Richard Benyon, as a 12-year-old orphan, had entered service with the East India Company in 1710 and rose to become the governor of Fort George, later called Madras and now Chennai. He came home from India with a fortune of £75,000 (equivalent to some £9 million today) and a ship-load of diamonds, silver and ivory-inlaid furniture and bought an estate at Gidea in Essex. He married Mary Paulet as her second husband (his third wife) and they had a son, Richard, half-brother to Mary's son Paulet.
When Nathan Wrighte died in 1789, Paulet Wrighte’s half-brother Richard inherited Englefield but continued to live mostly at Gidea. Richard married Hannah Hulse and they had three sons and a daughter. When he died in 1796 the eldest son, another Richard, succeeded and became the first Benyon to make Englefield his principal residence, selling Gidea in 1802. He took the name de Beauvoir in 1822 when he inherited the de Beauvoir estate through his grandmother Mary Tyssen and married Elizabeth Sykes, daughter of Sir Francis Sykes of Basildon Park who, like Richard Benyon’s grandfather, had also had a successful career in India. It was under this Richard Benyon that the estate really began to move forwards and he built new roads taking traffic away from the village and began buying land from the smaller freeholders. He created the new deer park in front of the house, demolishing the old village in the process but building new houses a little distance away.
When Benyon de Beauvoir died childless in 1854 the estate passed to the second son of his sister Emma and her husband W H Fellowes. This son, yet another Richard, was required to take the name Benyon as a condition of inheritance. Richard Fellowes Benyon married Elizabeth Clutterbuck, daughter of a landowner from Watford, whose brother Arthur later became Rector of Englefield. Fellowes Benyon carried on the work started by his predecessor, building many more houses, not only in and around the village itself but in neighbouring villages for many miles around. He rebuilt the old churches in Englefield, Ufton and Mortimer and built a second, brand new one, in Mortimer Common as well to accommodate a growing population. He also built schools in the same three villages and Workmen's Clubs in Englefield and Mortimer. Long before the days of the NHS he paid for a nurse in the village and when Miss Winchcomb's mother had to make a series of visits to the hospital in reading he drove her there himself in a dog-cart.
Richard Fellowes Benyon and his wife had three daughters so on his death in 1897 the estate passed to his nephew James Herbert Fellowes, who also changed his name to Benyon. James Herbert married Edith Walrond who was made GBE in 1918 for her work supporting the Royal Berkshire Hospital and in running the war hospital at Englefield House, but died only a year later.
Their son Henry succeeded on the death of his father in 1935. Heavy death duties were levied but these were paid from the proceeds of the sale of South Ockenden Hall in Essex, bought by Benyon de Beauvoir in 1849, and other Essex estates, leaving Englefield intact. Henry Benyon was created 1st baronet in July 1958 but the baronetcy was short lived for, like his mother, he died shortly after receiving the honour, in 1959, with no male issue. The estate then passed to Sir Henry’s second cousin, Admiral Richard Shelley the son of Richard Fellowes Benyon's eldest daughter Marion, who immediately passed the estate to his eldest son William, later Sir William. Again, after the death of Sir Henry the estate was hit by 80% death duties and not least among the achievements of Sir William Benyon was that he not only managed to clear the debt without selling any of the estate but went on to modernise and even expand the estate. The estate is now in the hands of his son, another Richard.
Richard Fellowes Benyon
© 2021 Richard J Smith