Benjamin Wingrove

We have seen that up to 1800 Combe Down had remained much as it had in Ralph Allen’s day and before. The Maude family sell off occasioned by the substantial debts incurred by Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden (1729 – 1803) had led to the development of Isabella Place and created the Hadley Estate.

But others had been buying land too in the sell off and over the next few years many of the quarries had new owners.

As will become apparent later a number of other houses were built on Combe Down in this period. But, before addressing that, as the name keeps cropping up a question needs to be answered: who was Benjamin Wingrove?

Who was Benjamin Wingrove?

There were four.

About Benjamin Wingrove’s brewing business

About Benjamin Wingrove’s brewing business

Benjamin Wingrove (1693-1768) started the family’s prosperity. He was a brewer, baker and seems to have at least dabbled in property. He had 7 children, one of whom was a son called Benjamin Wingrove (abt 1743 – 1749).

The second Benjamin Wingrove (1762-1790), a grandson, was also a brewer. He took over Mrs. Osman’s business in 1785, married a Mary Hayward on 23 April 1789 and died on 28 May 1790 aged only 28.

The third, Benjamin Wingrove (1773 – 1840) was also a grandson, and he was to become very well known in his day.

He was a barrister, The Register of Admissions to Gray’s Inn shows:

‘Benjamin Wingrove, second son of John W., late of the city of Bath.......’. [1]

He was a conveyancer and did work for Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden (1729 – 1803) from at least 1799. His name appears on a number of lease and release documents as the Prior Park estate and Ralph Allen’s lands on Combe Down and elsewhere were sold off by Thomas Maude, 2nd Viscount Hawarden (1767 – 1807) as noted above. Clearly, he also used this opportunity to buy land himself.

He was also a yeomanry officer in Monkton Combe in 1803 “where people gathered in the Churchyard on the 8 August and passed the following spirited resolution:

The People of Monkton Combe determine to stand or fall with the King and Country of Duty in the General Cause........The Company was commanded by Captain Benjamin Wingrove, and formed part of the Bath Forum Regiment of Volunteer Infantry (q.v.)”. [2]

He also worked with John Thomas (abt 1752 – 1827) to whom his son Cornwallis Maude, 3rd Viscount Hawarden (1780 – 1856) sold Prior Park in 1809. His name appeared on the timber sale details as the person to contact, at Axford Buildings near the Paragon. From directories we know he also had offices at Devonshire Buildings and Hetling House (now Abbey Church House, Westgate Buildings) and the Prior Park estate accounts at Bath Record Office show he lived at the Steward’s House on the estate.

The Scandal

In 1799 he was drawn into a scandal when his cousin Frances ‘Fanny’ Wingrove (1778 – 1830) eloped with the Rev William Henry Vivian (1756 – 1840) of Truro, himself the son of a vicar. He was 43 and she was just 21. It caused an exchange of correspondence[3] that became quite heated, though only drafts exist of Benjamin Wingrove’s letters to Vivian.

27 Jan. 1799

Draft of letter from Benjamin Wingrove to Rev. William. Henry Vivian 'The Secrecy observed in your Marr  wh. my Relation Miss F W wh. other mysterious occurrences connected with it... gave birth to the most calumnious Reports ...'

2 Feb. 1799

Letter from W.H. Vivian to B. Wingrove 'she acted on the maturest deliberation and was of an Age to Judge for herself ...'

23 Feb. 1799

Draft of letter from B. Wingrove to W.H. Vivian 'a Noble declaration for a Man to make (especially one of your profession) after reducing an unprotected orphan to a state of prostitution... If you decline marriage... secure her against... necessity and want... I cannot boast a titled Pedigree yet I flatter myself that I can support the Character of a Gentleman ...'

28 Feb. 1799

Letter from W.H. Vivian to B. Wingrove 'I do not condescent so far as to take notice of your abuse & scurrility... I will settle on her annually during her Life £60... with Respect to the Bishop... I am as independent of him as you are ...'

15 March 1799

Draft of letter from B. Wingrove to W.H. Vivian 'I cannot think that a man in Holy Orders is totally out of the reach of ecclesiastical Censure... if Fanny's welfare is really dear to you... my wishes will be wholly gratified ...'

19 March 1799

Letter from W.H. Vivian to B. Wingrove 'My Principal Income comes from my Mother & shares in Mines... in Case of my Death I have already given her sufficient to purchase £200 pr Annum ...'

14 Jan. 1800

Draft of letter from B. Wingrove to W.H. Vivian 'It has long been my intention to meet you ...'

No date

Note 'Mr. Vivian presents his Complts. to Mr. Wingrove & will call on him ...' (endorsed July but postmarked 27 June 1800)

No date

Letter from W.H. Vivian to B. Wingrove '…it would be better to purchase a Leasehold Estate on lives ...'(endorsed July but postmarked 28 June 1800

No date

Letter from W.H. Vivian to B. Wingrove '…much disappointed at not having received an Answer ...' (endorsed July but postmarked 30 June 1800)

No date

Draft of letter from B. Wingrove to W.H. Vivian 'Your offered concurrence in such measures that may be approved by my kinswoman's friends for her future security is highly satisfactory ...'

No date

Letter from W.H. Vivian to B. Wingrove '…there is nothing remaining for me to do, but to sign the necessary Papers ...' (postmarked 1 July 1800)

2 July 1800

Declaration of trust for annuity of £150 p.a. between Revd. W.H. Vivian of Truro clerk, B. Wingrove of Bath gent. (trustee), Frances Wingrove of Lisson Green, Paddington, Middx. spinster (annuitant)

2 July 1800

Bond to secure payment of annuity between Revd. W.H. Vivian & B. Wingrove

So the matter was settled by money though it seems that it eventually had a happier ending as Fanny married William Henry in 1805. They had no children.

Bath Roads Office

Benjamin Wingrove (1773 – 1840) was also interested in road building; apparently his father had been an amateur road maker. He became a trustee of the Bath Turnpike Roads from 1810, ran the Bath Roads Office as General Surveyor from 1817-1826[4] and was way warden for Monkton Combe from 1806-1816[5]. He was also Surveyor for the Taunton Turnpike Trust.

Excerpt from letter by Benjamin Wingrove to John Thomas of Prior Park (Bath Record Office Acc446)

Excerpt from letter by Benjamin Wingrove to John Thomas of Prior Park (Bath Record Office Acc446)

It seems his work for the Bath Roads Office meant that he had not properly accounted for the estate work at Prior Park to John Thomas (abt 1752 – 1827) who queried what accounts he had provided. He used his work for the Bath Roads Office as his main excuse.

It may seem strange to us that a barrister and conveyancer should become a surveyor and road builder, but in the 19th century such things were not so unusual.

“I have never yet, in my own affairs, suffered Pounds Shillings & Pence to operate as causes of dispute between me & my friends & on this occasion especially, I have no inclination to deviate from that rule. You have only to sit down with me in your own natural spirit of fairness & justice for one hour, perhaps less & this little affair, for little indeed it is to a man of your ample fortune, tho important to me, would be most satisfactorily terminated.

The circumstance of my having delayed so long the account I have before explained. When I took management of the Bath Roads, I imprudently withdrew my attention entirely from my private affairs, putting aside my Books and Papers I suffered year after year to pass without considering the consequences of their untended state and thus I (& in some cases my friends too) have sustained costs and inconveniences….”

This is somewhat ironic given the focus on his lack of accounting at the Bath Roads Office which is noted later.

His time at the Bath Roads Office was controversial. As a trustee he and others invited John McAdam to meet them and produce a report which recommended the appointment of a General Surveyor which McAdam felt sure would go to him. But Benjamin Wingrove put his name forward as well and beat McAdam to the post on a vote of 55 to 53 with one abstention. He felt McAdam’s road building system was not good enough and used his own system with stronger foundations, better stone and convexity for better drainage (which he believed McAdam copied).

Benjamin Wingrove appearance before parliamentary select committee

Benjamin Wingrove appearance before parliamentary select committee

In 1821 he published:

“Remarks on a bill now before Parliament, to amend the general laws for regulating turnpike-roads: in which are introduced, strictures on the opinions of Mr. M'Adam, on the subject of roads; and to which are added suggestions for the consideration of the legislature on various points essential to the perfection of the road system”. 

and some parts were taken as an attack on McAdam.

By 1823 McAdam’s supporters felt they had enough to dislodge him because he had not kept proper accounts for the Bath Roads Office, and he was forced to present his accounts to the trustees. On 10th May 1823 they censured him but felt that he had not been dishonest.

Motion of Bath Roads Trustees on Benjamin Wingrove

Motion of Bath Roads Trustees on Benjamin Wingrove

Nevertheless, they clearly felt he ‘needed some help’ and the following month his son was also appointed; presumably the committee felt this might improve things.

Bath Roads Trustees appointment of Anthony Wingrove

Bath Roads Trustees appointment of Anthony Wingrove

He also appeared before parliament in June 1823. He had petitioned for an extra payment from the public purse and thought that was the reason for his appearance. In fact the select committee were looking into McAdam’s petition for compensation and told Benjamin Wingrove they could not hear his claim for remuneration as that was not why his petition had been referred to them. He ended up being grilled on his views about McAdam and his system.

In 17 March 1826 his wife died at Devonshire Buildings; she had it seems been ill for some time.

McAdam’s friends had a resolution passed at about the same time for a test between the two systems and Benjamin and Anthony Wingrove subsequently resigned from the Bath Roads Office. McAdam took over and was, it seems, paid £600 p.a. compared to Benjamin Wingrove’s £350 p.a.[6]

Benjamin Wingrove (1773 – 1840) still had other surveyorships and private work from the county councils for bridge repair for which they and not the turnpikes were responsible. His son Anthony died in 1828. After that he left Bath and moved out to Trowbridge, continuing to have surveyorships, road building and maintenance contracts until about 1836. He died in 1840.