|Bennett of Faringdon|
|Vanbrugh House, Greenwich, which was William Bennett's home from 1819-27. The house was demolished in 1902.|
|Sudbury House, Faringdon, c.1825. The surviving right-hand part is now|
part of an hotel. Image: Abingdon County Hall Museum 2007.500.22
Faringdon House, Berkshire
|Faringdon House: the Elizabethan mansion built in the 1590s for Sir Henry Unton.|
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|
|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
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.
Bennett family of Faringdon House
|Daniel Bennett (1760-1826) |
Image: Faringdon Library
(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.).
|William Bennett (1790-1844)|
Image: Faringdon Library
(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.
(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).
Location of archives
Coat of arms
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.