Early-C18 chest tomb to Royal Naval Captain John Bennett in St Margaret’s churchyard.
Reason for Listing
The chest tomb of Captain John Bennett, dated 1716, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: as an early-Georgian chest tomb there is a presumption in favour of designation;
* Design interest: it is an elaborately detailed funerary structure with excellent sculptural decoration with symbolism pertaining to Bennett’s life and trade, probably by a notable C17-18 mason;
* Group value: it is located in an exceptional setting between the church and curfew tower, in the grounds of the ruined abbey, and contributes positively to the churchyard setting.
John Bennett of Poole, b.1670, died in Barking, Essex, in 1716. He followed his father, also John, into the Royal Navy and was made a captain in 1695; his final captaincy was of the Lenox, recorded on his tombstone. He was prepared for his early death, and left a detailed will of vast sums, and included curious secrecy clauses preventing the disclosure of the contents of pieces of bequeathed furniture. His great wealth fuelled theories of involvement in smuggling, and in Cloudesley Shovell’s Scillies disaster of 1707, but these are unproven.
The executor of his will was a City of London haberdasher, Abraham Edlin, who was tasked with commissioning the ‘grave with iron railes’, a memorial inside the church, and the funeral on Bennett’s bequest of £500; the mason for the tomb is believed to be Thomas Stayner (1668-1731).
The iron rails around the tomb were removed during the Second World War.
A chest tomb, dated 1716, commemorating Captain John Bennett, probably by Thomas Stayner, mason.
The chest is limestone, and the slab black limestone. The sides are covered in bulbous acanthus leaves; each side has a shallow central projection with symbolic motifs: a war ship on one side, and on the other, naval weaponry. Each end has a cartouche with Bennett’s family crest. Curved and stepped mouldings form the base and cornice of the chest.
The top of the tomb has a thick and deeply overhanging slab with moulded edges. It is inscribed ‘HERE LYETH INTERR’D YE BODY OF / CAP. JOHN BENNETT / COMMANDER OF HIS MAJESTY / SHIP LENOX & WHO DIED / THE 30TH OF JANUARY 1716 / AGED 46 YEAR’.
The moulded stonework on the base survives in good condition, and the inscription remains clearly legible.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.