The Bensons and Lane Foxes

A little background on the family history of the one-time residents of Red Hall and prominent local landowners until the end of the 19th century.

Knaresborough Post
Saturday 26 July 1884


H V T writes to the Leeds Mercury Supplement:

A Dorothy Benson, according to Young’s “History of Whitby”, was living there in sixteen hundred and something, and that William Benson, of Whitby and of Ruswarp Hall, married Dorothy, daughter of Ingram Chapman, born April 28th, 1682, and had issue Thomas Benson, leaving William Benson, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Walker, and left Henry Walker Benson, who married Martha, daughter of John Hugo, and left issue (1) William, who had Robert; (2) Alfred; (3) Henry Walker Benson, now of Sunderland, who has Leofric de Temple Benson, and William Marsden Benson, &c.

A family of this name has long been seated at Halton, near Skipton-in-Craven. Whitaker states under this place, “One of the principal estates has long been held by the Benson family, from whom, probably, Lord Bingley was descended.”

“In 1699, Edmund Benson, of Halton, in the parish of Skipton, made his will, mentioning considerable property at Halton, Skipton, Halton East, and Appletreewick, and leaving three sons – Christopher, William, and Robert; and three daughters – Margaret, Sarah, and Mary.” There is a monument in Skipton Church to a Robert Benson, Esq, of Halton, dated 1818.

From the Plumpton Correspondence a family of this name resided at Plumpton or at Knaresborough, and were employed in legal work by the Plumptons in the latter half of the fifteenth and early part of the sixteenth centuries. Henry Benson, of Knaresborough, was elected MP for Knaresborough in 1641, but unseated for opposition to the dominant Parliamentary faction. He had two sons, according to the Fairfax Correspondence, who assisted in his election. Robert Benson, of Red Hall, near Wakefield, attorney and Clerk of Assize in Northern Circuit, was returned MP for Aldborough in 1673. He had issue Robert Benson (only son), of Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, and of Bramham, who was created first Lord Bingley, and died in 1730, leaving an only daughter who married James Lane Fox, the ancestor of the present Squire of Bramham. Lord Bingley had very considerable property in Airedale, and especially around Skipton. Robert Benson, of York, made his will in 1765, describing himself as formerly of Leeds, leaving considerable property about York and in the North Riding, and mentioning three sons, Robert, John, and Thomas. Robert Benson, of Bradford and Leeds, married in 1773, Hannah, daughter of Stephen Parkinson, of Cragg Hall, and whose descendants, wealthy and in good position, still reside in the neighbourhood of Leeds. In 1799, a Robert Benson (probably the above) was appointed a trustee (qualification £100 a year, or £4,000 personality) of the Knaresborough and Skipton turnpike road. From 1801 to 1810 George Benson was Vicar of Ilkley.

Landowner outFoxed by local residents

Leeds Times
Saturday 26 April 1884


Our precious footpaths through the fields are in danger in many parts of the country, and it will require strong and vigorous efforts to retain them from the grasp of rapacious landowners. The villagers of Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, are of this opinion, as their vigorous proceedings have plainly demonstrated. An unsuccessful attempt has been made to close a footpath at Wrenthorpe. It is called Fox Lane, and crosses a field from Bradford Road to Wrenthorpe, being 632 yards in length, and passes through land owned by Mr George Lane Fox, of Bramham Park. On Saturday an adjourned meeting of the ratepayers was held to consider the subject, the proceedings being extraordinary. Before the business began, Mr Bryan Ramsden, who is not a ratepayer, and who persisted in being present, was forcibly ejected. He was seized by a number of sturdy villagers, who literally threw him into the lobby, where for a time he paced up and down, but ultimately disappeared. On behalf of a motion for closing the path it was urged that the ratepayers might soon have to ask Mr Fox to aid them in widening Potovens Lane [now Wrenthorpe Road], and that he would be more ready to do so if the footway was abandoned. Mr B Lees spoke strongly against the proposal, and on a vote being taken the numbers were 57 for closing and 68 for keeping it open. Mr G Lane Fox is one of the best of our Tory magnates, and if the case is put fairly and fully before him, free from what interested persons may say, he is not the man to refuse justice to any individual or any body of men.

The Lane Fox family had previously lived at Red Hall and were big local (absentee) land owners. Much of the Red Hall estate came up for auction in 1896.

Note how the Times can’t resist having a parting political swipe at local residents.



Now that the Wakefield newspapers have been added to the Archive, here’s how the Wakefield Free Press reported the meeting.

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 19 April 1884


At the request of George Lane Fox, Esq., of Bramham Park, a meeting of ratepayers was called by Messrs. John Bastow and Frederick Barnaby, the surveyors of highways of the hamlet of Wrenthorpe, and held in the Board Schools on Thursday last, for the purpose of considering the desirability of stopping the footpath leading from Potovens Lane [now Wrenthorpe Road] to Fox Lane, and to the Bradford Road, in the above hamlet, the footpath in question being 632 yards in length, or thereabouts. The proceedings were of a most disorderly character from beginning to end, many of the ratepayers during the progress of the meeting squabbling in groups and carrying on controversies in high-pitched tones, and in a manner which rendered it impossible for the chairman to conduct the business of the meeting. Immediately the doors were opened the room was besieged by many who were non-ratepayers, and had no right to be present at the meeting. These were requested to either withdraw or adjourn to another part of the room. The latter course was decided upon, but ere many minutes had elapsed they returned, and again added their mite to the confusion prevailing.

Mr Bastow contended that Mr Bryan Ramsden was not a ratepayer, and had no right to take part in that meeting in any way or give a vote.

Mr Ramsden retorted that he had consulted an authority, and he most certainly contended that he had a perfect right to vote, and intended to do so.

Mr Bastow having read the requisition for the calling of the meeting, remarked that it was the duty of the ratepayers to elect a chairman to preside, and he should be glad if they would do so; and ultimately Mr Joseph Thomas was elected to the seat of honour.

The Chairman, on rising, spoke in favour of the footpath being stopped. He had known it all his life, and it was not a convenience as to distance, so well as being worse, and more uneven than the high road. It was for the meeting to determine whether it was worth their while to stop that road or not. Many had come to the opinion that it was of no more use to the ratepayers as a footpath, and in summer time it had been the cause of crops being destroyed at a great loss to the farmer as well as to the public at large.

Mr Powell: Ask him to say something on the other side of the question.

A Ratepayer: It is the most convenient footpath is the township.

Mr John Wilkes, Bragg Lane End, protested against the footpath being stopped. There had been three attempts made to stop it, and all had failed. He would do all in his power to keep the footpath open.

Mr William Briggs, Red Hall, thought the footpath was inconvenient and dangerous to the little village below. There was a bridge over which it was very easy to trip and break a leg. The bridge had to be kept in repair by those who belonged to the footpath.

A Ratepayer: This is the thin end of the wedge – the old, old style; there has been too much of this kind in times gone by. We shall not have a public footpath if we go on.

Mr George Jacques said that evidently Mr Fox had made up his mind to fight the ratepayers to the end with the ratepayers’ money. They would throw money away and lose the footpath in the end.

A Voice: George Lane Fox cannot. He has not the power.

Mr Jacques: It would be a saving to George Lane Fox and the ratepayers as well.

Mr Joseph Pearson’s opinion, which he said was that of all sensible people, that the footpath was of no earthly use as a footpath. No doubt Mr Lane Fox would take action, and those who did oppose it must get their cash ready (uproar). He proposed that the footpath be stopped.

Mr Wilcock, farmer, Newton, seconded the proposition.

Mr Charles Howden proposed that the footpath be kept opened. They must nip this in the bud or they would find all their footpaths stopped at some future time.

Mr Edward Steele seconded the amendment, and also proposed that some one be appointed to check votes against Mr Thomas, both for and against.

Amidst extreme uproar and disorder a show of hands was taken in favour of keeping the footpath open, but it was an impossibility to count them properly, Mr Bastow remarking that he had counted 68, but was not certain that this was correct.

It was then unanimously agreed the votes should be counted as the voters passed out of the door. This left the room entirely occupied by those who were in favour of stopping the footpath, and the Chairman, having consulted with some of those present, at once announced that the meeting was adjourned until Tuesday next at five o’clock.

This announcement was received by those outside with the greatest surprise and consternation. In all rushed, and hard words and recriminations flew about wholesale, it being stated that most of the ratepayers being working men, could not attend at that hour.

Mr Edward Steele declared the chairman had no right, immediately their backs were turned, and whilst the votes were being taken, to postpone the meeting, and he gave notice that he should fight the legality of the point to the end.

Others expressed themselves dissatisfied, and amidst great confusion the meeting terminated.

In search of Wrenthorpe’s long lost pottery industry

Might it be possible to find evidence of the last gasps of Wrenthorpe’s long-established cottage industry in late 18th century newspapers? A bankruptcy perhaps? Or a court case against a potter for non payment of rent?

Sadly, no luck so far, other than the sale of a pottery at the far side of the Wakefield Outwood, at West Hall (just north of Moorhouse), Stanley.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 16 May 1780


Situate at Wakefield Out-Wood Side, near Wakefield,
AN exceedingly valuable POTTERY, for Making of Common BROWN-WARE, with a Dwelling-House, Warehouse, and all the other Appurtenances thereunto belonging; also a Croft thereto adjoining, now in the Occupation of John Errington.
The Premises are well situated for Trade, and may be entered upon immediately.
For other Particulars enquire of Mr John Hodgson, of West Hall, near Lofthouse.

While the odd spelling of ‘lett’, and the writing of some s’s as f’s, is terribly old-fashioned, the advert like many in these late 18th century newspapers – does come with a right-pointing backhand index emoji.


Only a few years later the pottery’s up for rent again.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 5 August 1788


…Also, A POTTERY, situate at Wakefield Outwood, very near the Navigation.
With the Pottery, a Tenant may be accommodated with a Dwelling house and Stable adjoining it, and a few Acres of Land, if required.

For Particulars apply to Mr Lee, Attorney at Law, in Wakefield.

After almost giving up hope, this 23-word death announcement gives us the link to pottery at Potovens.

Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 12 March 1782

On Sunday last died at Red Hall, near Wakefield, aged 100 years, Mrs Mary Willans, relict of the late Mr John Willans, potter.

The Willans were arguably the most successful of the Wrenthorpe potters – Jacob Willans built a house with his initials and the year ‘1663’ inscribed in stone over its front door.* The property survived for 300 years, regrettably the building conservation movement wasn’t up to much in 1960s Wrenthorpe.

Take Mrs Willans’ given age with a handful of salt, as further up the newspaper column, there’s a sentence on a Jane Wells a woman from Whitehaven, ‘who’ it boasts, ‘is in the 111th year her age’, and ‘is still at this time employed in carding wool.’

* Brears, Peter, ‘Excavations at Potovens, near Wakefield’, Post Medieval Archaeology, Vol 1, 1967.