Charity and Community: Saving a family home

Benthall Mary Clementina

One hundred years since some women got the right to vote in the UK, the National Trust is exploring the roles of women, and raising the profile of their stories, at the places it cares for. Benthall Hall looked set for demolition in 1934 until descendant Mary Clementina changed its fate forever. Find out how this charitable lady dedicated her life to Benthall and the surrounding community.

For sale and without a buyer, the future of Benthall Hall looked uncertain in 1934.

Just a week before auction, Mary Clementina, a descendant of William Benthall, bought the family home for £6,000 and saved it from demolition.

After leaving their estate in Devon, Clementina and husband James Floyer Dale moved to Benthall and set about restoring the family home.

During the Second World War, Clementina rented the Hall to an evacuated school before returning to Devon. She drove a Canteen around Exmoor, delivering refreshments to anti-aircraft sites. During this time, her husband James was institutionalised. He died in a nursing home in 1942.

Post-war, Clementina returned to Benthall and continued her charitable work. An active church-goer and supporter of the Mother’s Union, she became a well-respected member of the local community.

In 1958, Clementina gifted Benthall to the National Trust on the agreement that she and any successor could continue to live in the Hall. Sixty years on, we’re celebrating the life of the lady that saved this Tudor manor and preserved it for generations to come.

" Mrs Benthall with her love of the place and the church seemed to me to be the nearest approach to a saint that I have ever met."
- JFW Rathbone, Secretary of the National Trust, 1957

A keen traveller and activist until her death in 1960, Clementina never retired from her charitable causes. She secured the future of her ancestral home and, with it, a legacy of determination and tireless enterprise.