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Brief biography of Elizabeth BENNETT (1765 - 1839s
There is some confusion about when Elizabeth Bennett (also recorded as Elizabeth Bennet) was born. The parish records for St John the Baptist, West Wickham, record her birth and baptism as 4 Dec 1767 and 6 December 1767 respectively. Yet according to her age at death on her gravestone in West Wickham Churchyard, she was born in 1765. She may, though, have had good reason for claiming to be older than she was, but that is getting ahead of the story.
The William Benet who married Mary Barrington was probably the William who was the son of James and Mary, baptised at West Wickham in 1738. [If his age of 49 at death is right, as quoted on his gravestone, buried 1 Jan 1871, he would have been baptised at the age of 8. This is certainly possible. Also possible is that he was younger than 49 when he died, as ages of deceased persons were often largely guesswork. So he could be the same William, or possibly a cousin.
The William who is almost certainly our William has another connection to the Barrington family, apart from marrying Mary Barrington. In 1766/67 he took over The Swan Inn in West Wickham from Francis 'Borrington', almost certainly his wife's brother. He was landlord until 1781 when another Francis Berrington took over (probably the his wife's nephew who died in 1834). By 1818 Richard Crittal had become the landlord.
The James Benet who was probably William's father was the son of Edward and Elizabeth. He was baptised in 1712. Edward was buried in 1741 and Elizabeth in 1756.
There was also a daughter, Elizabeth, born to James and Mary, who was baptised in 1736. Perhaps this explains why William and Mary's daughter (our line) was named Elizabeth in 1767.
James was buried in West Wickham in 1767 and Mary in 1787.
Elizabeth was born to parents William and Mary Bennet where Mary was born a Barrington, and she grew up in their well to-do household in West Wickham, Kent. However she was orphaned at only 13 when her parents died within a few days of each other. Was it an accident or a serious infectious illness that Elizabeth managed to escape? Elizabeth, presumably with her siblings, was then left in the care of a guardian.
Elizabeth married John Kemp on 27 April 1784 at Eynsford. She was still young - 16, reckoned on the more reliable parish record date. He was more than twice her age at 36.
Being orphaned was possibly not the only reason for Elizabeth's early marriage which was with the express permission of her guardian. She may - just may - have been heavily pregnant at the time. The evidence is that according to the family bible, the baby, Ann Kemp, arrived on 10 July 1784, just six weeks after the marriage. Yet the year must be in question because, according to the family bible, baby Ann was baptised at Eynsford more than a year later on 7 August 1785. Was there a clerical error in the bible? Or was there an attempted cover up of a forced marriage through a late baptism? Why, too, the change of location from West Wickham to Eynsford?
If the number of children is anything to go by, Elizabeth's marriage to John was a happy one. After Ann, who was Neil's direct ancestor and who married John Best, came:
- John Kemp, baptised on 25 Aug 1784 at Eynsford
- Mary Kemp, baptised on 28 May 1787.
- James Kemp
- Ann Collins Kemp
- William Kemp
- Henry Kemp, baptised on 20 Nov 1799 at Eynsford.
- Charlotte Kemp, baptised on 18 Jan 1802 at St Mary Cray, Orpington.
Elizabeth was not yet 50 when John, her husband, died, but she was well taken care of under the provisions of his will. He was buried in West Wickham Churchyard, Kent. Why not at Eynsford, one wonders? Nearly 30 years later, Elizabeth was buried there too. She died on 29 November 1839. The inscription on her gravestone reads: