The Benistons in Ilkeston … and beyond

Adeline has already introduced us to the immigrant lace workers

“When, in 1857, the Carriers built a new wing to their factory, installed shafting throughout, also introduced hosiery frames, the stockingers had to work in the factory instead of at home. At this time Kester Harrison’s house was divided, and two families who came from Nottingham to work for Carriers, named Anthony and Benniston, lived in them.”


(My thanks to John Beniston for providing detail of the Beniston family history ….. see his several Comments)

William and Eliza Beniston

William Beniston was born in Heanor about 1819, the son of John and Ann (nee Alton).
He married Eliza Chambers, daughter of framework knitter John and Charlotte (nee Jackson) in 1840 and lived for a time in the Belper area before moving on to Basford in the early 1840’s.

The family’s move to Ilkeston occurred about 1860 and the 1861 census finds them living at Extension Street.
By then there were five surviving children with William and Eliza, all born in Basford — Arthur (1849), Mary Ann (1851), John (1853), Thomas (1855) and William (1857).
Their daughter Elizabeth seems to have been the first Ilkeston-born child (May 1861).

“When England’s Field was sold, Mr. Benniston (sic) bought a plot and built a house for himself on it.”

The 1871 Census finds the family at No 1 Albert Street. As this was formerly part of England’s Field this might help date the house building described by Adeline.


The Beniston children.

1.    Arthur

The oldest surviving child when the Beniston family came to Ilkeston, Arthur married Louisa Grimley  — of the Club Row Grimleys, framework knitter John and Mirah (nee Trueman) —  in 1872.
From the birth dates of their children, the family moved to India between 1876 and 1879 when son Frederick was born there.

From the CARDIFF TIMES 1 AUG 1885
Letter to the newspaper written by Florence Beniston (age 10) (Arthur Beniston’s daughter)

Here is a charming little letter that has come to me all the way from India. I think my little correspondent must have a heart as warm as the climate, and am glad she does not mean to foresake me.

Mr dear Aunt Maggie.—
I am sure you will think I have really forsaken you, but think you will forgive me when I tell you the reason why.

Our friend in England has not sent us the proper newspaper for the last four months, but papa has sent to them about it and I was delighted when I saw the that the paper contained the Children’s Hour once more. I always open the paper so eagerly, and when papa told me the Children’s Hour had come, I jumped for joy to bear more about dear Aunt Maggie.

I have plenty of things to tell you about, as I have had much time to think. The principal thing I have to tell you is that we have had a native Rajah and Rannee (that is King and Queen) living in the next bungalow to ours and he invited us in, and he put some oil on the back of our hands, and on papa’s neck he put a splendid garland and to mamma he gave a splendid bouquet, and he gave me a stick about half a yard long, covered with sweet smelling roses. He went away two days after we went to see him.

I was quite interested in last week’s paper to read about white ants. My papa’s writing desk is all being eaten away by them, and the floor is all over little specks of wood. I have seen a great many ants, Bombay is full of them, and if you leave a glass on the table for a minute, that has had sweet stuff in it, by the time you comeback it will be full of ants. But we try to keep them away as well as we can.

It was my sister’s birthday on the 30th of May. She was a year old. She is a good little dear and if she hurts herself she begins to grumble and beats the thing that has hurt her. She has only got four teeth, and if I am talking to mamma and papa., she will nearly bite my finger end off. Sometimes she bites so hard that I scream right out.

It is very hot now and we have a punkah (fan) in our hand nearly all day, and if we hurry ourselves a little, jump or run, the perspiration runs down our forehead and I drops off at our nose end. I jump into the bath of cold water twice a day. Everybody that comes to see us say first thing, “Oh, isn’t it hot” or something like that. I should very much like to see you, and if papa was to come to England I could not rest till I had seen you.

I know a pretty verse of poetry, it was on a card I that was sent from England to me, this is it :—
Though many miles between us lie,
A long and weary way,
My love hath wings, and fain would fly
To greet thee any day.
I think it is very, very pretty indeed. I am sure this is a very long, long letter indeed, and I have no more to say—

From your known, but unseen friend
Bellasis Lodge, Yardee. Bombay, June 9th 1885

Eldest son Arthur William was born in Nottingham in 1877 but died at Randel Lodge, Tardeo, in January 1881.

The first edition of Trueman and Marston’s ‘History of Ilkeston’ has Arthur as a subscriber, giving his address as ‘Bellasis Lodge, Tardeo, Bombay’.

By the end of the century Arthur and family were back in Lenton, Nottingham where he was a ‘commission agent‘.

And another brick in the wall, provided by John (Dec 26th 2014) … I have eventually found the death of ARTHUR BENISTON brother of Tom, father of Florence Annie Beniston, he died at Peille Alpes-Maritimes France on 19 November 1938.

2.    Mary Ann.

Mary Ann was married in 1869 to Stanton by Dale born collier Zadok Hallam, son of Francis and Rebecca (nee Hartshorn).
After the birth of their daughter Ann Eliza in 1871 the couple separated.
Ann Eliza Hallam was sometimes referred to as a Beniston.
In 1873 Mary Ann gave birth to illegitimate son Meynall Hallam also alias Beniston.
The 1891 census finds her in Chapel Street living with brickmaker Isaac Shaw, as man and wife, with their daughter Annie Laura Shaw, born in 1887.
Isaac may have been the son of collier William and Alice (nee Revill).

3.    John.

Collier John married in June 1873 to Hannah Smith, daughter of wharf labourer Joseph and Mary Ann (nee Fretwell).
By the end of the century they were living in King Street where John owned property and where he died in April 1931.

4.    Thomas.

Thomas married Jane Maria Shaw in May 1876. She was the daughter of brickmaker/builder Samuel and Jane (nee Smith) of North Street, then later of Chapel Street.

By 1879 Thomas was in India, working in the hosiery business and writing back to his family.
A letter (edited, but the words and punctuation are as they appear) from Mandal Lodge, Tardeo, Bombay. Dec 5th 1879.

Dear Father,
I shall be decided … whether I stop (in India) or not. If (wife) Jane is willing to come I shall stay a little longer. If Jane will not come I shall certainly come Home in March next I have fully made up my mind on that point. I never intended being away from my wife and children any longer than 18 months.
I am very glad to hear from you that you have nothing to complain of on the whole in respect of your business. Certainly you would have been in a great deal better position if you had not had such serious losses.
I may tell you that I am getting very well in business. I see that looking down our book that our sales for the last month (November) are over three thousand pounds. It is far more than the company expected to do.
My brother (Arthur?) is very busy fitting his machinery up, he has not started yet but expects to do so soon. The Bombay climate seems to suit him very well. Of course it is nice weather now the evenings are beautiful. He is quite better of his accident before he reached Bombay he slipped down on the ship and hurt his shoulder.
Our company has opened a mill this last week….from the liquidations of the late…… They have give one hundred and fifty thousand pounds for it and I suppose it is dirt cheap.
I must not conclude my letter without saying a word or two about my Gertie and Nellie (daughters, aged 3 and 1 ) I am always pleased to hear their names mentioned. I am pleased to hear from you that they are alright and that they claim you for their Pa. I am not afraid of any harm coming to them as long as they do that.
….I must conclude now with Kind love to Ma Tom Joseph Isaac Freddy Agnes Pe.. and my darling …. Mary …. Uncle Francis & Will and all friends and I am still your affectionate son TOM

It seems that Tom did return to England to live with Jane Maria’s parents in North Street and in 1880 daughter Edith Annie was born in Ilkeston.

An article in the Ilkeston Advertiser of Sept 10th 1881. It was headed ‘Primitive Methodist Chapel, Ilkeston’ and concerned a lecture at the Schoolroom there for the benefit of the Building Fund.
“After tea, as announced, a lecture on ‘Indian life and its teaching’ was given by Mr. Thomas Beniston who was able to speak from experience in consequence of having passed three years of his life in the land of Juggernaut.
“Mr. Beniston’s remarks were listened to with great interest, especially as he is a native of Ilkeston and well known to many of his audience. The lecture dwelt on the various castes of the Indian race, and the peculiar customs which distinguish them from one another. He also described the religious bodies of the country, and the festivities which were celebrated under their auspices at certain stated periods.
“Mr. Beniston announced his intention of returning to India for another period of three years, and promised that if he was spared to return he would bring much from abroad to interest further the people of his native place.
“His lecture was illustrated by an excellent display of Indian curiosities.
“Mr. T Shaw presided in a most humorous manner. At the close of the meeting a vote of thanks was heartily accorded to Mr. Beniston for his kindness in giving such an interesting lecture”.

£5 was raised by the lecture!!

Tom and his wife Jane then went out to India, and by 1882 Tom was working at the Manockjee Petit (Spinning and Weaving) Mills in Tardeo.

By the end of the century the family was back in Ilkeston, at 122 Station Road where Thomas traded as a general furnisher.
Jane had died in 1896 and Thomas married his second wife Sarah Jane Jones, daughter of  John and Sarah J., in 1899.

The youngest surviving child of Thomas and Jane Maria was Alvina Beniston (registered as Alvena in 1888)
It was reported within the Beniston family that Alvenor Street was named after Alvina Beniston. That area was developed by the Shaw family (Brick manufacturers and House Builders), who had a number of links with the Benistons toward the end of the 19th century. Other contiguous streets in the same area have boys` forenames. There was also a street BENISTON PLACE which not longer exists. (John Beniston)


Beniston Place later Bethel Street (and also known as ‘Little Dustpan’)

Beniston Place is listed on the 1891 Ilkeston census, accommodating three houses. By 1892 its name had changed to Bethel Street, with the arrival of the Bethel Mission of the United Methodist Free Church, which you see below (Photo by Jim Beardsley). However in that year it was came into the hands of ‘the Church Army‘, an institution working in concert with other parochial institutions and which had expressly been invited to Ilkeston by the Rev. Edward Muirhead Evans.

We are looking up towards Lower Chapel Street, with numbers 1, 2 and 3 to the right of the Mission.

And, above, we are standing in Lower Chapel Street, looking down Bethel Street, towards Station Road, which is out of sight on the left. In 1897 the Church Army Mission relocated to new premises at the corner of Alvenor Street and Station Road.

‘Bethel Street, nicknamed ‘Little Dustpan’ after the shop (ironmonger) of that name which stood at the lower corner at 123 Station Road occupied in 1899 by Thomas Beniston’. (from the notes of John Beniston’s father).


Alvina’s elder sister Edith Annie (1880) married Joseph Woolley in 1905 and was Mayoress of Ilkeston during Joseph’s mayoralty in 1916. (see IA July 1955)


Thomas Beniston died of coronary thrombosis on March 22nd 1937 at 21 Gregory Street, aged 81.
A short obituary, contributed by John Beniston, was recorded in the Nottingham Evening Post. Tuesday 23 March 1937.
Death of Mr T Beniston of Ilkeston
The death of Mr T Beniston , occurred suddenly at his home in Gregory Street Ilkeston, yesterday, at the age of 81.
Mr Beniston had had a remarkable career, and was a much travelled man.
At the age of 25 he went to Bombay to manage a hosiery factory for a Nottingham firm of manufacturers. For various other firms subsequently he went in a similar capacity to Russia, Italy, New Zealand, India, and Brazil, making more than a dozen voyages to Brazil.
In the course of his wanderings he learned many languages, and could converse in Hindustani, Kanarese, Russian, Portuguese, and Italian. Right up to the last he took an active interest in public matters and politics. In his earlier years he was a member of Ilkeston School Board, and was an old member of the Ilkeston Methodist Church Bath street Ilkeston.

5.   William.

He married Alice Wilkinson in October 1880, and died at 28 Burr Lane, Ilkeston, on January 12th 1898.

6.   Elizabeth.

She was the first ‘Ilkeston born’ Beniston … on May 3rd 1861. In 1885 she married blacksmith William Cooper and thenceforward lived in Nottingham.

7.   James

He was born on June 12th 1863 and married Mary Ann Rushton on August 24th 1884.

A framesmith by trade, he later established a carriage/coach building business partnership in Bath Street called Hill and Beniston (Borough Carriage Works)


And so we continue down the road