Sunday 28 January 2024

(567) Bentinck of Indio House

Bentinck of Indio House
This family was a junior branch of the Bentinck (later Cavendish-Bentinck) family, Dukes of Portland, who will be the subject of my next post. The fortunes of the family were founded by Gen. Hans Willem Bentinck (1649-1709), 1st Earl of Portland, who was one of the closest friends and companions of the Dutch stadtholder, William of Orange, later King William III of England. The Earl had two marriages, from the first of which came the heir to his peerage and the majority of his extensive English estates. The second marriage produced two sons, the elder of whom, Willem Bentinck (1704-74) - with whom the genealogy below begins - inherited most of the Earl's Dutch property, but also an estate at Terrington St Clement in Norfolk which gave him a position in English society, although it never came to have a country house. Willem was brought up in England but was sent to the Netherlands to complete his education, and subsequently resided chiefly on the continent. In 1733 he made an arranged marriage with the daughter of a German count, and to eliminate the disparity in their social status, Willem purchased the title of Count from the Holy Roman Emperor for himself and all his descendants. The marriage was unhappy, and after a few years his wife began having affairs, leading to a separation in 1738 and a formal divorce in 1743. Before the collapse in their relationship, the couple produced two sons, the elder of whom became their heir to their continental property, while the younger received the Norfolk estate. This was Capt. Johann Albrecht Bentinck (1737-75), who anglicised his forenames to John Albert, probably on joining the Royal Navy in 1752. His family connections and his part in a successful naval action in 1758 won him accelerated promotion to Captain, but his career was more notable for his technological innovations in sails, rigging and naval pumps. He also had a parallel career in politics, becoming MP for Rye, 1761-68, but this seems to have been at his father's instigation, and he showed no real aptitude or interest in politics. After his marriage in 1763 he rented a house (Ongar Hill otherwise Hunger Hill) at Chertsey (Surrey) and later lived in London. He was never resident on his estate at Terrington St Clement, but he took sufficient interest in it to undertake major land reclamation works there in the 1770s which almost doubled the size of his holding. 

Capt. Bentinck died aged just thirty-eight in 1775, leaving as heir his eldest son, Vice-Adm. William Bentinck (1764-1813), who like his father joined the Royal Navy at an early age and benefited from accelerated promotion, achieving Captain's rank in 1783 at the age of nineteen. In the late 1780s he took a break from active service to travel in the Netherlands and the Baltic, where his continental connections gave him an entrĂ©e into both the Swedish and Russian courts, before visiting France at a dangerous time during the revolutionary years. He then returned to active service but retired in 1795, taking up the Governorship of St Vincent and the Grenadines, 1798-1802. On his return to England he married the daughter of the 1st Earl Manvers, and the couple seemed to have lived with his wife's parents at Thoresby Hall (Notts), although he probably spent some time on his estate in Norfolk as he was commander of the Norfolk sea fencibles from 1805. On the Continent, Napoleon's victories over Russia and Sweden had resulted in treaties under which those countries closed to British trade, leading to the Anglo-Russian and Anglo-Swedish wars. In 1812, Bentinck's knowledge of the Baltic and his connections to the Russian and Swedish courts saw him selected as an emissary to engage in 'shuttle diplomacy' between Stockholm and St Petersburg to end these wars and bring the Russians and Swedes back into a united front against Napoleonic France, a mission which he accomplished, although he died of typhus in St Petersburg before he could return to England, leaving a young widow with three sons and a daughter. His wife married again and had a further daughter, moving the family to Devon. 

Admiral Bentinck's property seems to have been divided between his children. His eldest son, George William Pierrepont Bentinck (1803-86), inherited the Terrington St Clement estate, while Doorwerth Castle in the Netherlands may have been held in trust for them jointly until it was sold in 1837. The second son, Henry Paget Aldenburgh Bentinck (1805-40) died soon afterwards, and the proceeds of the sale seem to have chiefly benefited the youngest son, Charles Aldenburgh Bentinck (1810-91), who was in a position to buy the Indio House estate in the 1840s, and to rebuild the house there in 1850-52. G.W.P. Bentinck became a long-serving MP for West Norfolk, and held old-fashioned Tory views that gave him hardly more sympathy with his own front bench than with his Liberal opponents. He was unmarried, and so when he died, aged eighty-three, his Norfolk estate passed to his surviving younger brother Charles, and was bequeathed with Indio House to the latter's only surviving son, Henry Aldenburgh Bentinck (1852-1938), who trained as a barrister but led the life of a country gentleman in Devon. He was married but had no children, and left all his property to his widow, who sold it in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War.

Indio House, Bovey Tracey, Devon

The estate was reputedly the site of a nunnery from the 12th century, but at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s it was a grange belonging to St John's Hospital, Bridgwater (Som.), and there seems to be no real evidence of monastic occupation. In 1544 it was granted jointly to John Southcott (1481-1556) - a steward of monastic property and the tenant since 1531 - and his relation, Sir John Tregonwell (d. 1565) - who as one of the commissioners to visit monasteries ahead of the dissolution process had assessed the wealth of St. John's Hospital. The latter was presumably involved in the purchase as a middle man to assist Southcott, who went on to adapt the existing buildings into a 'fayre house', which his descendants occupied for several generations. By the mid 18th century the house had slipped down the social ladder somewhat, and the then owner, George Tufnell, established a pottery in the grounds, which Josiah Wedgwood visited a decade later and described as "a poor trifling concern & conducted in a wretched slovenly manner". It was said to be insolvent in 1785 but matters evidently improved, as in 1836, when the estate was for sale, it was described as 'a  valuable delft or porcelain manufactory which has been advantageously conducted during the last century'.

Indio House: drawing by Elizabeth Croker, 1844. Image: Devon Archives & Local Studies 2160A add 7PZ4.
The house was 'a capital manor house... comprising a comfortable and spacious dwelling house and all convenient outbuildings and offices, productive gardens, and 93 acres of rich orchard and pasture land', but it was evidently not fit for gentry occupation, since it 'might... easily resume its original character as a first-rate Gentleman's residence'. In 1843 it was said to be built of granite, and was approached by three avenues, and the interior preserved 'some specimens of antique carving'. The earliest visual record seems to be the drawing of 1844 by Elizabeth Croker which shows a Tudor house with a two-storey porch with a hall and cross-wing to the left, while the bay to the right of the porch is labelled 'supposed chapel'; a chapel is also mention in the sale particulars of the previous year. At the rear of the building, a pyramid-roofed tower can be seen, perhaps the top of a staircase tower.

Indio House: entrance front as rebuilt, 1850-51. Image: Andrew Charles
There is a story, recorded by Hugh Meller, that the Tudor house at Indio burned down soon after it was acquired by C.A. Bentinck in the mid 1840s, but the sale particulars of 1843 already refer to the 'opportunity for a gentleman of taste, aided by his Architect, [to] expend very advantageously a few hundred pounds' on improving the house, and there are no press reports of a fire at this time. It seems likely that Bentinck simply decided to pull down the old house and build a new one, keeping to the Tudor style of its predecessor, which was said to be 'nearly completed' in November 1851. His architect was the Exeter church specialist, David Mackintosh, whose plans remain in the house. It is built of limestone rubble with granite quoins and window openings in Bath stone. The main front faces south-west and is an irregular E-shape, with a central porch, a bay window to its left, and a cross-wing to the right. The service accommodation lay to the left of the porch, while the three reception rooms were in the cross-wing and faced south-east. Between the family rooms and the service end stood the main stair hall, with a ribbed and coved ceiling, under which rises an open-well staircase. The hall and upper landing have two old beams, said to have been reused from the previous house. On the first floor, there were eight bedrooms as well as four staff rooms. In the early 20th century, a notable garden was created around the house, with extensive orchid and peach houses, a vinery, stove house and carnation house, as well as the walled garden, rose garden and a water feature, but none of this survives today. The estate was sold with 400 acres in 1939 after the death of H.A. Bentinck, and during the war it was occupied first by refugees and later by American troops. It subsequently changed hands several times before being divided into flats. The estate buildings and walled garden were sold off in the 1950s and repurposed for housing. A planning application was submitted in the 1990s for the development of the main house as a tourist attraction, but this was refused and the house is now once more in private occupation.

Descent: Crown sold 1544 to John Southcott (1481-1556); to son, Thomas Southcote (1528-1600); to son, George Southcot (b. 1560); to son, Thomas Southcote; to son, Sir Popham Southcote (1603-43); to daughters, as co-heirs...Sir John Stawell (d. 1669); to son, William Stawell; to son, William Stawell; sold to Christopher Bale; sold to George Tufnell (fl. 1766); sold to Mr. Steer... Joseph Steer sold c.1844 to Charles Aldenburg Bentinck (1810-91); to son, Henry Aldenburg Bentinck (1852-1938); sold 1939... R.W. Hewstone (fl. 1951).. sold to R. Henderson (fl. 1962)...sold 1964 to Alfred Edward Whybrow; to daughter, wife of [forename unknown] Nakorn; sold 1999; sold 2007.

Bentinck family of Indio House

Willem Bentinck (1704-74),
1st Count Bentinck 
Bentinck, Hon. Willem (1704-74), 1st Count Bentinck.
Elder son of Gen. Hans Willem Bentinck (1649-1709), 1st Earl of Portland, and his second wife, 
Jane Martha (1672-1751), Maid of Honour and later Governess to the daughters of King George II, sixth daughter of Sir John Temple, kt. of East Sheen (Surrey) and widow of John Berkeley (c.1663-97), 3rd Baron Berkeley of Stratton, born 6 November and baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), 9 November 1704. Although born and spending his early years in England, he was sent to the Netherlands in 1719 to complete his education at the Universities of Leiden and The Hague, before undertaking a Grand Tour, 1725-28. He purchased the title of Count Bentinck of the Holy Roman Empire by the Emperor Charles VI in 1732 to facilitate his intended marriage. A politician and diplomat in the service of Prince William IV of Orange (1711-51), he was one of the leading delegates of the Dutch Republic at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, but his influenced waned after Prince William's death. He married, 1 June 1733 (sep. 1738; div. 1743), Countess Charlotte Sophie (1715-1800), only daughter and heiress of Anthony II, Count of Aldenburg, Sovereign Lord of Kniphausen, Varel etc., and had issue:
(1) Christian Frederick Anthony Bentinck, Count Bentinck de Varel (1734-68), born 15 August 1734; succeeded his mother as lord of Kniphausen and Varel under a family arrangement of 1754; married, 5 October 1760, Baroness Maria Catherine (1743-93), eldest daughter of John, Baron de Tuyll de Serooskerken, and had issue two sons (the elder of whom became 2nd Count Bentinck on his grandfather's death in 1774); died 1 April 1768;
(2)  Capt. John Albert Bentinck (1737-75) (q.v.); 
He inherited some of his father's Dutch estates (Rhoon and Pendrecht) and his property at Terrington St Clement (Norfk), but lived largely in the Netherlands. His wife brought him further property at Kniphausen and Varel (Germany) which she attempted to recover after their divorce, resulting in expensive legal actions which eventually secured his elder son's title to the property.
He died 13 October 1774 and was buried in the family vault at Rhoon (Netherlands). His widow died 5 February 1800 and was buried at Schlosskirche Cemetery, Hamburg (Germany).

Capt. John Albert Bentinck (1737-75)  
Bentinck, Capt. John Albert (1737-75).
Younger son of Hon. William Bentinck (1704-74), 1st Count Bendinck, and his wife 
Countess Charlotte Sophie (1715-1800), only daughter and heiress of Anthony II, Count of Aldenburg, Sovereign Lord of Kniphausen, Varel etc., born at The Hague (Netherlands), 29 December 1737. He joined the Royal Navy in 1752 (Midshipman, 1753; Lt., 1757; Cdr., 1758; Capt., 1758; retired 1773), and was 'esteemed an active and vigilant officer'. He was also a man of considerable mechanical abilities, who invented several improvements to sails and rigging, and an improved chain pump which was widely adopted in the Navy. His father induced the Duke of Newcastle to secure his election as Whig MP for Rye, 1761-68, but he was inattentive to the needs of his constituents who made it clear that they did not wish him to stand again; he stood instead for Callington (Cornw), but was defeated and did not trouble the electors again. In the 1770s he instigated an extensive programme of land reclamation at Terrington St. Clement, where the resulting new farms were given names reflective of the family's history (Bentinck Farm, Welbeck Farm, Rhoon Farm, Pierrepont Farm). He married, 17 July 1763, Renira (1744-92), second daughter of John, Baron van Tuyll de Serooskerken, Baron de Tuyll, and had issue:
(1) Vice-Adm. William Bentinck (1764-1813) (q.v.);
(2) Sophia Henrietta Bentinck (1765-1852), born 21 June and baptised at St Marylebone (Middx), 20 July 1765; married, 11 December 1791, Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Hawkins-Whitshed (1762-1849), 1st bt., GCB, son of Rt. Rev. Dr. James Hawkins, Bishop of Raphoe, and had issue two sons and four daughters; died in London, 20 January, and was buried at Terrington St. Clement, 27 January 1852;
(3) Margaret Mary Bentinck (1767-69?), born 9 April and baptised at Chertsey (Surrey), 6 May 1767; said to have died in infancy, 1769;
(4) Charlotte Frances Bentinck (1768-1850), born 28 May and baptised at Chertsey (Surrey), 22 June 1768; married, 12 November 1785 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster (Middx), Sir Robert Shore Milnes (1754-1837), 1st bt., Governor of Martinique, 1795-97 and Lieutenant Governor of Lower Canada, 1797-1807, son of John Milnes of Wakefield (Yorks WR), and had issue four sons and two daughters; died at Tunbridge Wells (Kent), 22 July 1850; administration of goods granted in the PCC, September 1850;
(5) twin, Harriet Elizabeth Bentinck (1770-1806), born 9 January and baptised at Chertsey, 10 January 1770; married, 3 April 1804 at St Marylebone (Middx), Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Martin GCB (1764-1847) (who m2, 2 June 1815, Ann Locke (d. 1842)), son of William Martin, but died without issue, 15 October 1806;
(6) twin, Elizabeth Bentinck (b. & d. 1770), born 9 January and baptised at Chertsey, 10 January 1770, but died the same day and was buried at Chertsey, 10 January 1770;
(7) Rev. John Bentinck (1771-1804), born 9 September and baptised at St Margaret, Westminster (Middx), 1 October 1771; educated at Trinity Hall (admitted 1788), Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1790) and Worcester College, Oxford (matriculated 1793; BA 1795; MA 1797); ordained deacon and priest, 1795; curate of Eynsham (Oxon), 1795; vicar of Sutton-upon-Lound and Scrooby (Notts), 1802-04; died unmarried of dysentry at Paris (France), 16 June 1804;
(8) Charles John Bentinck (1773-80), born 5 December 1773 and baptised at St Margaret, Westminster, 20 January 1774; died young and was buried at Terrington St. Clement, 13 May 1780;
(9) Henry Savile Bentinck (1775-76), born 10 June and baptised at St Margaret, Westminster, 20 July 1775; died in infancy and was buried at Terrington St. Clement, 14 March 1776.
In the 1760s he lived at Ongar Hill, Chertsey (Surrey), which he seems to have rented. He inherited his father's estate at Terrington St. Clement in 1774, but was involved in land reclamation there in his father's lifetime.
He died 23 September 1775 and was buried at Terrington St. Clement; his will was proved 28 September 1775. His widow was buried at Terrington St. Clement, 13 June 1792; her will was proved in the PCC, 26 July 1792.

Vice-Adm. William Bentinck (1764-1813)
by George Romney
(Image: Royal Museums Greenwich)  
Bentinck, Vice-Adm. William (1764-1813).
Elder son of Capt. John Albert Bentinck (1737-75) and his wife Renira, second daughter of John, Baron de Tuyll de Serooskerken, born 17 June and baptised at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster (Middx), 29 June 1764. An officer in the Royal Navy (Lt., 1782; Capt., 1783; Rear-Adm, 1805; Vice-Adm., 1810), whose accelerated promotion was no doubt due to his kinship with the Dukes of Portland. Having joined the Navy at an early age, he spent several years in the late 1780s, while on half-pay, travelling for his education in the Netherlands, Denmark and Russia, and later in France, then in the grip of revolution. His travels gave him a knowledge of the Baltic in particular which was later called on by the Royal Navy. He was back on active service, 1793-95, but then retired. Governor of St Vincent & the Grenadines, 1798-1802; Commander of the Norfolk Sea Fencibles, 1803-05. In 1812 he seems to have been employed by 
Vice-Admiral Sir James Saumarez, the commander-in-chief in the Baltic, as an emissary to negotiate an end to the Anglo-Swedish and Anglo-Russian wars. This he was in a position to do because of his connections with the Russian and Swedish courts, and it enabled a united front to the formed against Napoleon's advance into Russia. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1797. He married, 20 October 1802 at Perlethorpe (Notts), Lady Frances Augusta Eliza (1781-1847), only daughter of Charles Pierrepont (1737-1816), 1st Earl Manvers, and had issue:
(1) George William Pierrepont Bentinck (1803-86) (q.v.);
(2) William Newark Banks Aldenburgh Bentinck (1804-07), born 16 November and baptised at Edwinstowe (Notts), 18 December 1804; died young and was buried at Terrington St. Clement, 10 August 1807;
(3) Henry Paget Aldenburgh Bentinck (1805-40), born 2 November and baptised at Perlethorpe (Notts), 9 December 1805; educated at Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1824; BA 1828); visited New York (USA) with his brother Charles, 1833; died 26 January and was buried at Terrington St Clement, 6 February 1840; will proved in the PCC, 19 February 1840;
(4) William Aldenburgh Bentinck (1807-08?), born 29 October and baptised at Thoresby in Edwinstowe (Notts), 25 November 1807; said to have died in infancy, 27 March 1808;
(5) twin, John Aldenburgh Bentinck (b. & d. 1808), born 29/31 October 1808; died in infancy, 17 November 1808;
(6) twin, William Aldenburgh Bentinck (b. 1808), born 29/31 October 1808; died in infancy;
(7) Charles Aldenburgh Bentinck (1810-91) (q.v.);
(8) Renira Henrietta Aldenburgh Bentinck (1811-68), born 18 March 1811 and baptised at Thoresby in Edwinstowe (Notts), 21 January 1812; married, 21 July 1842 at St Marylebone (Middx), as his second wife, Rev. George Martin (1791-1860), rector of Harberton (Devon) and canon residentiary of Exeter Cathedral, and had issue two sons and three daughters; lived latterly at Severn Grange, Claines (Worcs); died 16 January and was buried at Harberton, 21 January 1868; will proved 14 March 1868 (effects under £40,000).
He inherited his father's estate at Terrington St. Clement in 1775, and came of age in 1785. In 1800 he inherited the Doorwerth estate in the Netherlands from his grandmother, Charlotte Sophie, Countess Bentinck. After his marriage he seems to have lived with his in-laws at Thoresby Park (Notts).
He died of typhus in St Petersburg (Russia), 21 February 1813, but his body was returned to England and buried at Terrington St. Clement, 18 July 1813; his will was proved in the PCC, 15 May 1813. His widow married 2nd, 30 July 1821 at Hitcham (Bucks), Capt. Henry William Stephens (c.1781-1857), and had further issue one daughter, and died 10 February 1847.

Bentinck, George William Pierrepont (1803-86). Eldest son of Vice-Adm. William Bentinck (1764-1813) and his wife Lady Frances Augusta Eliza, only daughter of Charles Pierrepont, 1st Earl Manvers, born 17 July 1803. An old-fashioned protectionist Tory in politics, he stood for Parliament unsuccessfully in the Kendal constituency, 1843, but was elected MP for West Norfolk, 1852-65, 1871-84. He was rather affectionately caricatured as 'Big Ben' in Vanity Fair, 1871, which noted that 'his political principles are so obsolete in the present day that no party can be found ready to give effect to them', and his trenchant excoriation of both front benches was 'too well-founded in truth to be easily disposed of'; he is said to have been personally one of the most popular members of the House. JP and DL for Norfolk. He was an ardent supporter of field sports and a noted yachtsman. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited his father's estate at Terrington St. Clement in 1813 and came of age in 1824.
He died in London, 20 February 1886 and was buried at Terrington St. Clement; his will was proved 3 February 1887 (effects £72,926).

Bentinck, Charles Aldenburgh (1810-91). Seventh, but third surviving, son of Vice-Adm. William Bentinck (1764-1813) and his wife Lady Frances Augusta Eliza, only daughter of Charles Pierrepont, 1st Earl Manvers, born 22 March and baptised at St Marylebone, 1 May 1810. Educated at Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1829). In 1833 he visited New York (USA) with his elder brother Henry. JP for Devon. He was 'of commanding presence and marked personality' and was a Tory in politics, being 'averse to all novelties in matters of Church or State, [and] holding conscientiously and somewhat stiffly to his own opinions', but with a courtesy and respect for the sincerity of other views that prevented any bitterness in his disagreements. He married 1st, 10 May 1849, Harriet (1818-53), third daughter of Baldwin Fulford of Great Fulford (Devon), and 2nd, 20 January 1858 at Llangerniew (Denbighs.), Frances (1816-1904), second daughter of Capt. Martin Williams of Bryngwyn Hall (Montgomerys.), and had issue:
(1.1) William Fulford Aldenburgh Bentinck (1850-62), born 13 May and baptised at Harberton (Devon), 18 June 1850; died young, 9 March, and was buried at Bovey Tracey, 13 March 1862;
(1.2) Henry Aldenburgh Bentinck (1852-1938) (q.v.).
He seems to have inherited a share in the Doorwerth estate in the Netherlands from his father, and came of age in 1831. The family sold Doorwerth in 1837 and he bought Indio House, Bovey Tracey (Devon) in the 1840s and rebuilt the house in 1850-52. He inherited the Terrington St Clement estate from his elder brother in 1886.
He died 7 February and was buried at Bovey Tracey, 12 February 1891; his will was proved 9 June 1891 (effects £32,832). His first wife died 15 March 1853 and was buried at Bovey Tracey, where she is commemorated by a mural tablet. His widow died 25 January 1904; her will was proved 14 April 1904 (estate £11,345).

Bentinck, Henry Aldenburgh (1852-1938). Second, but only surviving, son of Charles Aldenburgh Bentinck (1810-91) and his first wife, Harriet, third daughter of Baldwin Fulford of Great Fulford (Devon), born 7 January and baptised at Highweek (Devon), 11 February 1852. Educated at Exeter College, Oxford (matriculated 1871; BA 1874) and Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1873; called 1877). Barrister-at-law. High Sheriff of Devon, 1918-19; JP and DL for Devon and DL for Norfolk (from 1891). He married, 9 July 1890 at Holy Trinity, Brompton (Middx), Alma Martha (1854-1947), eldest daughter of Adm. Lord Clarence Edward Paget GCB (1811-95), but had no issue.
He inherited Indio House and the Terrington St Clement estate from his father in 1891, but they were sold by his widow after his death. His widow lived latterly in Cadogan Square, Knightsbridge (Middx).
He died 28 April 1938 and was buried at Dunsford (Devon); his will was proved 26 July and 2 September 1938 (estate £209,654). His widow died aged 92 on 7 March 1947; her will was proved 3 July 1947 (estate £290,249).

Principal sources

Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 2003, pp. 3185-87; H. Meller, The country houses of Devon, 2015, pp. 551-52; History of Parliament biography of John Albert Bentinck (1737-75);

Location of archives

No significant archive is known to survive, although there are some letters and papers of the earlier generations of the family among the archives of the Dukes of Portland at Nottingham University [Pl, Pw]

Coat of arms

Azure, a cross moline argent.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone provide fuller information about the ownership history of Indio House since 1939?
  • Can anyone provide photographs or 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 January 2024.