According to Dr. John Campbell, Admiral Benbow left a widow and several children of both sexes. His sons apparently died without issue and so,
“his two surviving daughters became co-heiresses of whom the eldest married Paul Calton, Esq. of Milton near Abingdon in Berkshire, the gentleman so often mentioned in the course of this article, and who deceased very lately at his seat before mentioned.” (Biographia, p.688)
Campbell’s information about the Admiral’s children appears to have been derived solely from Paul Calton and lacks much detail. It is particularly interesting that he fails to mention the names of two of the Admiral’s sons and stresses the daughters were coheiresses. His information that the sons all died childless is questionable and may be derived from self-interest.
The Admiral’s will of 1701 is much more specific. In it he provides for his wife Martha and then lists five children: John , William , Richard , Martha , and Katherine . All were to receive equal shares of the Admiral’s estate. The sons were to receive their shares at age 21 and the daughters at age 21 or the day of their marriage. He further stipulated that if any died their share would go to the surviving brothers and sisters equally. Also, he added that if each share amounted to above 1000 pounds apiece, then the surplus was to be divided amongst his sons equally.
This will was proved on March 10, 1703 so the estate was settled at that time to the extent that it could be, given the ages of the children and their where-abouts. Trustees were named to manage the estate until the children each came of age and see that it was distributed equally. We may deduce from the will that it was considerable, given that he saw each son receiving a minimum of 1000 pounds after the annuity had been established for his wife. It should be noted that as well as his Admiral’s salary of 2 pounds 10 shillings a day he also received 1/8 of the value of all prizes taken under his command. The West Indies during the war years were particularly rewarding in this fashion.
WIDOW MARTHA BENBOW
The Admiral’s wife Martha survived him 20 years, dying on December 1722 in Deptford. She received from the will an annuity of seventy pounds a year free of all taxes and charges, paid out of the interest on a mortgage of 2500 pounds on a property called Greenlands, in Hambleton Buckinghamshire. This annuity was to cease if she remarried. She also received all the household effects, on the condition they would be distributed equally among the surviving children upon her death. After the Admiral’s death she petitioned the Admiralty for a pension and received 200 pounds per annum as a result of an order in Council dated 18 February, 1703. (Adm1/5149) The records of Naval Pensions indicate that she received this pension of £200 each year until the time of her death, “in consideration of the services and merit of her husband John Benbow Esq. who died of his wounds received in a fight with the French in the West Indies”. (Adm.181/1) For some unknown reason she again petitioned the Admiralty in 1711. (State Papers, Dom. 1711) It is believed she continued to live in Deptford and was buried in St. Nicholas Church. In her will dated November 20, 1721 she distributed her estate equally between her son William Benbow and her daughter Katharine Benbow.
Callender and Britton, in their 1944 article on Admiral Benbow in the Mari-ners’ Mirror suggest that after the Admiral’s death, Katherine , about fifteen at the time, naturally resided with her mother and tenderly cared for her until the time of her death.
KATHERINE BENBOW CALTON
Katherine is thought to have been born in 1687, according to Blakeway and Owen who developed a pedigree for the Admiral in 1825. However, Callender and Britton suggest she was born in 1694, according to parish records of St. Nicholas Dept-ford, which would make her only eight at the time of her father’s death. They further speculate that she and her mother must have paid occasional visits to their country house at Milton and that upon her mother’s death in 1722 she moved permanently to Milton. There she continued her acquaintance with the owner of the Manor, Paul Calton and married him in 1723. The marriage is recorded in the parish records of St. Peter’s, Cornhill, London. This corrects an earlier error of Blakeway and Owen who placed her marriage in 1709. Callender and Britton further speculate that her attractiveness to Paul Calton may have been her wealth. The history of the Caltons is one of bankruptcies and mortgages dating back to Paul’s grandfather. Interestingly Paul’s marriage to Catherine would have restored the Dower house to the main estate. As well, in 1723 Paul Calton and Katherine his wife mortgaged the manor to William Benbow, her brother, and Benjamin Fuller. (Victoria History, p.363)
Paul Calton’s financial difficulties often created legal repercussions. In 1728 he is referred to in a suit brought against William Benbow wherein an elderly lady appears to have had her funds diverted from her natural heirs. Paul Calton is sited by William as an attorney-at-law who assisted him in advising the lady in question as to how best to utilize her funds. (C11/1208/52, London Record Office, Chancery Lane) In 1733 an action at Edinburgh between Paul Calton the Younger and Francis Abercromby and John Rochet concerned the discharge of a gambling debt. (Exchequer Depositions, 7 George II, Mich. 11)
It is likely that Dr. Campbell visited the Caltons in 1742 seeking information for his biography of the Admiral. At that time Catherine was the Admiral’s sole surviving child, and so the repository of the family history, traditions, and heirlooms. It is particularly noteworthy that Campbell so confused the details of the information he received from Catherine that he referred to her as the eldest of the Admiral’s daughters when in fact she was 10 years Martha ‘s junior. It is to this sloppiness that Callender and Britton attribute the source of some Benbow errors, rather than misrepresentation by the Caltons.
A year later, in 1743 Paul Calton died, and on May 24, 1744 Katherine was granted the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administration of her husband’s estate. Callender and Britton report she died that year aged 57 and left five children: two sons, Paul and Benbow, and three daughters, Catherine, Martha, and Mary. She and her husband had donated a silver Alms Dish to the local Milton Church, bearing the Benbow Arms which survives to this day and was given to commemorate the visit of Peter the Great and Admiral Benbow of 1698. Paul Calton Junior, died in 1752 and left the estate to his three sisters. (PCC Bettesworth 60, London Society of Genealogists) The Milton estate was sold in 1764 by Catherine, Martha, and Mary Calton, spinsters, to Isaac Barrett. However, the Victoria County History records that the Admiral’s sword and telescope were preserved in Milton House. (p.362)
Milton House still stands in its stately grounds, now much enlarged from the Admiral’s time. Its present owner, Mrs. Margaret Mockler, opens the Manor to the public on week-ends from Easter to the end of October. The original house built by Thomas Calton in 1663 was a simple redbrick square, three stories high, capped by a sloping roof with four elevations absolutely equal and with the front and back identical. Extensive wings were added when the house was sold to Isaac Barrett. Mrs. Mockler reports that Isaac actually bought the home for his brother Bryant Barrett, who being Catholic was unable to make the purchase. Bryant added a private Roman Catholic Chapel. The Admiral’s telescope is still on view but the sword has disappeared. The Dower house once owned by Admiral Benbow is now the site of the Admiral Benbow Inn. This Inn contains an excellent copy of the Kneller portrait of Benbow, commissioned by Mrs. Mockler. The Manor overlooks the ancient parish church of St. Blaise, Milton. Here one can still view the silver Alms dish with the Benbow Coat of Arms donated by Katherine in memory of her father.
Blakeway and Owen give John’s birth as 1681 and his death November 27, 1708, and show him as unmarried. The Dictionary of National Biography indicates he joined the navy as a volunteer on June 29, 1695, at about age 15, and served on the Northumberland . The Register of Commissions and Warrants (Adm.6 Index) indicates John was recommissioned as a Volunteer on March 3 1697 to the Lancaster, then on March 21, 1697 to the Cornwall and on April 5, 1697 he joined what had been his father’s flagship that winter, the Shrewsbury . The “Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy” records that John was commissioned as a Lieutenant on 7 March 1700 and served on the Margaret . However, he did not remain but chose the more lucrative employ of an East Indies merchant ship. Campbell’s account is as thus:
“He was intended by his father for a sea-man, and educated accordingly. His misfortunes began very early, viz. in the same year his father died in the West Indies; by being shipwrecked on the coast of Madagascar, where, after many dismal and dangerous adventures, he was reduced to live with, and in the manner of , the natives for many years, and at last, when he least expected it, he was taken on board by a Dutch Captain, out of respect to the memory of his father, and brought safe to England, when his relations thought him long since dead.” (Biographia, p.688)
His experiences had so devastated him that he became quite melancholy and withdrawn, though many sought him out to hear of his adventures. He composed a large account of his journey but this was later lost. Campbell states he died several years after his return to England without issue. The Dictionary of National Biography suggests that his constitution was broken by the hardships of his savage life and adds that he lived in Deptford for some years in very humble circumstances, and died 17 November 1708. An account of this adventure was also written by Robert Drury, another of the shipwrecked sailors who later escaped to England. This was published in 1729 as Madagascar and may have been a compilation of Benbow’s and Drury’s accounts worked up by Defoe. In his will he distributes about 1700 pounds amongst his sister Martha , her husband Thomas , their daughter Martha Stringer, his sister Katherine Benbow, and his brothers William Benbow and Richard Benbow. Katherine, William and Richard were all under 21 when the will was drawn up. The remainder of the estate he left to his mother. She proved the will on November 10, 1709.
He was buried in the Church of St. Nicholas Deptford in a family tomb located by the present alter. On it is engraved the Benbow coat of arms and the following inscription:
“Here lyeth ye Body of
John Benbow Elder Son
of Adm. John Benbow
viz. Admiral of Ye White
By Martha His wife
He died November ye 17, 1708
In ye 27th Year of His Age.”
Campbell does not mention William by name so gathered little if any informa-tion about him from the Calton’s. Parish records of St. Nicholas Deptford show William was baptised on 2 December, 1690. The Admiralty record of Commis-sions shows William was a Volunteer September 3, 1707, that is, an officer in training. The Commission is “for William Benbow (within the age) to be a Volunteer in the Burlington, Captain Thomas Mead, Commander.” (Adm 6/9) In the margin, in the column for sponsors is written “Duke of Leeds”. Now the Duke of Leeds, was Thomas Osborne, also known as the Earl of Danby, (b. February 20, 1632-d. July 26, 1712). He was a renown statesman who while chief minister to King Charles 11 organized the Tory Party in Parliament. As Lord High Treasurer in 1673-79 he is known to have enriched himself unscrupulously and so made many enemies. However, with uncanny foresight in 1677 he orchestrated the marriage of William of Orange to Princess Mary , daughter of James . He was instrumental in bringing William and Mary to the throne as one of the seven who signed the secret invitation which became the trigger to the whole Glorious Revolution. He personally raised northern England in support of William. His political career was ended with his impeach-ment in 1695 for taking a bribe from the East India Company. No doubt his wealth and influence were little affected. He would be a extremely significant sponsor to a young man. The Benbow family must have retained some credit to have such a promoter. The connection may have been forged by the Duke of Leeds son, Peregrine Osborne, who became the Marquis of Carmarthen, a favourite of Czar Peter. Admiral Benbow and Carmarthen served together in the Channel fleet and no doubt spent many hours together at Sayes Court in consultation with Peter the Great.
The Register of Commissions and Warrants (Adm.6 Index) lists William as a Volunteer in September 1707 and again on March 14, 1711 in the Bedford Galley.
For further information we are indebted to an acquaintance of William’s who was disappointed at Campbell’s lack of information and so wrote to the Gentleman’s Magazine in April, 1769. He suggests that Campbell’s oversight may have been due to his source being biased.
“Now there was (I am informed) not long before Mr. Benbow died, a misunder-standing between Mr. Calton and him, which might prejudice Mr. Calton against him.” (p.171-172)
One possible reason for this family conflict might be the 1728 lawsuit men-tioned in the section on Katherine , wherein William was sued by certain heirs of an elderly lady for financial advice he gave her. In his defence he named Paul Calton as the source of his advice.
The writer to the Gentleman’s Magazine wished to make up for Campbell’s deficiency by providing what he knew of William. It would seem William tired of shipboard life for this author states that about 1710 William was admitted as a clerk under the comptroller of the store-keepers accounts at the navy office, earning 50 pounds per year. This was a respectable income comparable to that of a master carpenter and about twice that of a school master. Obviously he was well educated and no doubt was aided to some degree by friends of his father, possibly again by the Duke of Leeds, as jobs such as this were given through patronage. Despite his good abilities and the memory of his father he received no promotions and so in 1723 resigned. His most prominent sponsor, the Duke of Leeds was long dead. Also, the writer indicates a personal unhappiness was thought to have hastened his decision. He fell in love with the daughter of an eminent brewer and applied to her father for his consent to court her. When the old man heard whose son he was he showed some interest but upon learning the young suitor’s salary he forbade any further action with the comment that he gave his own clerks more than that.
This must have quite devastated William for he never married and shortly thereafter resigned from the navy office. Interestingly he moved to the country and lived for some years with his sister and brother-in-law Mr. Calton, at Milton, near Abingdon in Berkshire. However, a few short years later they had a falling out:
“But by some disgust, (by what occasioned I know not) he left him, came up to London, and took lodgings in the city; where not long after, viz. in the beginning of April, 1729 he was seized with a violent fever, which carried him off in a few days.”
The writer adds some details about William having his brother John ‘s manuscript of his adventures in Madagascar. Apparently it was only a journal like those kept by every sea officer and not a large and extensive work as Campbell was led to believe. In 1714 William ‘s lodgings near Aldgate burned and he had only time to save himself and so lost his possessions, including this journal.
From Chancery records we learn that 1714 was a bad year for William in another respect. He was sued for repayment of money which he had borrowed for gaming, a problem he shared with his friend Paul Calton. (C11/3/2, London Record Office)
It is interesting that he started his employment as a Naval clerk shortly after the death of his brother John and left the position after receiving his inheritance from his mother in 1723. It was after this that he loaned mortgage money to Paul Calton and went to live with him and Katherine in Milton.
William was buried in 1728 or 1729 at St. Nicholas Deptford, near his mother, and would have been about 38. He died without a will and his estate went to his sister, Katherine Calton, and to a niece. The PCC Administration was granted to Katherine on 19 April 1729, and it indicates William Benbow was late of the Parish of St. Dunstan in the East London and was a bachelor.
The Gentleman’s Magazine writer describes William as follows:
“Mr. Benbow was of a strong athletic make…he was also a great proficient at cricket…He abhorred every thing that was mean and base, had much of his father’s bold and dauntless spirit, and could not be so supple as to cringe and fawn upon those in power; but, at the same time he was generous, courteous, and obliging to his friends. He was not addicted to any vice, had a just sense of religion, and good natural parts, not wholly uncultivated by learning.
Several of his letters, which are now lying before me, shew that he was able to converse with his friends ingeniously and politely. Mr. Benbow was fond of Epitaphs, and had made a large collection of them, both grave and humorous, with which he used frequently to amuse his friends.”
One of these was that of W. Lowndes, Secretary to the Treasury in Queen Ann’s Reign and perhaps suggests a side of William’s own character.
“No ways or means, against the tyrant Death
Could raise supplies to aid thy fund of breath,
O Lowndes, it is enacted, soon or late,
Each branch of nature must submit to fate:
Each member of that house where thou didst stand,
Intent on credit, with thy bill in hand,
Shall equally this imposition bear,
And in his turn be found deficient here;
But trust in heav’n, where surplasses of joy,
And endless produce, will all cares destroy;
And may’st thou there, when thy accounts are past,
Gain a quietus which shall ever last.”
MARTHA BENBOW SPRINGER ROBINSON
The Admiral’s eldest child was born in 1679 according to Blakeway and Owen. She married Thomas Stringer and then Samuel Robinson. The parish record of St. Botolph Without Aldgate shows Martha Benbow christened on April 8, 1684 with parents John Benbow and Martha. If born in 1679 she would have been 23 at the time of her father’s death. She is mentioned in her brother John ‘s will of 1708 as married to Thomas Stringer and they have a daughter Martha Stringer. After her death, her second husband, Samuel Robinson was granted the PCC Administration on July 14, 1719 which suggests she died some months earlier, at about age 38. She is described as a member of the parish of St. Steven Coleman Street, London, but died at Frilsom in Berkshire. Martha and Thomas Stringer had a daughter Martha who is mentioned in the will of her aunt Fra. Stringer of Stoke in the County of Darby. In this will dated 2 December 1727 Martha received 2000 pounds indicating her mother must have married into a wealthy family. (PCC Brook 64, Documents Section, London Society of Genealogists) One further point is of interest in this will: one of the witnesses is Richard Cowley. This is of some importance in tracing the Admiral’s third son Richard as I believe he may have married a young woman of this family.
The parish church of Babworth, Notinghamshire has an inscription commemorating Martha Stringer, the daughter of Thomas Stringer, who had married Martha Benbow, the daughter of Admiral Benbow.
Within the family vault of this church are deposited the remains of the REV. JOHN SIMPSON, late of Stoke Hall, in the county of Derby, who died the 5th day of April, in the year of our Lord, 1784, aged 85. Religion the most pure, learning the most profound, were his characteristics; every moral and social virtue he possessed and exercised in an eminent and amiable degree: he was honoured and beloved by all who knew him, so his death was universally lamented. Lady Bridgeman, his only surviving child, erects this monument in grateful remembrance of him. And also to the memory of her dear mother, who departed this life, in the year 1785, aged 75. She was the daughter of Thomas Stringer, Esq. of Deptford, in the county of Kent, and grandaughter of Admiral Benbow, of immortal memory. (The History of Retford in the County of Nottingham by John Piercy, 1828: http://www.nottshistory.org.uk/piercy1828/retford12.htm)
Historical material on the Admiral’s youngest surviving child is scarce. Blakeway and Owen give Richard’s birth as 1680 but this does not fit the evidence of his brother John’s will of 1708 which states Richard is not yet 21. Callender and Britton in a Corrigenda refer to parish records of St. Nicholas Deptford:
“It now appears that this Richard (born in 1680) must have died before the Benbows came to Deptford: for another son, baptized at St. Nicholas on 7 November, 1693, was then christened Richard. This child also must have died in infancy and is probably the ‘son of Captain John Benbow’ buried on 4 January 1694, though this entry is not as clear as it might be. On 19 August, 1696, a third son to be christened Richard was baptized at St. Nicholas Church: and this of course would be the youngest of the three surviving sons men-tioned in the Admiral’s Will.” (P.218)
The neighbouring parish of Stepney St. Dunstan records the marriage of Richard Benbow and Elizabeth Cow(t)ley on September 18, 1714. This is also listed in The Bishop of London’s Registry of Marriage Licences, but on September 16. This gives Richard’s age as 24 so does not match the 1696 christening. However the Cowley name is interesting in that it appears in connection with Richard’s niece, Martha Stringer. This couple have a daughter Elizabeth baptised on 5 August 1716 but then vanish from the parish records.
Richard is not mentioned in his mother’s will of 1722 so probably died prior to that date or had lost contact with the family. However, it is particular-ly noteworthy that no mention is made of any children of Richard.
An article appeared in the Leicester Mercury on October 21, 1926 in which Mr. Stewart Benbow claimed to be a descendent of the Admiral through his son Richard.
“‘It is through Richard that I trace my descent,’ said Mr. Benbow. ‘A few years ago I discovered that Richard, who fought as a captain under Marl-borough, was married at a small village in Wales. He had three sons and one daughter, but they carried only to the second generations, apart from that of Thomas Benbow.
Thomas had one son, James, who was born in 1755, and was the father of my grandfather–John Benbow–who, likewise, had only one son–my father, the late Dr. Benbow.'”
Mr. Stewart Benbow had in his possession a Benbow coat of arms consisting of two bent bows and arrows and a harpy with the words “Hostis, Honori Ianidra” (Envy is the enemy of Honour). He further stated that the Admiralty had posthumously awarded the Admiral 4000 pounds in prize money and this formed the nucleus of a fortune of a hundred million pounds still held by the State.
Callender and Britton refer to Mr. Henry Stuart Benbow’s claim as follows:
There died recently in Birmingham at the advanced age of 87, Henry Stuart Benbow, claiming direct descent from the Admiral’s eldest son, Richard, who, he stated, married a lady called Talbot, although proofs of the marriage could not be substantiated. Mr. H. S. Benbow was the happy owner of an armorial achievement, oil-paint on panel, which he claimed had descended to him from Admiral Benbow himself. The coat, however, showed marked differences from that engraved on the Milton Alms Dish, both bows and arrows being shown in reverse…the arrows with their points uppermost and the bows with their grips side by side and their strings contiguous to the arrows. From this piece of evidence it would appear that some other non-armigerous branch of the Benbow family, related or unrelated to the Admiral had ‘assumed’ arms with a ‘difference’ but without authority.” (p.140)
Stewart Benbow’s dream of the Benbow treasure is a common legend in many Benbow families. Archdeacon Hugh Owen was one of the first to make a reference to such a fortune, in his book SOME ACCOUNT OF THE ANCIENT AND PRESENT STATE OF SHREWSBURY, published in 1808. He states:
However, a great part of the Admiral’s fortune is said to lye in the Bank of England in the name of trustees among the unclaimed dividends. William Briscoe, hatter, an assistant of this corporation, who was living in 1748, was supposed to be his representative, but was unable to substantiate his pretencions. (p.420)
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.