The Brickmakers of St Albans

William Bennett


St Albans


William Bennett was born in Hackney in about 1800, married a St Albans girl in about 1832. By the time of his death he owned a significant amount of property in the area (possibly including some houses  which he built for letting) including brickworks on Bernards Heath, Harpenden Common and Leverstock Green.

[Unless otherwise stated family information comes from the IGI, VRI, and census data.]

It has not been possible to locate William BENNETT's birth or marriage but his wife Martha was almost certainly Martha CANNON who was christened at St Peter's Church on 27 October 1811, the daughter of William and Mary CANNON. They had the following children - all christened at St Peters. For the older children (at least) the father's occupation is given as "builder"

Martha Cannon BENNETT    Christening: 20 Jun 1834
Mary Ann Luckman BENNETT    Christening: 4 Jul 1836
William Cannon BENNETT    Christening: 13 Jun 1839
Eleanor Maria BENNETT    Christening: 21 Oct 1843
Harriet Louisa BENNETT    Christening:  22 Feb 1846
Alice Henrietta BENNETT    Christening:  30 Apr 1848
Henry Charles BENNETT    Christening: 15 Oct 1850
Edward Herbert BENNETT    Christening: 31 Oct 1852 
Eliza Adelaide BENNETT    Christening:  2 Jul 1856

Brick Making on Bernards Heath, St Albans

For a map showing the location of his brickfield see The Bernards Heath Brick Fields

The first reference I have to William BENNETT is 

Order that Mr William BENNETT, of St. Albans, Builder, be employed to make the alterations at the goal. suggested by the visiting magistrates' report.

Midsummer Sessions 1831, Session Records of the Liberty of St Albans

He is listed in the Hertfordshire Poll Book for the election on 20th and 21st December, 1832, when William BENNETT, of St Peters qualified on the basis of copyhold cottages at Snatchup End, St Albans. William BENNETT is also listed as paying rates on  "Bernerd Heath & Brick Hill" in the Sandridge Rate Returns for 18th May 1833 and 5th June 1835 [from a selective transcript by Reg Auckland]. In the 1834 Pigot's Directory for Hertfordshire he is listed in St Peters Street under the heading "Carpenters and Builders" while in the 1839 edition he is listed under "Brickmakers & Lime Burners.

St Albans Liberty & County, January 28th

Present: Rev. H.J.B. Nicholson, D.D., chairman ; J. Kinder, Esq., J. Hawkins, Esq., S. R. Solly, Esq., Rev. W. M. Bowen, D.D.

Charles Cordell, of St. Alban's, labourer, was charged with assaulting William Groom.

William Groom deposed — I live at Bernard Heath, in the parish of St. Michael ; I work at Mr. Bennett's brick works; about four o'clock on Friday afternoon Cordell, and several young men, came near the kiln ; I ordered them off, as they hindered me from my work ; I afterwards pushed Cordell. but he did not fall; he then struck me violently on the head and knocked me down; my wife sent for a policeman, but he ran away.

William Groom, aged 12, son of the prosecutor, gave similar testimony.

Fined 13s. 6d. including costs ; allowed fourteen days for payment, or to be imprisoned for three weeks in the House of Correction, with hard labour.

Hertford Mercury, 4th February, 1843

Accident.— On the afternoon of Tuesday last, about two o'clock, as a wagon and cart belonging J. H. Knight, Esq. of Oaklands, St. Peter 's , near St. Alban's, were returning from the Bernard-Heath kiln, with a load of lime and bricks, James Howard, the person having charge of the wagon, and a lad who was driving the cart, stopped at the sign of the Peacock in the Hertford Road, for the purpose of baiting their horses, while they went into the house and had some beer. On leaving the Peacock the horses in the wagon became unmanageable and Howard ran down the road after them to stop them, but in attempting to catch hold of the chains he unfortunately missed them, and fell before the wheels of the wagon, which passed over his head, and killed him on the the spot. An inquest was held on the body the same evening, before Mr. F. J. Osbaldeston, when verdict of " Accidental death was returned.

Hertford Mercury, 20th May, 1843

A Post Office Directory for 1846 lists him as a builder, brickmaker and lime burner at St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Harpenden. In 1850 he is listed as a builder at St Albans and as a brickmaker in 1855 and 1862. In the 1851 census he was described as a "Builder & Brickmaker employing 27 men viz 3 Carpenters 2 Bricklayers 14 Labourers 6 brickmakers and 2 labs" while in 1861 he was an "Alderman & Brickmaker employing 17 labourers". 


On the 11th instant, at his residence, St Peter's Street, St Albans, William Bennett, Esq, in his 63rd year. Deceased was for many years a churchwarden of the Parish of St Peter, an Alderman, has served the office of Mayor, was much respected, and is much regretted.

Herts Advertiser, 14th June 1862

He died on 11th June 1862 and his will states that his brickfield was situated on the north east side of Bernards Heath - suggesting the site opposite where the school now is - which fits in with other evidence. This brickyard was taken over by James Vass in 1864.

Begs respectfully to state that he has taken the old-established and well-known BRICK and LIME YARD, situate on Bernard’s Heath, and for so many years carried on by the late Mr. William Bennett; where he intends to produce first-class BRICKS, at the lowest possible prices, which he doubts not will give complete satisfaction to all who may favour him with their orders.
A stock of fresh-burnt LIME always on hand.

St Albans, August 4th, 1864.

Herts Advertiser, 13th August, 1864

Brick Making on West Common, Harpenden

For map and other references to the Harpenden Brick Field see West Common, Harpenden

He also owned a brickworks on Harpenden Common and the following statement1 almost certainly refer to him. "A map, drawn in 1838, shows a spot on Harpenden Common opposite the end of Crabtree Lane where Lines ‘built a house and made bricks’. The notes accompanying the map record that ‘Mr Bennett made him pull his house down and clear away his brickyard’. The same map shows a brickfield on the Common, west of St Albans Road and south of Hatching Green." [Wheathampstead & Harpenden Part V.]

The 1850 and 1855 Post Office Directories for Hertfordshire lists William BENNETT, brickmaker, under Harpenden. In his will he owned land brickfield and other estate situate on the west side of Harpenden Common. It would appear that his widow kept the brickfield operating after his death, as the following advertisement from 1868 shows.

The map shows the brickworks from the 1884 OS map and the presence of the "shaft" strongly suggests that there was a chalk mine entered via a mine shaft.

++250,000 CAPITAL BRICKS, Best Dark and Light Hards, and Soft Bricks,
To be sold by Auction, by
Mr. Fredk. Gough
At Mrs Bennett’s Brick Yard, the south-west side of Harpenden Common …
This sale is called in consequence of the renewal of the lease and intended alterations on the premises, so that a clearance must be effected. …

Herts Advertiser, 28th March, 1868

Brick Making at Leverstock Green

The Bennett's End Brick Field as shown on the 1883 OS map.

There is a reference to William BENNETT making bricks at Hemel Hempstead in the 1846 Post Office Directory for London and surrounds and his will also shows that he had a "brickfield and estate situate at or near Leverstock Green in the county of Hertford". It may be relevant that a Henry BENNETT who owned "Meadow & Kiln" 2a 2r 10p in the Leverstock Green area on the 1840 tithe return. He occupied the "Kiln Grounds", while part of the meadow was occupied by Mark Pattison WOOD - the local farmer.

The following advert shows that there were both brick and lime kilns on the site shortly after William Bennett's death and it could be that there was a chalk mine at Hemel Hempstead as well as at Harpenden - and possibly at Bernards Heath.


To Builders, Contractors and the Public generally


BEGS to state that she has erected new Steam Works and Hot Beds at the above Kilns, which will enable her to supply all orders for every kind of Building Materials, at the lowest possible prices. Any article not in stock made to order on the shortest notice, either in winter or summer.

Herts Advertiser, 31st December, 1864

Community Activities

William BENNETT was elected a Town Councillor in St Albans in 1849, was Mayor in 1851, continuing in 1852 as a Councillor and becoming an Alderman in 1856. Together with John Horner RUMBALL he petitioned against the return of Mr Jacob BELL as MP for St Albans on the grounds of corruption in the 1850 election. He was the second person to give evidence to the Parliamentary Commissioners, on 27th October, 1851. [Report of the Commissioners ... to inquire into the existence of bribery in the Borough of St Albans ..., 1852.]  He was a Parish Warden at St Peters and was a member of the Board of Guardians. 

Will - Listing Property owned

William BENNETT owned three brickworks and a significant amount of other property in St Albans - particularly east of St Peter's Street between Victoria Street and the Hatfield Road. One of his tenants was my great great grandfather, Thomas Cox.

His will, which is summarised below, identifies the property, and where relevant, the tenants.

This is the last Will and Testament of me William BENNETT of St Albans in the County of Hertford Esquire.  
I appoint my wife while she continues my widow [Martha BENNETT] and unmarried and my daughter Mary Ann Luckman [BENNETT]  Executors and Trustees of this my Will  
I devise to the Reverend Horatio Nelson Dudding of St Albans aforesaid and his heirs the legal estate of his two Almshouses occupied by his nominees situate near the Peacock Public House at St Albans aforesaid. Reverend Horatio Nelson Dudding was Vicar of St Peter's

The Peacock Public House is in Hatfield Road

I devise to my wife Martha and her heirs my two almshouses situate near the said Peacock Public House   
I direct that out of any monies which my son in law Edward YOUNG, shall at my decease owe me in my business of a Brickmaker the sum of three hundred pounds shall be abated for his absolute benefit and I release him from such issue. Edward Young, son of John YOUNG married Martha Cannon BENNETT at St Peters, St Albans, on 25th October 1860. He was a 29 year old builder, born Stoke Newington, Middlesex, living in St Peters Street in 1861 census.
I bequeath to my said wife Martha absolutely all my furniture plate china linen books and household effects.  
I bequeath to my said Executors and Trustees all my stock in trade of a Brickmaker book debts (subject to the said abatement in favour of the said Edward YOUNG) and other Personal Estate not being leasehold and not heretofore disposed off upon trust to convert into money and receive the same and to pay thereout all my mortgage and other debts and the unpaid purchase money of my land near Saint Albans aforesaid now in the occupation of Mr William CANNON abutting toward the North East on the St Albans and Hatfield Road and my funeral and testamentary expenses. In the 1861 census William CANNON (45, Landed Proprietor) was living in St Peters Street with unmarried sisters Harriet (42) and Maria (40). These are probably siblings of Martha BENNETT, nee CANNON, but the records have not been checked.

The St Albans and Hatfield Road - was called Cock Lane, now Hatfield Road.

Whereas I lately purchased and procured to be surveyed to uses in favour of my said wife a house and land adjoining St Peters Street in St Albans aforesaid or part whereof & built the house now in my occupation now I will and require that my said wife shall by sale or mortgage of the same premises discharge so much of the loans made to me by the trustees of her father's will and of the monies owing by me on any mortgage and of the said unpaid purchase money as my said residuary personal estate shall prove inadequate to discharge so as to exonerate the said mortgaged and purchased estates and all other my real and leasehold estate therefrom.  
I devise all my real estate including leasehold to my said wife Martha for the term of her natural life or until she shall marry after my decease for the maintenance of herself and the maintenance and education of all my children who for the time being may be in a position to require the same  
And after the decease or second marriage of my said wife I dispose of all the said estate devised to her during her life and widowhood as follows  
I devise all my meadow land cottages and stabling situate in the parish of St Michael or of St Peter in or near Saint Albans aforesaid and near the Folly House unto my son William Cannon [BENNETT] and his heirs. Folly House (also known as Bleak House) in Folly Lane
I devise my land brickfield and other estate situate on the west side of Harpenden Common in the County of Hertford and my house land and premises situated on the south east side of Temperance Street in St Albans now in the occupation of Mr DIX and my coach houses stabling and ground thereto adjoining situate near the said Peacock Public House to my son Henry Charles [BENNETT] and his heirs Probably  James William DIX (36, painters foreman, born Edmonton, Middlesex) and living in Fishpool Street in the 1861 census.
I devise all my land and Brickfield situate on the north east side of Bernards Heath near St Albans and my said land now in the occupation of William CANNON and my land on the south west side thereof in the occupation of William Henry EVANS which lands abut towards the south east on a public road which is a continuance of the Lattimore Road and extend together from the said St Albans and Hatfield Road to Victoria Road unto my son Edward Herbert [BENNETT] and his heirs. 1862 Post Office Directory: "EVANS, Wm. Henry, esq., St Peter's St."

"... continuance ..." Now called Upper Lattimore Road.

I devise to my said trustees all the house and workshops situate in St Peters Street aforesaid now in the occupation of the said Edward YOUNG and all my brickfield and estate situate at or near Leverstock Green in the county of Hertford to my said trustees upon trust that they my said trustees hold for not exceeding seven years in possession ??? and receive the rents and profits of the same hereditaments and during the lifetime of my daughter Martha Cannon YOUNG pay such rents and profits as the same shall become due but not in any ??? of anticipation (after deducting incidental expenses) into the hands of my said daughter Martha Cannon YOUNG as an inalienable personal provision for her sole and separate use free from marital control debts or arrangements her receipts alone being sufficient discharges for the same and from and after the decease of my said daughter Martha Cannon YOUNG I devise the last mentioned hereditaments ....  
I devise my two houses near the Marlborough Buildings at St Albans aforesaid now in ???? occupation of Mr HOWELLS and Mr DYER in like manner upon the trusts and with the like limitations restrictions powers and provisions in favour of my Daughter Mary Ann Luckman [BENNETT] ... In the 1861 census Benjamin J HOWELL (40, retired railway contractor, born Liverpool) was living at Marlborough Villa.

1862 Post Office Directory: "DYER, Charles Kemp, esq. Hatfield Road."  Address given as Marlborough Road in 1870 Directory.

I devise my house and premises near the Marlborough Buildings aforesaid occupied by Mr Henry PARSONS and the one half which is furthest from the St Albans and Hatfield Road of and to be divided from the rest of the Meadow at the back of the said house in like manner upon the like trusts and with the like limitations restrictions powers and provisions in favour of my daughter Eleanor Maria [BENNETT] during her life ... 1862 Post Office Directory: Possibly "PARSONS, Henry, brewer, St Peter's Street."
I devise my house and premises near the Marlborough Buildings at St Albans aforesaid occupied by Mr Thomas COX and the one half which is nearest to the St Albans and Hatfield Road of and to be divided from the rest of the meadow at the rear of the said house in like manner ... in favour of my daughter Harriet Louisa [BENNETT] ... 1862 Post Office Directory: "COX, Thomas, esq., Hatfield Road." He later lived in "The Laurels", Marlborough Road, which may be the same house if Marlborough Road had not been names in 1862. This is likely to have been a significant house as my great great grandfather Thomas Cox (1794-1874) had previously farmed Hammonds Farm, Sandridge, and when he died his estate was values as under £18,000.
I devise and bequeath such three as are farthest from Dagnall Lane of my six leasehold houses in College Street in St Albans aforesaid and my land messuages and estate situate at Frogmore End in the parish of Hemel Hempstead ... in favour of my daughter Alice Henrietta [BENNETT]...  
I devise and bequeath such three that as are nearest to Dagnall Lane of my six leasehold houses in College Street in St Albans aforesaid and the Duke of Marlborough public house near Holywell Bridge St Albans ... in favour of my daughter Elizabeth Adelaide .[BENNETT].. 1862 Post Office Directory: "JOHNSON, Francis, Duke of Marlborough, Holywell Hill."
[The will continues at length with two codicils but no new names or property is introduced.]  
... and have hereunder set my hand and seal this twentieth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two - William Bennett ... [witnesses] R Grove LOWE, Solicitor & Henry BRABANT Clerk to Mr LOWE.  

Census Returns

1851 Census - St Peters Street, St Peters, St Albans

William Bennett Head 48 Builder & Brickmaker employing 27 men viz 3 Carpenters 2 Bricklayers 14 Labourers 6 brickmakers and 2 labs Hackney, Middlesex
Martha Bennett Wife 37   St Albans
Mary Ann Bennett Daughter 14 Scholar St Albans
Eleanor M Bennett Daughter 7   St Albans
Harriet L Bennett Daughter 5   St Albans
Alice H Bennett Daughter 3   St Albans
Henry C Bennett Son     St Albans
Hannah Bates Servant 18 House Servant Paddington, Middlesex

His son William Cannon BENNETT was one of the boarders in the "Gentlemens' classical and mathematical boarding school" run by the Rev Henry HALL in Fishpool Street, St Albans

1861 Census - St Peters Street, St Peters, St Albans

William Bennett Head 61 Alderman - Brickmaker employing 17 labourers South Hackney, Middlesex
Martha Bennett Wife 48   St Albans
Mary Bennett Daughter 24   St Albans
William C Bennett Son 21   St Albans
Eleanor M Bennett Daughter 17 Scholar St Albans
Harriet L Bennett Daughter 15 Scholar St Albans
Alice H Bennett Daughter 13 Scholar St Albans
Henry C Bennett Son 11 Scholar St Albans
Edward H Bennett Son 8 Scholar St Albans
Eliza A Bennett Daughter 6 Scholar St Albans
Rebekah Angell Servant 18 Housemaid Hatfield

 1871 Census - 6 Western Terrace, Brighton

William Bennett's widow was living at Brighton with children Mary, Eleanor, Henrietta, Charles, Edward, Adelaide and two domestic servants, with no evidence of any connection with brickmaking. - No sign of William Cannon Bennett.

 1891 Census - Brunswick Road, Hove, Sussex

Siblings at this address were Mary, Maria, Alice, Henry (Clerk in Holy Orders) and Herbert (Visitor, Vicar of St James, Doncaster).

Answers to Questions


January 2010

Scott Brown (heirchive @t of Uxbridge, ON, Canada. writes: I am descended from a Charles Bennett of Mapperley, Notts and wondered if you were aware of a connection between your St Albans, Bennett Brickworks and the brickworks of my GGGrandfather. Bennett's are tied to brickmaking all over Britain at least back to early 1700's.

In the 18th century and earlier, and for most of the 19th century, most bricks were made from local clay near to the building(s) where they were to be used. It would have been common for builders and bricklayers to make their own bricks - or at least employ itinerant brick makers. During the industrial revolution and the population movements into towns, people with skills relating to the building trade frequently moved to the larger towns and cities, and a family with skills might well split up and make bricks in many different areas.

You don't say when Charles Bennett was born or when he was at Mapperley, but I guess he was he was probably the Charles, son of Frances and Elizabeth Bennett (and brother of Henry) who was christened in Derby in 1834, was a managing Brick maker at Mapperley in 1871, and a brick maker at Nottingham in 1881. There is nothing here to connect the family to Hertfordshire (or London).

However there is nothing to link the Bennett brickmakers of St. Albans to Nottinghamshire. The 1851 census shows that William Bennett (1800-1862) shows that he was born in Hackney and he may well have come to St Albans as a builder, and only started to make bricks once he got there. The census also shows two other Benntts born in Hackney who could have been his brothers. Arthur (47 in 1851) was a carpenter still living in Hackney while Joseph (44) was a builder and sawyer living in St Albans, All employed staff - meaning that they were all principals in the building trade. As my interest is specifically with brickmaking in the St Albans area I will not be following this up further - but you might like to research the Bennett family in Hackney to see if they came from Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

Direct Reference
January 2010   Page updated
October 2016   Maps & some additional information re Harpenden and Hemel Hempstead