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John Bennett

John Bennett was born about 1839 in Romsey, Hampshire. In the 1871 census he was living in the Hursley, Hampshire area and his occupation was a Brickmaker. Similarly in the 1881 census he was living in the Ampfield area, also coming under Hursley, about 2.9 miles between the villages. He was still a Brickmaker. Neither enumerators were very specific about the locations of the homes they visited, so it is possible that the family were living in the same property on both occasions.

 Ampfield appears to be a predominantly agriculture based community with a large presence of Hiller's Nurseries. Referring to a Brickworks Gazette entitled 'A GAZETTEER OF BRICK AND TILE WORKS IN HAMPSHIRE' it appears that the closest brickworks was Michelmersh Brickworks near Romsey. A distance of 4.7 miles taking 1 hour 33 minutes to walk according to Google Maps. With the next nearest being at Embley Park, Romsey, the home of Florence Nightingale at the time. Referred to as Romsey, Sounding Arch in the Gazette, it is about 6 miles away with a walking time of 2 hours. 

In the 1881 census, his son, also John Bennett, aged 15, is also a brickmaker. Michelmersh Brickworks were established in 1840 and are still in opperation in 2018, so the dates work.

Going further back, John's father, James Bennett, was an agricultural labourer living in Hounsdown, Eling, Hampshire according to the 1851 census. By the time of his death on 12 May 1877 he was recorded as a brickmaker living at Toothill, near Romsey, leaving his wife Maria Bennett effects under £300. Extacted from his will, in the probate record. To give some context, using Measureing Worth web site, £300 equates to £25,920 by RPI, but 216,800 as income value, both values in 2016 money.

Toothill is closer to Embley Park than Ampfiled, but still a fair walk at 4.8 miles, taking 1 hour 35 minutes, again according to Google Maps. However, in the 1861 census James Bennett was living in Toothill Cottage, was a brick burner and his place of birth was stated as being Michelmersh. 

Toothill Cottage, Toothill, Romsey Extra, Hampshire and the adjacent Lower Toothill Farm were both mentioned in a HAMPSHIRE FIELD CLUB AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY publication incorporating LORD PALMERSTON AS HAMPSHIRE PROPRIETOR.

Lord Palmerston was an important person in the history of Romsey, and to the country as a whole, in various roles, including Prime Minister. He was one time owner of Broadlands, latterly the home of Lord Mountbatten, and also of Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire, the home and place of death of another Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne in 24 November 1848. On Lord Melbourne's (William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne), death, the house passed to his sister, Emily, whose second husband was Lord Palmerston (Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston).  Palmerston left his family seat Broadlands to Emily Temple's fourth, but 2nd surviving son Rt. Hon. Evelyn Melbourne Ashley following his death at Foxhills, Romsey on 18 October 1865. Broadlands was bought by Henry Temple, 1st Viscount Palmerston from Humphrey Sydenham in 1736, and became the Palmerstons' country estate. It was remodeled by Capability Brown. Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) and Prince Philip spent their honeymoon at Broadlands in November 1947. Queen Victoria also stayed at Broadlands, with Lord and Lady Palmerston, Henry John and Emily).

Broadlands was and still is a significant, expansive, and important estate with many influences on the local communities. Including, by rumor influencing the routes of the M27 and M3. As far as I am aware, Toothill is still part of that estate. The Romsey Local History Society has an interesting insight into the workings of Broadlands.

As a further aside, my father, unaware of any historic connection with the area, tried to buy a plot of land towards the top of Toothill so as to build his own home with splendid views over the Romsey countryside, in the early 1960's. His research established the freeholder, but the estate declined any offer. 

Back to James Bennett, still living in Toothill in 1871 but now a Master Brickmaker employing 4 men and 5 boys. There is a record in the National Archives, England & Wales Non-conformist birth and baptisms showing a James Bennett born on 8 July 1813 and baptised on 6 Oct 1813 by Robert Winter, the son of William & Elizabeth Bennett. The register of an Independent Denomination Chapel in Romsey called the Abbey Chapel, founded about 1700. There is another James Bennett born 1811, and on some family tree sites there does appear to be some confusion between the two families, and there is no guarantee that there is not a similar problem here.

Maria, James wife continued to live at the home in Toothill with the family, after his death. From the 1881 census it seems she became a Brick burner. Some of the family had moved away with her unmarried children James, Charles, Emma, Henry still at home, together with granddaughter Ellen aged 5.

Following her death on 24 Sept 1881, just over 4 years after James, her son John Bennett inherited the family wealth of £287 11s 4d, and continued his work as a Brickmaker, living in Ampfield. John married Jane Pressley on 5 Nov 1864. John was still living with the family in the 1861 residence, next door to the Pressley family. Jane had been born in Toothill in 1840 and shown on the 1841 and 1851 census. However, she was missing from the Pressley home on the day of the census in 1861. 

Not mentioned in the Brickworks Gazette but shown on the map in Lord Palmerston article is a Brick Kiln between Timsbury and Braishfield, on a road now called Kiln Lane. This location is still about 5 miles from Toothill but from Ampfield it is the reduced distance of 2.5 miles and only 54 minutes walking. I don't think there will ever be a definitive answer as to which brickworks they all worked in, but I suspect they all worked together. I have now found an OS map of Broadlands and another of Toot Hill surveyed between 1867 to 1868, the latter of which shows a brickfield and brick kiln on the edge of Austrey Wood, near Lower Toothill (Farm). Another, perhaps smaller brickfield and kiln are shown on the other side of Toot Hill, adjacent to Rownhams Plantation. Similarily, there is a small brickworks just to the east of Potter's Herron near the Milestone between Winchester (6) and Romsey (5). A short distance from Ampfield

John Bennett and his wife Jane had ten children together between 1865 and 1884, including twins Rosa and Ruth in 1869. Their first born was also called John Bennett and by the time of the 1881 census, when he was 16, he was also a Brickmaker. On 20 May 18 he married Hannah Mary Hurst in Millbrook, Hampshire, the link into my family name. By the 1911 census the family was living in 8 Blaydon Road, Shirley, Hampshire, England, and had left the rural community and Brickmaking, and had become Market Gardeners.

I assume that the Toothill Cottage was a Tithe Cottage to the Broadlands Estate and suspect the estate may have had a brickworks, especially considering the long boundary wall adjacent to the Southampton to Romsey road, the 'Mile Wall', erected in the mid 19th century.


I have been trying to plot the route taken by the Enumerator of the 1871 Census so as to closer locate the Bennett's living in the Parish of Hursley. Using old OS maps which tend to have place names contemporary with the census. With so little information it is a long process. A known location is Cranbury Park which provides an anchor to work from, further confirmed by the census record stating Thomas Chamberlayne as the head. Going towards the beginning of the route I found his note on page 15. 'The enumerator of this district Joseph Elcock having absconded leaving this book? in the imperfect state as above. I found it necessary to have the schedule rearranged and copied over again by Mr Plumridge Enumerator of No 1 District.   James Reynolds Registrar.' This helped make sense of the whole entry. 

From informaion on some Ancestry family trees James Bennett, before he married Maria in 1839, he married on 8 May 1834 Martha Scammell, when he was 20 and she was 29. Searching for more information about Martha, I found another Martha Scammell born much latter but perhaps of the same family. Following the trail led to another non-conformist baptism, but at a place that appears to be Burley in the County of Southampton (aka Southamptonshire), in a register started in 1833. That led me to commence another research on parishes, which found some information on taxes and changing of the calendar in a History of Parishes and something on the history of the borough of Southampton.

This was a quick look into the Bennett family of Brickmakers carried out over a week in February 2018, and written as the research reveled information, and is therefore also a story of discover and understanding.






more later



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