Phillip Benton

Photo:Phillip Benton's Grave

Phillip Benton's Grave

Mave Sipple & Richard Kirton

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Phillip Benton' page

Mave Sipple & Richard Kirton

Local Historian

By Mave Sipple

Go directly to the Comments section

Phillip Benton was the third of six children, born to Samuel and Charlotte (nee Sawell). Phillip was born in 1815 and the family lived at North Shoebury Hall.

When he was 22, he acquired an estate of 28 acres in Little Wakering

In 1843, he married Eliza Squires. The couple lived in Beauchamps, Shopland and had eight children.

After 23 years at Beauchamps they moved to Little Wakering Hall, as tenants of Sir John Tyrell.

Benton‘s passion was local history, and he roamed the countryside collecting information about the villages, farms, and people. By 1876, the first instalment of The History of the Rochford Hundred was published by Arthur Harrington, chemist and shop owner. It was printed by Jabez Francis of Rochford.

The history was written alphabetically beginning with Ashingdon and was a detailed description of the churches, people and landmarks of all the towns and villages in the Rochford Hundred.

Phillip’s work has been a valuable source of information for local historians. Without his books, our knowledge of the area would be greatly reduced and for this we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Benton’s mother died in 1874 and was buried in the church yard in North Shoebury. The same year, his wife died and she was buried in Shopland.

Four years later, Phillip married Elizabeth Warren and the couple moved to Shoebury Hall.

Phillip became ill and very frail, and he moved to Victoria Villa in Whitegate Road, Southend. He died in 1898, aged 83, and is buried in Shopland.

We visited the site of Benton’s grave; many of Benton’s family are buried in a family grave adjacent to Phillip and his two wives.

This page was added by Mave Sipple on 09/03/2013.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

As local historians we do indeed owe a debt of gratitude to Philip Benton and I am convinced his work was the best that could have been done with the information he had available in 1864. 

However Benton drew heavily on the previous 1740 work ‘History of Essex’ by Nathaniel Salmon. But Salmon had in turn based his work on William Holman’s unpublished 1720 ‘History of Essex’. It would appear that Benton did not have access to Holman’s original text in 1864 as he only used the sections of Holman’s work that are in Salmon’s later publication and as a result copied the several errors of interpretation made by Salmon! It would also appear that neither Benton nor Salmon had a good understanding of heraldic symbolism and this did not help when coats of arms were described by Benton using Salmon as a source of information.

Today Holman’s 1720 original hand written text survives in the Essex Records office for all to read. It contains much information that was not included in Salmon’s work and there are several instances where Salmon missed out commas or even the word ‘possibly’ changing a superstition on Holman’s part in to a ‘fact’ copied by subsequent authors!

This is in no way intended to belittle Benton’s work as I said he did the best job possible with what he had.

Today there is just so much more information quickly available to a historian. Almost all the medieval royal court rolls are available and searchable on-line, along with many other documents and virtually every history book written before 1913!

It is now possible in many cases to check Benton’s information and even to fill in the blanks in terms of landownership and family details when Benton is a bit vague or when he leaves gaps of, in some cases, several hundred years.

Having done this for Canewdon I have found the vast majority of the information in Benton is correct, with a few glaring errors, mainly when copying Salmon, and in most cases a lack of individual family detail.

So in summery I consider Benton’s work to be a very good starting point in any historical investigations, but anyone using it as a direct source of information will need to trace his sources before quoting them as fact!

 B. Meldon

By B. Meldon
On 25/11/2013
Add a comment about this page

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.