Monday, 24 September 2012

Bennetts of Grimsby

This apparently unremarkable unit on an industrial estate in the parish is the home of a company which has been operated by the same family for over two hundred years. Earlier this year the local paper reported a major new contract with Tesco and commented that the Bennett brothers who run it are the sixth generation of the family to do so. William Bennett, founder of the firm, was born in the eighteenth century, and he would have begun his working life when Grimsby was still a tiny port of 1500 people.

He had, among other children, three sons. James (1822-50) married Docea Wintringham (a member of another prominent Grimsby timber merchant family) but died young leaving her a widow with two small children. Henry (1827-1905) was to be one of Grimsby’s most prominent citizens; he was Mayor in the year it was granted County Borough status and was knighted as a result. Joseph (1829-1908) moved to a large house in Louth (the railway allowed an easy commute for Grimsby businessmen) and was MP for Gainsborough for two short periods. Members of their families keep turn up in this Blog

James’ widow Docea married as her second husband the Joseph Chapman whose fortune was also to be made as a timber merchant and whose legacy paid for the building of St Michael’s; the huge angel monument in the churchyard is in her memory. My wife has followed this through and unearthed the extraordinary story of this marriage. It took place in 1859 by license in a City of London church with the groom declaring himself to be of full age (he wasn’t – he was nineteen) as did the bride (in fact twelve years older than him) but at the time of the 1861 census three years later they were living apart and still declaring themselves to be ‘unmarried’ and a ‘widow’; it would be intriguing to know at what point their families and friends discovered that they had in fact been married secretly.

Sir Henry’s daughter Hilda married Edward Cordeaux of Great Coates; it is their son after whom Cordeaux School in Louth is named. Edward was the son of the ornithologist John Cordeaux (great nephew and heir of the Richard Taylor whose memorial is in St Nicolas’) and Agent for Sutton Estates in Great Coates after whom Cordeaux House in the village is named.

Joseph was the great great grandfather of the Bennett brothers who run the family firm today, and also, we discover, great great grandfather of their third cousin Paul who owns Brackenborough Hall. It was a remark of Paul Bennett’s at the Heritage Open Day there which set us off following this all up. He said that the Hall had been bought over a hundred years ago for a great uncle of his whose health had made him unable to continue in the family’s timber merchant business in Grimsby (the moment our attention was fully caught). The great uncle had died young so the Hall had passed to a brother - Paul’s grandfather.

Doubtless unknowingly I bump into other descendants of William Bennett every time I type about figures in Grimsby’s history, or, perhaps I do so every time I step outside my front door.

1 comment:

John Readman said...

HI I too am writing a blog and in it I mention Bennett's of Grimsby where a couple of members of my family were employed. John Arthur Wilson, was secretary of the company for at least 20 years, as was his son Brian. I am also sure that a John Robinson of Pelham Avenue, Grimsby was secretary of the company in the 1930's. His daughter Nellie Bowers married my grandfather Stan Doughty in 1907. Have you heard of either of them at all?

Thanks for the information of the company.