The Benton Family of Plaistow, West Ham, Essex
Benjamin Benton - The Grocer
Benjamin was born 26 March 1793 (in Tatham, Essex according to the 1861 census, and Harlow, Essex according to the 1871 census). He does not appear to have been baptised at either of these locations, but he was baptised 4 August 1814 at All Saints Church, West Ham, just after he had turned 21 years old. The cause of the delay in the baptism is not known but he was baptised at the same time as his younger sister Rebecca, suggesting the family had recently arrived at West Ham and the Rector wanted to make sure their souls were safe. John the father was recorded as a "menial servant".
Benjamin married Elizabeth LAYBANK on 4 June 1818 at All Saints, Plaistow. If her age at death is correct, Elizabeth was 29 years old and Benjamin was 25.
Benjamin and Elizabeth had five children:
All five children were baptised at All Saints Church, West Ham
Where did Benjamin the Grocer live?
Benjamin lived most of his live at Plaistow in East London and worked as a grocer. His address varies within a small area around the All Saints Parish Church at Plaistow. His occupation in the census and other records is "Grocer". The records do not tell us whether he had a separate grocer's shop and lived elsewhere. Typically at that time families would have lived behind or above the shop at the same address.
From the census and BMD records his addresses were:
In 1841 Benjamin, Elizabeth and children lived at Black Lion Row, Plaistow. Black Lion is not in the street index for London, but the census record shows it was adjacent to Broadway. Benjamin, the oldest son has an occupation of "Bank" but later he was a "Corn and Coal Dealer". The youngest Benjamin (2 years old) was Benjamin the younger's own child but not his youngest son James Gwalter Benton. His wife Eleanor GWALTER had recently died. Note that ages were rounded down to the nearest 5 years in the 1841 census.
Elizabeth died at Plaistow aged 58. She was buried at St Mary the Virgin Church, Plaistow on 12 September 1847. This church was built in the mid-1800s as a chapel of ease to All Saints Church (to ease overcrowding), but became a parish in its own right in 1844. The Victorian church was demolished and a smaller one built in 1981.
Benjamin's Second Family: Marriage to Mary RUDGE
Benjamin the Grocer, now a widower, married Mary RUDGE on 22 Jan 1850 at the West Ham Union Registry Office. He was aged 56 and she a spinster of 34.
According to the census records, Mary was from Deptford, Kent, which is immediately south of West Ham on the south bank of the Thames River and she was born about 1816. I cannot find a baptism for Mary in this area. In the 1841 census, Mary RUDGE was a servant for William and Elizabeth OSTLE, at Heath St, off Commercial Road, Plaistow. Apparently Heath St was later renamed Head St and is today a rather run down part of the East End of London. William OSTLE was a retired Master mariner. He died in 1844 leaving a Will. The codicil to the will names Mary RUDGE and left her 16 guineas (£16/16/0) which is about £230 today. For comparison, Mary was probably being paid around £10 per year in wages (just under 4 shillings per week), so the legacy from William OSTLE was about 18 months wages. (Can we be sure we have the correct Mary RUDGE? Read on...)
By 1851 Benjamin and his second wife Mary were living at 4 Vine St, West Ham. None of his children were now living with him. The names and places of birth are correct, but the recorded age for Benjamin is wrong, being 38 instead of 58. This is likely to be a transcription error by the enumerator.
Benjamin and Mary had two children:
The name of the older child is intriquing - "Ostle Booz". He was indeed registered under that name, see the certificate below. "Ostle" is of Scandinavian origin, whereas "Booz" is biblical. Referring back to Mary RUDGE in the 1841 census, she was the servant for William and Elizabeth OSTLE. William died in 1844 leaving Mary 16 guineas.(Elizabeth died early 1844 and was buried 8 February 1844 in the London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery, Square 52. William died a few months later and is buried with Elizabeth.) She named her first son after her benefactor (this also confirms we have the correct Mary RUDGE in the 1841 census). But the name did not last as by 1861 the child was known as Abel Benjamin and later as just Benjanin.
Benjamin and Mary with their sons Abel and Ebenezer were living at 1 Vine Place Plaistow, which is adjacent to Vicarage Lane, off Church St, close to All Saints Church.
They were now living at 2 South St, West Ham. Benjamin, now aged 79 is retired, but Mary aged 55 has taken work as a Carriage Cushion Maker. Note that the sons are now using their middle names (Benjamin and Frederick).
Benjamin died 10 April 1877 at 2 South St, West Ham and was buried on 17 April at West Ham Cemetery, Grave SW/J16.
In 1881, Mary was still living at 2 South St with her son Ebenezer and grandaughter Elizabeth:
Mary is living with her son Ebenezer and his family at 17 Bushberry Rd, Hackney.
Mary died at 17 Bushberry Rd, Hackney on 12 May 1894 aged 77. She was buried at Manor Park Cemetery, East Ham on 14 May 1894, grave square 105 plot 639.
The Children of Benjamin BENTON and Elizabeth LAYBANK
Benjamin John BENTON
Benjamin John was born 6 April 1820 in Plaistow, Essex. He married Eleanor GWALTER on 4 June 1838 but she died in 1840. He then married Charlotte SHARP and in 1852 the family emigrated to Melbourne Australia.
James was born 14 June 1822 in Plaistow, Essex. He died there in 1874.
William was born 4 June 1824 in Plaistow, Essex. He married Harriett Jane LOVETT on 20 January 1862 at the parish church, Stepney, They had three children. William died in 1871.
John Laybank BENTON
John Laybank was born 22 April 1826 in Plaistow, Essex. He married Mary STENNER on 20 December 1856. They had three children. The family then emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1852.
Elizabeth Martha BENTON
William was born 30 April 1828 in Plaistow, Essex. She married James WILLIAMS on 22 September 1850. They had seven children. Elizabeth died in 1886.
The Children of Benjamin BENTON and Mary RUDGE
Abel Benjamin BENTON
Abel Benjamin was born 1853 in Plaistow, Essex. His birth appears to have been registered as "Ostle Booz BENTON" but by the time of the 1861 census he was known as Abel Benjamin. Despite his unusual name he does not appear in other records.
Ebenezer Frederick BENTON
Ebenezer was born 1856 in Plaistow, Essex. He married Sarah Hannah WOOD in 1882. They had four children. Ebenezer was a house painter and glazier.
Last updated: 16/03/2020