Monday, February 27, 2017

Almost there

My book about Susan Mason and her family is finally complete and almost ready to launch. In fact it's already sitting on the Kindle Direct Publishing page on Amazon. Once I set a price, then hit the "publish" button, it will be on it's way into the world as an ebook. I'm just waiting for confirmation from a couple of people that they're happy for their names to appear on the acknowledgements page. No doubt I should have thought to ask them much sooner.

In the meantime, here's a preview of the wonderful cover that Katie Stewart designed for me. The image is a detail from a painting by S.T. Gill titled "Rundle St, 1845" showing a street scene from early Adelaide. You can see more of Katie's work at her website Magic Owl Design.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ben Bentley, Gentleman, part 2

Leeds Corn Exchange,
which Ben no doubt visited. Designed by
Cuthbert Brodrick and built in 1863.
Now home to a food emporium and boutique shops.
In my previous post about Ben Bentley I left the unfortunate gentleman languishing in Portland prison in Dorset, after he was arrested for embezzlement. So what became of him and his family?

Ben was released in December 1860, having shown "exemplary" behaviour while in prison. It seems that his time in penal servitude did not damage his reputation or his relationships irreparably. By the time of the census in April 1861 he was back with his family in Dewsbury in Yorkshire and was employed once more as a flour and corn agent (though perhaps not with the same employer). As time went on Ben became a corn dealer, and apparently did quite well for himself.

After the death of his wife Harriet in 1876, Ben married again, to a younger woman named Ann Dove (b 1835). He was still living in Dewsbury and working as a corn dealer in his seventies, but he seems to have retired after that. When he died in 1897 he left an estate of ₤474.11s.1d  (An adult male clerk could earn roughly ₤50 - ₤130 per annum according to newspaper advertisements at the time.) He was buried in the Friends burial ground in Wooldale, near Holmfirth in Yorkshire.

Ben and Harriet's children

Ben might have been pleased that all his sons went into white collar work or skilled trades. But his children had mixed fortunes when it came to money and marriage.

Typesetting using a traditional composing stick.
William, the eldest son (b 1840) became a letter press printer and worked on a weekly newspaper. He married Sarah Ellen Oates in the summer of 1864. By November 1865, according to an item in the Leeds Mercury, he was bankrupt. In 1874 he filed for divorce from Sarah on the grounds of adultery, after she had an affair with a neighbour. He remarried in 1877 to a Mrs Eliza Ann Leonard, but she died only two years later.

Ben and Harriet's eldest daughter Martha Ann (b 1844) died at the age of 16  in June 1861, less than six months after Ben's release from prison.

Ben's second son John Henry (b 1847) followed his brother William to the Friends (Quaker) school at Low Green in Rawdon. As I mentioned previously, the school was unusual for the time in being co-educational. He  became a solicitor's clerk in Huddersfield and married one of his classmates, Hannah Waddington, in 1868.

By the mid 1880's he had risen from being a solicitors' managing clerk to being a solicitor and he and his family were living in Cliffe House in Wooldale (which is possibly why Ben, his father, was buried there). In 1890 John was badly shaken and his left eye was damaged when the mail train in which he was travelling towards London collided with a goods train at Retford. He successfully sued the Great Northern Railway company the following year and was awarded  ₤1800 in damages. Despite this success, his life seemed to go from bad to worse from that point.

In 1898 he was declared bankrupt. In June 1900, in a case that was publicised all over the country,  he was struck off the roll as a solicitor for misappropriating clients' funds. Part of his defence was that he had been suffering from "mental derangement". By 1901 he was back to being a managing clerk in a solicitor's office.

I've already told the story of Ben and Harriet's third son,  Alfred Pearson Bentley (b 1849) in an earlier post. In the light of his childhood experiences and his family background, perhaps his later behaviour seems a little less incomprehensible. At another level it's difficult to understand how he could have abandoned his wife and children as he did, having experienced his own father's disappearance during his early childhood.

Ben and Harriet's younger daughter Harriet (b 1851) was no more fortunate in marriage than her brothers. Her first husband was a foundry worker named Barrett Butler. They married in 1871. Barrett died in 1884, leaving Harriet with four children.

In 1888 Harriet married John Inman, a widowed mechanic and labourer. They were together in Holbeck, near Leeds, in the 1891 census, but by the time the 1901 census was taken, Harriet had separated from Inman and was calling herself Harriet Butler again. She also claimed to be a widow, though Inman was still alive and living in the Holbeck Union workhouse.

The youngest son in Ben and Harriet's family, Walter Smith Bentley, seems to have been the most stable and unremarkable of the four sons (or at least he managed to keep his name out of the newspapers).  Walter was born in 1863, after Ben's release from prison. Like John Henry, he became a solicitor's clerk, but remained in that role for the rest of his life.

In 1887 he married Martha Gosnay at the Friends Meeting House in Dewsbury. They moved south, settling eventually in Stone in Staffordshire. After Martha's death in 1899 he married Ann Childs and they moved to Norfolk.  When he died in 1939 he was living near Shaftesbury in Dorset, not very far from Portland where his father had been in prison. It would be fascinating to know whether he was aware of his father's past connection with Dorset.

Image credits:
1. Leeds Corn Exchange © Copyright Chris Allen and licensed for reuse under
this Creative Commons Licence
2. Typesetting Image by Wilhei (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], 
via Wikimedia Commons