History    

The name of Benington


There are two main theories regarding the origin of the name of Benington.

One comes from Saxon times and is derived from the name of the river to the west of the village - the Beane. The middle syllable 'ing' is common in place names all over south-east England and means 'people', Benington therefore meaning 'The Town of the Beane Folk'.

The second view is that Benington is a corruption of the name 'Belinton' which appears in the Domesday Book. This is thought to mean the town of Bela's people, after the name of the man who led the first group of immigrants to the area.


The early days of Benington

In the 8th century, England was divided into about six kingdoms with the south-east section being known as Mercia. The king of Mercia, King Offa, was born in 770 AD in a castle on the site that is now Benington Lordship, where he lived and ruled Mercia. The moat is the sole remains of his establishment there, long since dried up. He died in 796 well thought of by the Pope.

The Danes first invaded our shores in large numbers in the early 9th Century and by the middle of the century they had become a serious menace. TheY were Pagans and wherever they went they left behind a trail of murder, plunder, fire, cruelty and ruin. The King of Mercia at that time was named Bertulph and he had his palace at Benington.

In 850 a messenger rode to the palace and gave the King the alarming news that 350 Danish vessels had arrived in the Thames, that Canterbury had fallen and that London had been stormed. The King quickly gathered his forces together and met the Danes in battle near London but was badly defeated and it seems likely that he returned to Benington a much saddened man.

The name of the nearby village, Dane End, shows how close the Danes must have approached the palace at times.

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The Manor of Benington

Benington Park ( also known as Benington Place ) was almost certainly part of Benington Manor, which, at Domesday date, 1086, was the property of the Norman, Peter de Valoignes, Benington being his residence and the head of his barony.

The Domesday Book records that Benington manor was then assessed at 1200 acres or more, of which 750 were attached to the manor and the other 450 occupied by tenants who helped cultivate the estate in lieu of rent.

The manor descended to Peter's son Roger who, like many other barons during those troubled times, built himself a castle, the remains of which still stand in the Lordship grounds behind Benington church. He died in 1141 or 1142 and the manor passed to his son, Robert, when in 1177, King Henry II had the castle keep demolished as an unlicensed castle, but undaunted, Robert rebulit it.

On his death in 1184, the manor passed to his daughter Gunnora, who was wife first to Durand de Ostilli and later, before 1199, to Robert Fitzwater. In 1193 the Justiciar William Longchamps, acting for Richard II, who was absent from England on the Third Crusade in the Holy Land, garrisoned Benington Castle against the king's brother John for fifty days. When John succeeded to the throne in 1199, Fitzwater fell out with him and fled to France, and John demolished the castle in 1213. Fitzwater later returned and was leader of the barons who forced John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.

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The extracts here are taken from the book 'Benington - a collection of historical anecdotes of a Hertfordshire village' by the late Eve Duncan, a resident of Benington, and is available for sale at St Peter's Church in the village.


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