BENNET, Sir Humphrey (c.1605-67), of Rotherfield Park, East Tisted, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. c.1605, 3rd s. of Thomas Bennet (d.1620), Mercer, of London and Babraham, Cambs. by Dorothy, da. of Richard May, Mercer, of London and Rawmere, Suss. educ. I. Temple, entered 1622; St. John’s, Oxf. matric. 4 July 1623, aged 18. m. (1) 7 July 1631, Mary (d.1637), da. of Thomas Smith, merchant, of London and South Tidworth, Hants, 1s. 1da.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Meredith Thomas, 2da.; (3) lic. 11 Feb. 1661, ‘aged 50’, Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Button, 1st Bt.†, of Alton Priors, Wilts., wid. of Sir Richard Norton, 2nd Bt., of Rotherfield, s.p. Kntd. Oct./Nov. 1644.1
Col. of horse (royalist) 1643-5.2
Sheriff, Hants 1643-5; commr. for oyer and terminer, Western circuit July 1660, j.p. Hants July 1660-d., dep. lt. c. Aug. 1660-d.; freeman, Winchester Sept. 1660; capt. of militia horse, Hants Nov. 1660-d., commr. for assessment 1661-d., corporations 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662; sub-commr. of prizes, Portsmouth 1665-7.3
Gent. of privy chamber 1666-d.4
Bennet bought the Hampshire manor of Shaldon in 1632, and other land which he subsequently valued at £2,000 p.a. He became the most prominent Royalist in the county during the Civil War and Interregnum, and was described as ‘very active and very cruel’ by his enemies. He was knighted after distinguished service at the second battle of Newbury, but went abroad after the fall of Winchester in 1645. He compounded at the rate of one-third for his estate in 1649, paying a fine of £890, but was arrested in the following year as one of the leaders of the western association. He calculated his losses, chiefly in the royal cause, at £10,000, besides his land, though his composition shows that he already owed £2,100 before the Civil War. In 1653 he was forced to sell Shaldon to his cousin, John Lewkenor I, and his wife. As one of the ‘Action party’ of royalist conspirators, he was again arrested in 1655 and imprisoned in the Tower for two-and-a-half years. He obtained release by undertaking to emigrate to Surinam; but he did not do so, and was arrested for the third time in 1658 on the information of John Stapley. He was released on a writ of habeas corpus during the protectorate of Richard Cromwell, but continued to plot for the Restoration.5
As a Cavalier, Bennet was ineligible at the general election of 1660, but in June he stood unsuccessfully at a by-election for Wallingford where his Elizabethan ancestors had lived. He was listed among the proposed knights of the Royal Oak with an income of £1,000 p.a., presumably derived from his third marriage to the sister-in-law of Sir John Norton, upon which he was added to the Hampshire assessment commission. Two months later he was elected for Petersfield, seven miles from Rotherfield, doubtless on the Norton interest. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he was appointed to 49 committees, including those for the corporations and uniformity bills, and for the bill of pains and penalties in 1661, and the bill to hinder the growth of Popery in 1663. He was locally active against sectaries, and was marked as a court dependant in 1664. He frequently petitioned for compensation for his losses, and the King was inclined to comply on account of his ‘constant loyalty and services’; but no major grant or office seems to have come his way. When he and Sir Hugh Pollard were allowed the benefit of a forfeiture, it was only with strict regard to the interests of the culprit’s father, Sir George Sondes. When his wife became desperately ill, he took an additional precaution against his creditors by obtaining a post in the Household. He died in the last week of 1667, and his family became extinct when his son, an army officer, was killed at the battle of Sole Bay.