sir Charles Wright; who sold 1927 to Horace (d. 1955) and Arthur Vachell (d. 1949); sold 1955 to Jeremy Fry; sold c.1970 to Hon. & Mrs. Robin Warrender, who sold 1992... sold 1994 to Mr & Mrs Davisson... sold 2011.

Rougham Hall, Suffolk

An account of this house has been given in a previous post.

Bennet family of Widcombe House and Rougham Hall

Bennet, Philip I (1610-90). Elder son of Edward Bennet (1567-1626) of South Brewham (Som.) and his wife Susanna, daughter of Thomas Churchey of Wincanton, born at Brewham (Som.), 10 May 1610. An officer in Col. Denzil Holles' Parliamentarian regiment in the Civil War (Capt., 1642). He married, about 1634/5, Mary (1611-91), daughter of Richard Shute of Bayford near Wincanton (Som.), and had issue:
(1) Philip Bennet II (1637-1725) (q.v.);
(2) Mary Bennet (1635-93); married, 1 May 1662, John Walter (d. 1704) and had issue four sons and three daughters; buried at West Pennard (Som.), 12 May 1693;
(3) Martha Bennet (d. 1715); married, 20 April 1668 at St Cuthbert, Wells (Som.), John Clements (d. 1691) of Mere (Wilts), and had issue one son and one daughter; buried at Mere, 29 May 1715.
He inherited his father's property at South Brewham in 1626 and came of age in 1631. He inherited the Bayford estate in right of his wife.
He was buried at Brewham, 25 September 1690. His widow was buried at Brewham, 14 December 1691.

Bennet, Philip II (1637-1725). Only son and heir of Philip Bennet I (1610-90) of Bayford and South Brewham, and his wife Mary, daughter of Richard Shute of Bayford, baptised at Stoke Trister (Som.), 4 March 1637. Clerk of the Peace for Somerset, 1677-90 (Deputy Clerk, 1673-76). He married, 20 December 1677 at Maperton (Som.), Anne (1655-1735), daughter and co-heir of Thomas Strode (d. 1697) of Maperton, a mathematician and authority on sun dials, and had issue:
(1) Philip Bennet III (1678-1723) (q.v.);
(2) Anne Bennet (1680-1707), born 18 March and baptised at Maperton, 15 April 1680; died unmarried and was buried at Maperton, 3 January 1707/8;
(3) James Bennet (1681-83), baptised at Maperton, 16 December 1681; died in infancy and was buried at Maperton, 3 December 1683;
(4) Abigail Bennet (1682-1767), born 20 November and baptised at Maperton, 28 November 1682; married, 1 July 1721 at Wincanton (Som.), Samuel Burges, and had issue at least two sons and one daughter; will proved in the PCC, 11 November 1767;
(5) Mary Bennet (1685-88), baptised at Maperton, January 1684/5; died young and was buried at Maperton, 1 January 1688/9;
(6) Martha Bennet (b. 1688), baptised at Maperton, 18 July 1688; presumably died young;
(7) Strode Bennet (1691-1711), baptised at Maperton, 16 July 1691; died unmarried and was buried at Wincanton, 22 July 1711;
(8) Mary Bennet (1693-1773), baptised at Maperton, 2 February 1692/3; married, 7 February 1718/9 at Wincanton (Som.), William Burleton (d. 1739) of East Knoyle (Wilts), and had issue two sons and one daughter; possibly the 'Mary Burton' buried at Tisbury (Wilts), 8 December 1773; will proved in the PCC, 16 December 1773;
(9) Sarah Bennet (1695-1785), born 5 March and baptised at Maperton, 13 March 1694/5; lived at Wincanton; died unmarried; will proved in the PCC, 27 April 1785;
(10) Martha Bennet (1698-99), born 29 December 1698 and baptised at Maperton, 5 January 1698/9; died in infancy and was buried at Maperton, 7 March 1698/9.
He or his father purchased the manor of Brewham in 1668. He inherited his father's property at Bayford and South Brewham in 1690, and the Maperton estate in right of his wife in 1697.
He was buried at Wincanton, 13 April 1725. His widow was buried at Wincanton, 15 December 1735.

Bennet, Philip III (1678-1723). Eldest son of Philip Bennet II (1637-1725) and his wife Anne, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Strode of Maperton (Som.), born 2 September and baptised at Maperton, 19 September 1678. Clerk of the Peace for Somerset, 1706-23 (Deputy Clerk, 1690-1706). He married, 29 August 1702 at Widcombe, Jane (1672-1722), only child of Scarborough Chapman of Widcombe House (Som.), and had issue:
(1) Jane Bennet (1703-67), born 22 July and baptised at Maperton, 2 August 1703; married, 22 February 1731/2 at Claverton (Som.), Philip Allen (d. 1765), son of Philip Allen (1667-1728) of St Blazey (Cornw.) and brother of the celebrated Ralph Allen (1693-1764), and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 14 April 1767; will proved in the PCC, 17 June 1767;
(2) Philip Bennet IV (1705-61) (q.v.);
(3) Robert Bennet (1706-50), of Shaftesbury (Dorset) and Widcombe, born 27 July and baptised at Maperton, 22 August 1706; probably died unmarried and without issue and was buried at Widcombe, 14 August 1750;
(4) Anne Bennet (1707-08), born 14 December and baptised at Maperton, 26 December 1707; died in infancy and was buried at Maperton, 3 January 1707/8;
(5) Anne Bennet (1709-85), born 8 March and baptised at Maperton, 17 March 1708/9; heir to her sisters Mary and Susannah, with whom she apparently lived in Bath; died unmarried and was buried at Bath Abbey, 9 June 1785;
(6) Thomas Bennet (1710-c.1748), born 15 December and baptised at Maperton, 26 December 1710; an officer in Lascelles' regiment of foot, formed in 1741; perhaps died while serving in Scotland with his regiment; adminstration of goods granted, 7 May 1748;
(7) Mary Bennet (1712-66), born 29 August and baptised at Maperton, 15 September 1712; married, 1746, as his second wife, George Dodington (c.1681-1757) of Horsington (Som.), MP for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, 1730-41, 1747-54, son of William Dodington of London, but died without issue; probably to be identified with the 'Mary Dorrington' buried at Bathampton, 27 March 1766; will proved in the PCC, 11 April 1766;
(8) Strode Bennet (1714-30), born 11 April and baptised at Maperton, 6 May 1714; died unmarried and was buried at Maperton, 4 December 1730;
(9) Susannah Bennet (1716-83), baptised at Maperton, 21 February 1715/6; apparently lived latterly with her sisters Mary and Anne in Bath; buried at Bathampton, 7 June 1783; her will was proved in the PCC, 14 July 1783.
He died in the lifetime of his father and was buried at Maperton, 15 March 1722/3; his will was proved in the PCC, 4 April 1724. His wife was buried at Maperton, 2 May 1722.

Bennet, Philip IV (1705-61). Eldest son of Philip Bennet III (1678-1723) of Maperton (Som.) and his wife Jane, only child of Scarborough Chapman of Widcombe House, Bath (Som.), born 16 January and baptised at Maperton, 8 February 1704/5. Educated at Balliol College, Oxford (matriculated 1722). MP for Shaftesbury, 1734-35, 1738-41 and Bath, 1741-47; JP for Somerset; Lay Rector of St Thomas', Bath. He did not seek re-election to Parliament in 1747, about which time he is said to have entered upon ‘a career of wild dissipation, squandering his fortune with reckless prodigality’. He married 1st, 1729 (licence 25 May), Anne (c.1706-30), daughter of Edmund Estcourt of Salcombe (Herts), and 2nd, 1733 (licence 31 May), Mary (1712-39), daughter and sole heir of Thomas Hallam of Tollesbury and Clacton (Essex), and had issue:
(2.1) Philip Bennet V (1734-74) (q.v.);
(2.2) Mary Bennet (1735-85?); will dated 5 March 1784; died unmarried and was probably the woman of this name buried at Bathampton (Som.), 8 June 1785;
(2.3) Thomas Bennet (b. & d. 1737), born 31 January 1736/7 and buried at Widcombe, 22 September 1737.
He apparently also had an illegitimate daughter:
(X1) Elizabeth Budd (fl. 1761); mentioned in his will, when she was still at school.
He inherited Widcombe Manor on the death of his maternal grandmother in 1721, the estate at Maperton and Brewham from his grandfather in 1725, and the Tollesbury estate in Essex in right of his second wife. He came of age in 1726/7, gave the house at Widcombe its present south front soon afterwards and probably laid out the gardens in the 1740s. He mortgaged the Maperton estate in 1741 and sold Maperton to Thomas Lockyer in 1748 and Brewham to Henry Hoare in 1755. In 1756 he handed Widcombe over to his son and moved to Essex, living latterly at Witham.
He was buried at Tollesbury, 9 December 1761; his will was proved in the PCC, 22 December 1761, and made provision for 'Mary Egerton otherwise Carmichael of Witham who now lives with me as my housekeeper and has done so for many years past'. His first wife was buried at Widcombe, 23 April 1730. His second wife was buried at Widcombe, 22 June 1739.

Bennet, Philip V (1734-74). Only surviving son of Philip Bennet IV (1705-61) of Widcombe (Som.) and his second wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Hallam of Tollesbury (Essex), baptised at Widcombe, 11 April 1734. He married, 14 December 1769 at Bath Abbey (Som.), Mary (1745-1822), daughter of Rev. Christopher Hand (c.1700-78) of Aller (Som.), and had issue:
(1) Philip Bennet VI (1771-1853) (q.v.).
His father handed over Widcombe to him in 1756 and he inherited his maternal family's property at Tollesbury in 1761.
He was buried at Widcombe, Bath (Som), 12 April 1774; his will was proved in the PCC, 24 March 1774. His widow died in Bury St. Edmunds, 16 April, and was buried at Rougham, 23 April 1822.

Bennet, Philip VI (1771-1853). Only son of Philip Bennet V (1734-74) and his wife Mary, daughter of Rev. Christopher Hand, born 14 April and baptised at Widcombe (Som.), 4 September 1771. Educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (matriculated 1789; BA 1793), and subscribed £25 to the rebuilding fund after the college fire of 1811. High Sheriff of Suffolk, 1821-22; JP for Suffolk. An officer in the Suffolk Provisional Cavalry (Lt., 1798). He married, 12 June 1794 at Rougham, Jane Judith (1775-1845), only child of Rev. Roger Kedington of Rougham Hall (Suffk), and had issue:
(1) Philip Bennet VII (1795-1866) (q.v.);
(2) Rev. James Thomas Bennet (1796-1868), baptised at Great Barton (Suffk), 15 November 1796; educated at Balliol College, Oxford (matriculated 1813; BA 1817; MA 1831); ordained deacon 1829 and priest, 1831; rector of Cheveley (Cambs), 1832-68; married, 6 April 1826, Henrietta Eliza (1804-82), daughter of James Jackson of Doncaster (Yorks WR), and had issue two sons and three daughters; died 12 July 1868; will proved 21 December 1868 (effects under £4,000);
(3) Jane Frances Bennet (1798-1873), born 25 April and baptised at Great Barton, 30 May 1798; married, 4 December 1821 at Rougham, Rev. Samuel Hurry Alderson (c.1789-1863), Fellow of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, 1811-22 and rector of Risby and Fornham St Genevieve (Suffk), 1830-63, son of Robert Alderson of Gt. Yarmouth (Norfk), barrister, and had issue four sons and six daughters; died 24 March 1873; will proved 5 June 1873 (effects under £3,000);
(4) Rev. Christopher Hand Bennet (1799-1854), born September 1799 and baptised at Great Barton, 28 March 1800; educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1818; BA 1822; MA 1825); ordained deacon, 1823 and priest, 1824; rector of Owsden (Suffk), 1835-54; married, 20 September 1848 at St Luke, Chelsea (Middx) and again*, 25 July 1850 at Holy Trinity, Brompton (Middx), Hannah (1826-65) (who m2, 4 January 1860 at Holy Trinity, Brompton, Walter George Sheppard MD MRCS (b. c.1829), son of Charles Sheppard, surgeon), daughter of David Goldstone of Owsden, farmer, but had no issue; died at Buxhall Lodge (Suffk), 4 February, and was buried at Buxhall, 9 February 1854;
(5) Ralph Christopher Bennet (1803-75), baptised at Great Barton, 4 December 1803; farmer at Beyton and later at Rougham; died unmarried, 9 July, and was buried at St Helier (Jersey), 12 July 1875; will proved 22 December 1875 (effects under £100);
(6) Edward Bennet (1804-64), baptised at Great Barton, 6 November 1804; farmer at Rougham Old Hall and agent to his father's estate; married, 19 June 1855 at Wortham (Suffk), Anne Elizabeth, second daughter of Charles Harrison of Wortham, and had issue at least three sons and two daughters; died at Copdock Lodge, 1 January 1864; will proved 9 February 1864 (effects under £1,500);
(7) William Bennet (b. 1805), baptised at Great Barton, 5 December 1805; probably died young.
He inherited his father's property at Widcombe (which he sold in 1813) and Tollesbury and lived at the latter until in 1818 he and his wife inherited Rougham Hall from her father. Tollesbury was advertised for sale in 1827, but was presumably not sold, as he was still described as 'of Rougham Hall and Tollesbury Lodge' at the time of his death.
He died 4 May 1853; his will was proved in the PCC, 28 May 1853. His wife's date of death is unknown.
* According to a newspaper report at the time of the second marriage, it was re-solemnised by reason of the misdescription of one of the parties in the first registration, the groom being described as a mercantile clerk rather than a clerk in holy orders.

Bennet, Philip VII (1795-1866). Elder son of Philip Bennet VI (1771-1853) and his wife Jane Judith, only child of Rev. Roger Kedington of Rougham Hall (Suffk), baptised at Great Barton (Suffk), 9 May 1795. Educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (matriculated 1813; BA 1817; MA 1821). Commanding officer of 1st troop of Loyal Suffolk Yeomanry Cavalry (Capt.), 1821-64. JP and DL for Suffolk; MP for West Suffolk, 1845-59. He married, 21 March 1823 at Rougham, Anne (1804-93), second daughter and co-heir of Sir Thomas Pilkington (1773-1811), 7th bt. of Chevet Park (Yorks WR), and had issue:
(1) Philip Bennet VIII (1837-75) (q.v.).
He inherited Rougham Hall and perhaps the Tollesbury estate from his father in 1853.
He died 17 August 1866; his will was proved 20 September 1866 (effects under £3,000). His widow died in Bury St Edmunds, 21 April, and was buried at Rougham, 24 April 1893.

Bennet, Philip VIII (1837-75). Only child of Philip Bennet VII (1795-1866) and his wife Anne, second daughter and co-heir of Sir Thomas Pilkington, 7th bt., of Chevet Park (Yorks WR), baptised 16 December 1837. Educated at Harrow, 1849-52, and was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, 1855, but did not reside. An officer in the Essex Rifles (Ensign, 1855), the Royal Horse Guards (Cornet, 1856; Lt., 1858; retired 1861) and Suffolk Yeomanry Cavalry (Capt., 1864; Maj., 1868). JP and DL for Suffolk. Vice-Commodore of Harwich Yacht Club. His obituary mentions that his "generous disposition and almost excessive open-handed liberality had endeared him to all who knew him". He married, 29 November 1860 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster (Middx), Barbara Sophia Harriet (1838-1929), eldest daughter of Edgar Disney of The Hyde, Ingatestone (Essex), and had issue:
(1) Philip Bennet IX (1862-1913) (q.v.);
(2) Geoffrey Frederick Philip Bennet (1863-1932), of East Barton Farm, Bury St Edmunds (Suffk), born 4 October and baptised at Rougham, 16 December 1863; JP for Suffolk; married, 14 February 1888 at St Saviour, Paddington (Middx), Beatrice Geraldine (c.1862-1935), second daughter of his stepfather, the Hon. Harbord Harbord; died 27 December 1932 and was buried at Newmarket (Suffk);
(3) Cyril Edgar Tyrrell Bennet (1865-1914), born 13 September 1865; an officer in the West Suffolk militia (Lt., 1886; retired 1888) and militia battn., Suffolk Regiment (2nd Lt., 1891; Lt., 1892; Capt., 1892; retired 1894); married, 25 October 1887 at St James, Bury St Edmunds (Suffk), Annie Osmond Louisa (c.1867-1906), daughter of Rev. E.J. Griffiths of Bury St. Edmunds, and had issue two sons and one daughter*; died at Chiswick (Middx), 7 November 1914 and was buried at Acton Cemetery (Middx);
(4) Claude Lambert Bennet (1873-86), born 26 August and baptised at St Mary-in-the-Marsh, Norwich, 26 September 1873; died young, at Eastbourne (Sussex), 20 October 1886;
(5) Iona Barbara Bennet (1874-1961), born 13 October and baptised at St Mary-in-the-Marsh, Norwich, 14 November 1874; lived with her mother at Holly Lodge, Norwich; died unmarried, 30 March 1961; will proved 19 May 1961 (estate £6,816).
He inherited Rougham Hall from his father in 1866. His widow let the house and sold the family pictures etc. in 1878. 
He died at Dover (Kent), 11 July 1875; his will was proved 24 January 1876 (effects under £5,000). His widow married 2nd, 4 December 1878 at Ingatestone (Essex), Col. the Hon. Harbord Harbord (1836-94); she died in Norwich, 15 March 1929 and was buried at Rougham; her will was proved 29 April 1929 (estate £2,661).
* The daughter died in infancy. The family having fallen on hard times, the younger son was placed with, and raised by, Disney relations at Ingatestone.

Bennet, Philip IX (1862-1913). Eldest son of Philip Bennet VIII (1837-75) and his wife Harriot Sophia, eldest daughter of Edgar Disney of The Hyde (Essex), born 24 February 1862. An officer in the Prince of Wales' Own Norfolk Artillery, a militia regiment (Lt., 1881; Capt., 1893; hon. Maj., 1895). He married, c.1908*, Robina Cochrane (1881-1959), daughter of James Riddell, but had no issue.
He inherited the Rougham estate from his father in 1875 and came of age in 1883. He continued to lease out the house at Rougham out until 1893 when he sold it (while retaining part of the estate) to Mr E. Johnston. In 1901 he was living at the Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds and in 1911 at Felixstowe (Suffk).
He died at Felixstowe, 13 May 1913. His widow emigrated to Los Angeles, California (USA) in 1914, married 2nd, 13 September 1918 at Riverside, California (USA), Charles C. Howarter (1892-1964), and died in Los Angeles, 21 November 1959; she was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery.
* Information from the 1911 census. However, I have been unable to trace this marriage in Great Britain, and there seems to be no reference to it in the press.

Principal sources

Burke's Landed Gentry, 1914, p. 135; R.E.M. Peach, Life and times of Ralph Allen, 1895, pp. 206-13; J. Hawkes, 'Widcombe Manor mount and cascade', The survey of Bath and district, no.6, 1996, pp. 19-22; A. Foyle & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Somerset - North and Bristol, 2nd edn., 2011, p. 194; M. Siraut, The Victoria County History of Somerset: vol. XI, Queen Camel and the Cadburys, 2015, pp. 151-52; C. Spence, Nature's favourite child: Thomas Robins and the art of the Georgian garden, 2021, pp. 139-40;

Location of archives

Bennet family of Rougham Hall: deeds and estate papers relating to the Rougham estate, 1596-1889 [Suffolk Archives, Bury St. Edmunds, Acc. 839]

Coat of arms

Gules, a bezant between three demi-lions rampant, couped, argent.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone provide portraits 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 22 October 2023. I am most grateful to Prof. Tim Mowl for assisting me with the interpretation of the Thomas Robins drawings of Widcombe Manor, and to Jane Bennet-Earle for corrections and additional information.