Saturday, May 21, 2011


My 3xgreat-grandmother Mary Wright (nee Benson) had three younger brothers that survived until adulthood. This post describes what I have found out about their lives – each of them led very interesting lives in 3 different places – Newcastle, York and Acomb.

Click here for a family tree showing Mary & her siblings

George Gowland Benson - the railway worker

George Gowland Benson was born in York in 1849 just before his parents George & Eliza moved back to George’s family parish of Acomb. George’s middle name “Gowland” comes from his mother Eliza’s maiden name. It is possible he was baptized on 29 Apr 1849 at All Saint’s Pavement, York ( this record appears in the database but not in the database – I will need to consult the original records).

In 1871 George was still living with his parents and was described as a farmer’s son. I do not know what George was doing until 1880 when he married Mary Bristow in Jan-Mar 1880 in Newcastle. Mary Bristow was born in Fridaythorpe in 1862 and so was 14 years the junior of George. It is likely that the wedding was a quickly arranged affair as their first daughter Eliza E. Benson was also born in mid 1880.

In the 1881 census, George and Mary were living with Mary’s parents James & Elizabeth Bristow in Pottery Lane, Westgate, Newcastle. I do not know if George Benson knew the Bristow family before coming to Newcastle, though it is interesting to note that James was born in Escrick and Elizabeth in Fridaythorpe, so it is possible he did.


In 1881, George’s occupation is given as a ‘checker for N.E.R’ (North Eastern Railways). This is the same occupation as he held in 1891 whilst living at 48 Brussel St., Gateshead. In the 1901 and 1911 censuses George is still employed in the railways but is called a “rolly loader” or “loader on railway co”. Throughout this time, George and Mary are living at 10 Dale St., Pottery Lane, Newcastle with Mary’s brother Thomas Gray Bristow (b.Jul-Aug 1866 Newcastle) and widowed father James Bristow.

1911 census

George Gowland and Mary Benson had a total of 12 children together, with 9 of these being still alive in 1911 (according to that census). The following is a list of these children & their birthdates:

  1. b1880 Eliza E.
  2. b1881 Elizabeth
  3. b1882 Mary E
  4. b1885 George
  5. b1886 Lilly
  6. b1889 Christiana
  7. b1892 John Thomas
  8. b1894 Jane Ann
  9. b1901 Hannah
  10. b1904 Frederick John

All were born in Newcastle except for John Thomas and Jane Ann who were born in Gateshead. I cannot find the last two children – they may have been born any time between 1880-1911. Nor am I sure that Eliza E. and Elizabeth are two separate children or different spellings of the same daughter.

From the index of wills and administrations, it seems that George Gowland Benson died on 15th July 1922. Interestingly, he died whilst living at Poplar Grove, Acomb – the same house that his elder sister (my 3xgreat grandmother Mary Wright nee Benson) was still living in. I do not know why George Gowland Benson moved back to Acomb. The majority of his will was left to “George Benson, railway clerk”. I presume that this is his son George b1885.

William Benson - the butcher

William Benson was born on 27th September 1851 along with his twin sister Martha Emma Benson in Acomb. William seems to have left home in the late 1860s to go and start an apprenticeship with John Shilleto (b1842) as a butcher. John Shilleto’s butcher’s shop was at 27 Micklegate, York.

1871 census

In the 1881 census, William is now living at 36 Micklegate (which is today called the Micklegate takeaway!) in his own butcher’s shop. He is living with his wife Fanny (b1851) and son George A. Benson (b1880). An older son William Herbert (b1877) was spending the night of the census with his cousin John George Wright and grandparents George and Eliza Benson in Acomb.

1881 census

An investigation of the marriage indexes suggests that William Benson married Fanny Flower between Apr-Jun 1876 in York. Fanny was the daughter of George and Jane Flower, both of whom were from York. They appear to have been fairly well-to-do as they were living in 1871 at 18 The Mount, an elegant street just off Micklegate, and George Flower was a ‘coach proprietor’.

In 1891, William Benson has moved back to 27 Micklegate, York to take over the butcher’s shop where he served as an apprentice. Living with him is his wife Fanny and children William Herbert, George A., Frederick (b1882), and Fanny (b1886).

1891 census

By 1901, William Benson, his wife and daughter Fanny had moved to the other side of York – to 9 De Grey Terrace. William is still employed as a butcher and interestingly has 5 lodgers including four ‘actresses’. Three of these are sisters Norah (22), Flora (21) & Emma Stewart (18) from Blackpool. The other is Nellie Freeman (22) from London.

1901 census

In the last census we have available in 1911, William is now a widowed retired butcher and is living with Chistopher Cawood and family as a lodger at 23 De Grey Terrace. This is only four doors down from William’s previous address and it seems the families knew each other for some time as the Cawoods were also living there in 1901. Fanny Benson appears to have died between Oct-Dec 1908 whereas William Benson seems to have died between Jul-Sep 1917 (according to the death indexes).

More information about their deaths and that of another daughter is available from a monumental inscription in St. Stephen's Church, Acomb:

"In loving memory of Florence Muriel, the dearly loved child of William and Fanny Benson of York b July 13 1883, d July 22 1884.

Also Fanny Benson who died at York, Oct 29 1908 in her 59th year.

Also William Benson husband of the above who died Aug 21 1917 in his 87th year.

Also George Alfred, 2nd son of the above and beloved husband of Annie Violet Benson who died Jan 14 1922 aged 42 years."

Frederick Thomas Benson - the innkeeper

Frederick Thomas Benson was the youngest son of George and Eliza Benson and was born in Acomb on 9th May 1861. He was the only son to remain in Acomb all of his life.

At the age of 19 in 1881, Frederick was still living at home with his parents and working as a farmer’s son. He married Sarah Hardcastle between Apr-Jun 1885 in Acomb. Sarah Hardcastle was born in 1865 in Hessay to Thomas (b1829) and Mary Ann Hardcastle (b1839). Mary Ann was originally from Hessay, but Thomas Hardcastle was himself born in Acomb. In 1881, prior to the marriage of Frederick Thomas Benson and Sarah Hardcastle, Thomas Hardcastle had become widowed and had moved back to Acomb and became the innkeeper of the Sun Inn, which looks out on the village green. At this time, Sarah was working as a barmaid and it’s probable that this is where she met her future husband. . Their marriage may also have been prompted by the death of Thomas Hardcastle in late 1884, as by 1891 the couple were now running the Sun Inn. Interestingly, Frederick’s eldest sister Mary Wright (my 3great grandmother) was at this time running the Marcia Inn also in Acomb.

The couple continued to operate the Sun Inn at least until 1901 as they were living at the Sun Inn in both the 1891 and 1901 censuses. The couple had at least 7 children - Walter (b1886), Rose (b1887), Eliza Mary (b1889), George Frederick (b1890), Florence (b1892), Annie (b1893) and Amy (b1895). Also living with them in both censuses were two of Sarah’s younger brothers - William (b1862) and David (b1868).

1901 census

Frederick Thomas Benson died in 1902. His wife went on to live for 51 years more than her husband. Their monumental inscription in St. Stephen’s Churchyard also contains details of one of their sons and reads:

"In affectionate remembrance of Frederick Thomas BENSON, died Dec 20 1902 aged 41 years. Also George Frederick BENSON son of the above died June 4 1946 aged 55 years. Also Sarah BENSON, wife of Frederick Thomas, died March 9, 1953 aged 88 years."

Apparently there is an obituary of Frederick in the Yorkshire Gazette dated 27 Dec 1902, though I have not had a chance to see this yet (available at York Reference Library).

The last piece of information I have regarding Sarah Benson (nee Hardcastle) is that in the 1911 census she is living in a 6 roomed house at "The Green, Acomb". She is living with her out of work son George, and her two youngest daughters Annie (a confectionary maker) and Amy (a box labeler). Her unmarried brother William Hardcastle is also living with her still. Interestingly she also has another son – Fred Benson (b1904), whose father is obviously a mystery.

1911 census

The Sun Inn meanwhile was by 1911 being run by Robert and Ada Barnett who had previously lived at Ash St., Holgate.

The Benson grandchildren of George & Eliza Benson

Finally, in this entry discussing the lives of the brothers of Mary Wright (nee Benson), I have not gone on to trace much about the lives of the children of the brothers. However, in the next post I shall discuss a bit more about the life of George Frederick Benson, (1890-1946) the son of Frederick Thomas and Sarah Benson – specifically, his service during WW1.

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