Willen People

Rev. John Benthall

The dark years

In the late 1830s, shortly after the birth of his sons things started to go wrong. Not only did his wife die but, it appears that John Benthall left Westminster School under a cloud: discipline had broken down in the school and he was unable to control his pupils. The Headmaster, Williamson, is said to have given 'public notice that whosoever hissed, or caused to hiss, Benthall, would be immediately expelled'. A new Headmaster, Liddell, was appointed in 1846, and Benthall was one of two housemasters to be dismissed. His eldest son also died in this year.
John taught his remaining son William and private pupils at his home near Staines, until 1852 when he took up the post of Vicar of Willen and William went to Malborough to complete his schooling.
Once at Willen, things were slow to improve. He arrived with his parents, an unmarried aunt and two spinster sisters. In 1854 his father William Searle died. Like most young women of her class, Louisa his sister was an accomplished watercolourist, but she was ill and eventually died in 1859. Her death was followed by that of his aunt: Margaret Eleonora Admonition in 1860 and his mother, Mary Ann, in 1866. The one bright spot in all of this was his son, William, who was clever and a great sportsman. He went on to have a varied and exciting career, to marry and then in 1867 to produce a grandchild.