The Benthalls leave Benthall

A watercolour of the Drawing Room in George Maw's time

For just over a century, Benthall Hall came out of the Benthall family's possession because of a lack of heirs. This led to some interesting times for the house, as it passed from one tenant to another.

Lawrence Benthall was succeeded by his eldest son, Philip, who died in 1713, aged 81, and was buried in the chancel of Benthall church. Philip's son, Richard, inherited the estate but died in 1720, leaving no children. Richard’s uncle, Edward Benthall, had left a daughter, Katherine, who married Ralph Browne of Caughley Hall, near Broseley. Their children included a daughter named Elizabeth. Before Richard died, he settled his estate on her, his cousin, a step that led to litigation on his death, when the estate was claimed by his two sisters. In 1746, the case was decided by the House of Lords in favour of the Brownes and the property passed to another Ralph Browne, the last descendant of the Benthalls to own it for well over a century.

From Ralph Browne, Benthall passed to his wife’s niece, who married the Reverend Edward Harries, whose son, Francis Blythe Harries, was the owner until 1843. After a fire in 1818, a new wing containing a large dining room was built at the east end of the house. In 1962, this was demolished except for two rooms in the basement, leaving a raised terrace.

In 1844, the house was sold to the 2nd Lord Forester, the owner of the neighbouring Willey estate, and, from 1845 to about 1930, Benthall Hall was occupied by various tenants. Two of these tenants were notable:

  • George Maw, the distinguished botanist, who assembled a collection of rare plants in the garden and established his first tile-manufacturing business at the end of the drive.
  • Robert Batemen, who was the son of James Bateman (creator of Biddulph Grange).

These two tenants made many changes to the interior of the house, including tiled floors in the entrance hall (now hidden) and in other rooms of the house, along with major changes to the garden. Robert also made changes to the garden and added embellishments to the church. The dovecote in the Rose Garden can be attributed to Robert.

The dovecote, which we think was originally a garden room
The dovecote in the rose garden
The dovecote, which we think was originally a garden room

When the house came up for sale in 1843, a member of the Devon branch of the Benthall family tried to acquire the house. However, Edward Benthall was unable to outbid Lord Forester because he was in India, as he was a judge in Bengal.