Sue Young Histories

William Wedgwood Benn 1st Viscount Stansgate 1877 - 1960

February 15, 2010

Air Commodore **William Wedgwood Benn 1st Viscount Stansgate** PC, DSO, DFC 1877 –  1960 was a British Liberal politician who later joined the Labour Party. He was Secretary of State for India between 1929 and 1931 and Secretary of State for Air between 1945 and 1945. He was the father of Tony Benn.

William Wedgwood Benn’s grandfather Julius Benn was a friend of James John Garth Wilkinson, and William Wedgwood Benn and his son Tony Benn were a close friends of James John Garth Wilkinson’s granddaughter Florence WilkinsonJames John Garth Wilkinson’s great granddaughter Cecilia Helena Payne Gaposchkin (1900-1979) recalls that Aunt Florence (‘… gentle Florence Pertz…’)  ‘… Flossie as we called her … had a fascinating social circle. At her parties one would meet Lord Buckmaster (the Lord Chancellor), the Master of Chancer, Wedgewood Benn, Sir Israel Gollancz, Etheldreda Hull and many more. Her most valued friend (though he did not appear at her parties) was Henry James, whose father had been intimate with Dr. Wilkinson. I grieve to admit that Henry James was thrust down my throat to such an extent that to this day I cannot bring myself to read any of his books – to my great loss…’ * (Cecilia Helena Payne Gaposchkin, Katherine Haramundanis (Ed.), *Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections, (Cambridge University Press, 21 Mar 1996). Pages 80-83 and page 92).

William Wedgwood Benn served George V (who was a patient of homeopath John Weir (he knighted him), and he was a colleague of Herbert Henry Asquith, Maurice Harold Macmillan 1st Earl of Stockton,

The Wedgwood family is linked to the family of Charles Darwin,

William Wedgwood Benn, the son of John Benn and Lily Pickstone, was born on the 10th May 1877. He was given the name Wedgwood because his mother was a distant relative of Josiah Wedgwood, the famous potter and Unitarian  social reformer. William’s father was the founder of Benn Brothers, the publisher of the successful trade journal, The Cabinet Maker.

The family had a long tradition of charity work. William’s grandfather, Julius Benn, was a Congregational minister who founded the Home in the East, an institute for homeless boys in the East End of London. John Benn was also active in a wide variety of causes and this had a major influence on William’s attitude towards the poor.

Of interest:

Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn, born 3 April 1925, formerly 2nd Viscount Stansgate, is a British Labour politician.

Tony Benn was given homeopathic remedies by Sheila Hubacher, his researcher for most of the 1990s, who was a homeopathic practitioner. Tony Benn was a close friend of Florence Wilkinson, daughter of James John Garth Wilkinson, who had a wide social circle that included Anthony Wedgwood Benn, Stanley Owen Buckmaster, Israel Gollancz, Etheldreda Hull, and Henry James.

William Blake knew Erasmus Alvey Darwin (brother of Charles Darwin), engraved more than 100 figures for the Wedgwood Catalogue in 1815. The Wedgwood family seem to have known James John Garth Wilkinson and his wife from at least 1866, when a Ms. Wedgwood and a Mrs. Garth Wilkinson were subscribers to the London Working Women’s College (Anon, Second annual report of the council of teachers, London working women’s college, (1866). Page 16), and they both knew Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Carlyle. Godfrey Wedgwood and James John Garth Wilkinson were sponsors of the Egypt Exploration Society in 1883 (Anon, Report of the … Ordinary General Meeting, Subscription List and Balance Sheets, Volumes 2-15, (Egypt Exploration Society, 1888). See also Anon, Report for the Year, Egypt Exploration Society, (1897). Page 36). Emma Wedgwood and Mrs. Garth Wilkinson were sponsors of the National Anti-Vivisection Society in 1887 (NB: Emma Wilkinson died in 1886).

Fanny Wedgwood (sister of Emma Wedgwood) was a friend of Harriet Martineau (a close friend of Erasmus Alvey Darwin, Edward Bulwer Lytton), who believed “How marvellous is the influence of a homeopathic infinitesimal substance as an infection through the whole nervous system…” and said “How we must be hated by the medical profession, getting well without and in spite of them“.

Hensleigh Wedgwood, brother of Fanny Wedgwood and Emma Wedgwood was a devoted spiritualist, as was James John Garth Wilkinson, and he was a member of the Theosophical Society and a friend of Anna Bonus Kingsford, who was a friend of Thomas Carlyle, Thomas Henry Huxley, Edward Maitland, Frank Podmore, Florence Theobald, Robert Masters Theobald, James John Garth Wilkinson, George Wyld,

Francis Galton (cousin of the Darwin’s), having caught the fad for Spiritualism, arranged a séance in January 1874 at Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s house with those attending including Charles Darwin, Hensleigh Wedgwood and Thomas Henry Huxley. Charles Darwin’s son George Darwin hired the medium Charles Williams… (it is possible that Robert Masters Theobald, and George Wyld, were also present),

The Wedgwood family knew William Blake, Thomas Carlyle, Aurelio Saffi,

The Wedgwood family was married into Fox family of Falmouth, the Huxley family, and into the Pease family, and so they may well have known Joseph Albert Jack Pease 1st Baron Gainford, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Thomas Henry Huxley, Katherine Maria Routledge,

Charles Darwin’s niece Margaret Susan Wedgwood lived in Llandudno, and so it is possible that they would have known Henry Thomas,


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