BENSON, Richard (c.1556-1609), of Old Street ward, Ludlow, Salop
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Family and Educationb. c.1556, yr. s. of ?William Benson (d.1565), cardmaker and common cllr. of Ludlow. educ. appr. (ironmonger) m. 5 May 1578, Anne (bur. 27 Oct. 1609), da. of Alderman Richard Rascoll alias Rosegrave of Ludlow, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. bur. 4 Nov. 1609.1
Freeman, Ludlow 1580, member, Hammermen’s guild 1580, churchwarden 1587-8, common cllr. 1590-1601, chamberlain 1593-4, low bailiff 1596-7, town renter 1600-6, alderman 1601-d., high bailiff 1603-4, coroner 1604-5.2
Benson was probably related to the chantry priest of the same name incumbent at Ludlow parish church at the dissolution of 1547, and, given his profession as an ironmonger, his father was perhaps the cardmaker William Benson, a common councillor at Ludlow during the 1560s. While a member of the Hammermen’s guild, Benson doubtless owed much of his local status to his father-in-law Richard Rascoll, one of the town’s wealthiest clothiers, and an alderman between 1566 and 1607.3
Benson’s connections led to his involvement in a hard-fought dispute during the 1590s, when an inner group among the corporation were attacked by others resentful of their virtual monopoly of town lands and office. Benson, one of the inner circle through his links to Rascoll, served as low bailiff during 1596-7, at the height of this dispute, when his brother John, a London Goldsmith, was funding the oligarchy’s attempt to secure a new charter to consolidate their position. Benson was publicly censured by his wife’s relative Simon Blashfield who, among other choice epithets, described him as ‘a cup-carrier’ and ‘a knavemaster’. Litigation ensued over the proposed charter, preferential leases of town lands and the conduct of the 1597 parliamentary election, during which Benson played an active part in defending the oligarchy’s interests.4 Although the charges against the inner circle of the Ludlow corporation were verified in the courts, oligarchy was not an offence in the eyes of the law, and by 1601 the rival factions had arrived at an accommodation whereby some of the complainants were expelled from the corporation, while others were co-opted into the inner circle. Benson’s appointment as town renter in 1600 was probably a sign of this reconciliation, as control of town lands lay at the centre of the dispute, and such a partisan appointment would have been vigorously contested only a few years earlier.
Benson was elected alderman in 1601, and served as high bailiff in 1603-4. In January 1604 the corporation resolved to seek a new charter, chiefly (perhaps) to heal the divisions that had revolved around the previous grant, and after some debate it was decided that two of the townsmen should be sent to London as both MPs and lobbyists. Robert Berry, who had represented the borough in the Commons regularly since 1581, was returned together with Benson, who, as one of the returning officers, was technically disqualified from election. The corporation presumably wished to have one of their bailiffs involved in the lobbying process, but begrudged paying concurrently for both MPs and lobbyists, and so, probably to disguise this ruse, they avoided naming the bailiffs on the election indenture.5
In the Commons in 1604 a Thomas, or Sir Thomas, Benson, was twice named to attend the king over the Buckinghamshire election dispute (28 Mar., 12 Apr.); it is unlikely that an obscure Shropshire ironmonger would have been chosen for the task, and the entry was presumably a clerical error for the Member for Buckingham, Sir Thomas Denton.* In subsequent sessions Benson was named to committees for bills concerning tillage in Herefordshire (20 Mar. 1606) and iron mills near London (11 Mar. 1607). While at Westminster in 1604, he and Berry secured the new charter, clearly their constituents’ main concern, for which they received £66 9s. 1d., plus 2s. each per diem as parliamentary wages.6
When not at Westminster, Benson continued to play a significant part in the Ludlow corporation’s business, travelling to the assizes at Hereford and Shrewsbury, paying the town fee farm at Wolverhampton, and lobbying the lord chancellor and Board of Greencloth in London. On 23 Sept. 1609 he was deputed to go to London once more upon town business, but before he could leave he and his wife were struck down by plague. Buried on 4 Nov., he left his wife (who actually predeceased him) a jointure interest in part of his property, and divided most of the rest between his eldest son, Richard, and two daughters.7 None of his descendants sat in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. M. Faraday, Ludlow 1085-1660, p. 134; Ludlow (Salop par. reg. soc. xiii), 10, 87, 93, 98, 104, 108, 257, 298.
- 2. Faraday, 194, 229; Ludlow, 16; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 1, 12, 21, 25, 31v-2, 38, 48v, 53, 64.
- 3. Faraday, 55, 134, 192-3; Ludlow, 10.
- 4. Faraday, 31-7; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 22-3, 27-31v; E112/37/106, 120-1; STAC 5/B52/29, 5/B107/23.
- 5. Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 49v-50; C219/35/2/40.
- 6. CJ, i. 157a, 169b, 287b, 351b; Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 50-1, 61, 65v, 67, LB7/1/128/3.
- 7. Salop RO, LB2/1/1, ff. 56v-9v, 65v, 79v; Ludlow 295-9; PROB 11/115, ff. 73v-4v.