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John Benson traced his ancestry to King Edward 1st, who reigned from 1272 to 1307. One of the King's grandsons was Hugh de Courtenay, 2nd Earl of Devon. This Hugh had a great great granddaughter, Appolonia, who married Thomas Melhuish of Witheridge. Their son, Robert, married Ann Paulet, and they had a son, Thomas, who died in 1690. Thomas grand-daughter, Grace, married a John Benson, and their son, Thomas, married Frances Melhuish, whose brother, Rev Thomas Melhuish, was Vicar of Witheridge from 1745 to 1793. The Melhuishes were patrons of the living from 1643 to 1832. The first Benson vicar was John Peter (1843 - 1876), appointed by a Melhuish descendant. The Bensons themselves became patrons, and in 1876 Mary Melhuish Benson presented Procter Melhuish Benson. This sequence ended when in 1893 John Peter Benson was both patron and vicar. He was uncle to our John Benson.

John was born in 1877 in Dorset, the son of Rev William John Benson. He was educated at Christ's Hospital and Selwyn College, Cambridge. He got his M.A. degree, but rather than take holy orders, he became a schoolmaster. In about 1906 he was taken on as a tutor to the young son of a wealthy couple, who travelled much in Europe. He held this post for eight years, and many countries were visited, including Russia. Among the rewards he received for his work was a set of Faberge eggs, made of gold and encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. He came back to England before the 1914-18 war, but failed the necessary medical examination for service in the forces. He was, and remained, unmarried.

In the early 1920s he taught at Dartington Hall, and later at Canford. A legacy in 1929 allowed him to retire at the age of 52, and buy Foxdon, where he lived until the 1950s, when he had the house at the top of the village built, known then as "Moorview", where he died at the age of 61. His retirement had given him the chance to devote himself to his true love, namely historical studies. He was an active member of the Devonshire Association, but it was to "Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries" that he contributed nearly 200 pieces of work from 1932 to 1959. Much of this did not touch Witheridge; nevertheless, he added appreciably to our knowledge of the manor, the church, and local families.

After his death a tribute to him was published, praising his scholarship, his work for students and his generosity in sharing his learning. He is still remembered today.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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