The origins of the name Benton Hill are not certain, but it is probable that it derives from the name of a Horbury family who lived in that location. In the 1848 Tithe Award, Joseph Benton received plots 937, 938, 939, 940, 941, 942 and 943 on and around what we now know as Benton Hill.
The Horbury Land Tax Redemptions records indicate that, in 1798, a Thomas Benton lived in Horbury and occupied a property owned by Robert Craven. This appears to have been one of three properties, possibly a terrace, one occupied by Craven himself, one by William Goodall and one by Thomas Benton. The specific location of these dwellings is unknown but they were close to a property owned by John Carr, Esquire. Plot 939 from the Horbury Tithe Award includes the Cross Keys Inn and yard.
Above: Benton Hill, Horbury, circa 1910 with the Agbrigg tram on its way into Horbury. The first tram ran through Horbury in 1904. The last tram was the No. 60 to Agbrigg on Sunday July 1932 at 10:54 p.m.
The Thomas Benton who most probably lent his name to Benton Hill married Susannah Craven at Wakefield All Saints Church on 29th April 1787 and a son, Joseph Benton was born on 1st January 1793. Joseph was baptised at Westgate Presbyterian Church, Wakefield on 9th March 1794. The Land Tax records do not appear to record a Benton in Horbury before 1798 and it seems likely that the family arrived in the town in the late 1790s. Thomas Benton, clothier and father of Joseph, was buried at Horbury St Peter & St Leonard Church on 27th May 1812.
Above: Trams in Wakefield Road, Horbury in 1905 before Benton Hill.
On 13 December 1818, Joseph Benton married Esther Ottie at Wakefield St John the Baptist Church. By 1841, Joseph, an Innkeeper, and his wife Esther and their six children were living at Dyehouse, which appears to have been a description of the wider locality and not simply the location of Dyehouse Mill and Horbury Dyehouse. These woollen mills stood on the same road but closer to Wakefield than the Inn, The Cross Keys, occupied by the Benton family. The Census Enumeration District included the dwelling houses immediately adjoining the said turnpike road between Carr Lodge and the Dyehouse.
Above: Northfield Terrace of three dwellings on Benton Hill, which was most probably home to the late 18th and 19th Century Horbury Benton families.
By 1851, Joseph, Esther and three of their children were living on Wakefield Road, Horbury. One of their neighbours was also their neighbour in 1841 suggesting that their census address may have changed but they were living in the same dwelling as they occupied in 1841. Joseph, aged 56, however was now a worsted manufacturer in Wakefield employing 30 hands. Joseph Benton of Horbury, manufacturer, died on 27th March 1858 at Horbury and his Will was proven on the oath of his son, Thomas Bentley of Horbury, manufacturer.
In 1861, widow Esther Benton, her son, Thomas, a worsted spinner employing 30 girls, 4 boys and 5 men, and Esther’s spinster daughter Eleanor were still living on Wakefield Road, Horbury. This was almost certainly the same dwelling, with the same neighbour, that the Benton family had for at least the previous 20 years. Thomas moved to Liverpool by 1864 where he married, had two children and worked as a bookkeeper. Esther, his widowed mother, was buried at St Peter and St Leonard’s Church Horbury on 8th March 1870.
Above: An early OS map from the 1850s showing Benton Hill and the Cross Keys public house, which had been occupied by the Benton family, but had disappeared as an inn 50 years later.
With the exception of a Benjamin Benton, possibly a cousin, who lived at Rayners Yard and died in Horbury in 1874 there is no record of a Benton in Horbury after 1870. The evidence suggests therefore that Benton Hill took its name from the families of Thomas Benton, his son Joseph Benton and, Joseph’s son, Thomas Benton, who lived in this location from the late 1790’s until 1870 when Joseph’s wife, Esther died.
Above: Inwood House, Benton Hill, built in the mid-19th century for Ossett cloth manufacturer Joseph Wilson (1822 - 1861) and was then occupied until his death by his son, Benjamin Wilson (1856 - 1930), a member of Horbury Urban District Council and also in the textile business like his father. Benjamin Wilson gave generously to St. Peter's Church for alterations towards the end of the 19th century. "Inwood" was a private residence when purchased in March 1983 by Mr. and Mrs. Barraclough. After undergoing extensive alterations, it became registered as Residential Care Home for the Elderly in November 1983, catering for originally twelve Elderly, Elderly disabled and Elderly Mentally Infirm (Dementia) clients. After building extensions were added as shown above, Inwood House now caters for 55 clients with over 50 staff. Photograph courtesy of Helen Bickerdike, April 2016.
In June 2013, there was outcry at a proposal to build more than 20 new homes on what was regarded locally as "the last green field in Horbury" when developer Spawforths submitted outline plans Wakefield Council to build a new estate on a fields off Benton Hill. People living in the area and councillors said they would do everything they could to stop the fields being built on and Cllr. Janet Holmes said:
“The strength of feeling is huge among people in Horbury. We do not want the fields to be developed. The infrastructure would not allow it. Benton Hill is a nightmare as it is, between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. it is chock-a-block from the top to the bottom with people trying to get to work. The children all walk up the hill to get to school and the pavement is very narrow. It’s very dangerous. To put more traffic on the road would be disastrous.”
Cllr. Holmes also argued that the town could not cope with more people. She said:
“The schools are at bursting point, they could not take more pupils. You can hardly get an appointment at the doctors’ surgery and the dentist already has a waiting list of more than 40 people. This is the last green field in Horbury and people are very worried about over-crowding."
Despite the protests, Mike Ashworth, principal planner for WMDC, said:
"The site sits in a residential area of Horbury and forms part of a recent allocation for housing development within the Wakefield Local Development Framework. The allocation of the site for housing was confirmed in September 2012 by the Council, and confirmed the removal of the site from the Green Belt to be identified for housing."
So much for the Green Belt then?
Above: The Willowbrook Manor development, Benton Hill, Horbury. These houses were subsequently built on what was said to be the last green field in Horbury in 2015. Photograph courtesy of Helen Bickerdike, April 2016.
1. Census research by Alan Howe, Ossett.
2. "Wakefield Express", Saturday 15th June 2013.
Stephen Wilson, May 2016