Thomas Benson was born in Passenham, Northamptonshire on 19th November 1810. His father and grandfather were both farmers. As first male heir it was probably expected that he would carry on running the family farm but it seems Thomas had other ideas and became the first Benson to move to London to make his fortune. Although not much is known of his life, we do know that he ended it extremely wealthy.
In October 1841 Thomas married Mary COLE, a Worcester lass, the daughter of a carrier, in the Church of St Paul in Islington.
Thomas and Mary went on to have three children who were all born in Islington over an eight year period between 1842 and 1850 :
Before the birth of their first child they had moved to 3 Aboyne Cottages, Canonbury Park, Islington and Thomas had became a warehouseman. Business must have been going well because by the 1851 census they had three female servants and Thomas was described as a commission agent.
Ten years later, now 50 years old, he had moved to 15 Ravensbourne Park, Lewisham, still with three servants – a groom, a housemaid and a cook. Thomas was now described as an "importer of muslin - employing 3 men".
Although Thomas was away from home at a hotel in Hastings on the 1871 census, the family had moved to Beckenham, Kent, and now had four servants - the housemaid, a cook, a parlour maid and an elderly 86 year old coachman.
In 1881 they were back in London living at 65 Elgin Street in Kensington with a housemaid and a cook. Sadly, Mary died of emphysema and dilation of the heart in October of that year, aged 62.
Probate shows his estate was worth a massive £24,780 (£2.24 million in today's terms using the retail price index). Among the bequests in his Will dated May 1890 :
- he gave Charlotte Benson, the widow of Thomas John Benson (the son of his late sister Catherine Burnhill nee Benson) his freehold cottage in Deanshanger - which I think he had possibly inherited from his father.
- he gave three lots of £5,000 to his daughter Mary (wife of Joseph Russell), his daughter Annie (wife of Charles Washington Eves) and to Marion (wife of his son William Cole Benson).
- he instructed his executors to sell all his other properties and split the proceeds between William Cole Benson and Joseph Russell
- Mary received his leasehold house at Park Road, Beckenham
- Annie got his freehold house in Devonshire Street, Islington plus his two leasehold houses in Regents Park.
- he directed that his two leasehold houses, 15 and 17 Ball Street, Kensington, should be sold and proceeds held in trust for his son, William Cole Benson ....... who by this time was living somewhere in South Africa