Yeovil People

William Henry Bennet

Minister of the Gospel


William Henry Bennet was born on 26 January 1843 at Ashford, Middlesex and baptised at St Matthew's church, Ashford, on 26 February 1843. He was the eldest of the eight children of baker and grocer Frederick Henry Bennett (b1820), known as Fred, and Charlotte née Bishop (1827-1895). Fred and Charlotte's children, all born in Ashford, were; William, Adela (b1845), Frederick Henry (b1849), Emily Elizabeth (b1850), Alice Mary (b1852), Eustace Henry (b1856), Rose Charlotte (b1858) and Kate (1860-1923).

The 1851 census listed Fred, Charlotte, their first four children, Charlotte's parents and a domestic servant in Ashford. Fred gave his occupation as a baker and grocer. The 1861 census was similar except that all eight children were now present. Again, Fred gave his occupation as a baker and grocer and 18-year-old William gave his as 'Assistant in Business'.

In April 1862, William was listed among those subscribing to the new west window in St John's church in memory of Prince Albert. He subscribed one guinea (around £120 at today's value).

By the time of the following 1871 census, William had moved to Yeovil and was boarding in Ebenezer Row in Middle Street. William gave his occupation as 'Minister of Plymouth Brethren'.

In the spring of 1871, at Yeovil, William married Martha Amelia Softley, the founder and headmistress of what would become the Park School. It is known that they became involved in missionary work, which is probably the reason they don't appear in the next two censuses. By 1901, Martha and William were listed at The Park School where William gave his occupation as 'Minister of the Gospel' and Martha gave hers as 'Principal of Girls School'. Martha's cousin, Catherine also lived with them and listed her occupation as 'Joint Principal of Girls School'. There were also 23 boarding girl students, aged between 6 and 18, a cook and two housemaids.

In the 1911 census William, now aged 68, listed his occupation as 'Minister of the Gospel (Brethren)' and Martha, now aged 79, still listed hers as 'Principal of Girls School.' Also in residence were two governesses, a cook, a housemaid and eight girl boarding students. 

Martha finally retired in 1917 and died in Yeovil on 8 January 1919 at the age of 88. William died on 13 December 1920, aged 77. They had been married for 46 years but had no children.



The entry of William's baptism from the registers of St Matthew's church, Ashford, complete with a note of the date of his birth.


William Henry Bennet


Martha Amelia née Softley


From my collection

A postcard of the Park School, dated 1908. This was also the home of William and Martha at the time.