1676 - 1756
Residents lose access rights through Bushy Park
A footpath through Bushy Park named Cobbler's Way records Timothy Bennet's campaign in 1754 for free access through the park between Hampton Wick and Hampton Town's End. This, and other paths had effectively been closed in 1734 when the 2nd Earl of Halifax (of the 2nd creation) had enclosed the park within a wall.
Timothy Bennet had his business roughly where the Swan Public House car park is today, at Hampton Wick. He became much exercised by the inconvenience caused to residents by the closure. Those living in Hampton Wick had to take a longer walk to go to church in Hampton and Hampton residents found Kingston Market a longer journey. Bennet himself may have suffered a diminution of trade but it seems to have taken him 20 years to start his campaign.
Free access restored
Interviewed by the Earl of Halifax, the Ranger of the Park, Bennet stated his case, on behalf of the people, with the rider that "I am unwilling to leave the world a worse place than I found it." Free access was duly restored.
Recognition for the honest cobbler
When he died, in 1756 the Gentleman's Magazine reported on 6 June:
"Tim Bennet, the honest presbyterian cobler of Hampton Court, who obtained a free passage thro' Bushey park which had many years been with-held from the people, aged near 80."
He received belated recognition when a memorial was erected in Sandy Lane in 1900, bearing the inscription:
"In memory of Timothy Bennet shoemaker of Hampton Wick. By whose efforts the adjoining footpath was preserved for the use and enjoyment of the public."
Timothy Bennet wrote a play celebrating the episode and the following closing lines (page 45) record the success of his campaign:
Ben. Well, Deborah! The good cause has triumphed!
Mrs. Ben. Thank God! Dear husband.
Mary. Oh, Uncle Timothy, I'm so glad!
Ben. The justices cut short the trial, and declared the Ranger had no case; so the greater part of the hundred pounds has been returned to me.
Mary. Then Jack and Martha can marry after all! And their wedding procession ought to go the very path that you've opened Uncle.
Ben. No, Mary - no unseemly triumph. And say not that I have opened the path: the laws of England did that for us.
The setting and the characters are as follows:
Scene: Partly in Hampton Wick, partly in London.
from 1738 to 1752.
Act !. Time 1738-9.
Scene 1 - A Shoemaker's Shop in Hampton Wick.
John Bennett - his Son
The Earl of Halifax - Ranger
William - a Servant
Mrs. Bennett - Wife of Timothy Bennett
Lady Betty - Sister of the Ranger
Martha Wilson - Maid to Lady Betty
Mary Bennett - Niece to Timothy Bennett
Kathy White and Peter Foster, Bushy Park - Royals, Rangers and Rogues, Foundry Press, 1997
John Sheaf & Ken Howe, Hampton and Teddington Past, Historical Publications, 1995
C M Anstead & G D Heath, Bushy Park - Victorian Playground of the People, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No4, 1965
Timothy Bennett - a play pp. 45 [G. Bell & Sons: London 1883.] 80. British Library, Humanities pre 1975
Shelfmark: 11777.b.17. (5)