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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nick. What an incredible amount of work you've put into this. I thought I knew a lot about my Bennet ancestors but I've learnt a lot from this blog. So my 6th great grandfather had an illegitimate daughter? There goes my weekend researching to find out more. Would like to chat with you further. I will send you a mail via your contact section. All the best, Ms Bennet (the last).


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.