Jeannie Walker Bentley

Jeannie Walker Hoyle Bentley, wife of the second Henry Bentley, was only 47 when she passed away on 29 March 1882. Two years earlier her husband had become a wealthy man by selling off his assets in the Woodlesford brewery to a limited company and he and his wife were spending much of their time living at West Acre High House near King’s Lynn in Norfolk. Unfortunately Jeannie Bentley caught what was described as a “cold”, probably flu, and despite being transferred to London she died in the St. Pancras district.

Jeannie was born on Boxing Day 1835, the first child of William Fretwell Hoyle and his second wife Jane Grave Hoyle (nee Walker). Her father was a solicitor in Rotherham  descended from the Fretwell family which had settled in the Maltby area in the 16th century and built Hooton Levitt Hall.

Jeannie married Henry Bentley in March 1856 and they had four children, three girls and a boy, although, Florence Edith, born in 1858, died when she was only 6 years old.

Throughout her time living at Eshald House Jeannie Bentley was active in village life and there’s little doubt she was the “first lady” of Woodlesford, but as well as rubbing shoulders with the local gentry at Oulton Hall, Swillington House and Leventhorpe Hall, she also had a common touch and was well liked by her husband’s employees and their families. She played a leading role in the establishment of Woodlesford church, built in 1870, and could be frequently seen around the village helping at social activities. Her funeral is described below.

Rothwell Times. Friday 7 April 1882.

The funeral obsequies for the late respected lady of Eshald House, Woodlesford, were performed on Monday morning last. Mrs. Bentley a few weeks ago went on a visit to Norfolk, in the course of which she unfortunately caught cold, a severe and painful illness supervened, and other help failing, Mr. Bentley had the sick lady conveyed to London, where the highest medical assistance was consulted, but without any good result, and on Wednesday evening, the 29th, surrounded by her sorrowing family, the sufferer passed away about 10 o’ clock.

On Friday evening, by the five express, the body arrived at Woodlesford station, where a large concourse of persons had assembled, and amid respectful silence and sadness, was quietly taken into the once loved home of the deceased, where it remained until the time of interment.

In passing through the villages of Woodlesford and Oulton, we observed a number of the cottages with the blinds drawn, and all along the route the funeral was to pass, tokens of respect were exhibited. It had been intended to hold a choral service at Woodlesford church, in the erection and sustentation of which Mr. and Mrs. Bentley have been the principal supporters, but owing to the painful memories such a service would bring up, Mr. Bentley specially asked that this additional burden of grief might be spared him.

The remembrance of his wife’s close connection and interest in the raising of the edifice, her constant attendance at the services, the widely different scene which took place there not nine months ago, at his daughter’s wedding, would all have come up again in mocking liveliness, and have made his sorrow all the heavier. Exactly at twelve o’clock, the massive oak coffin was brought out at the front door, and placed in the artistic and appropriate new hearse, (designed and built by Messrs. J.W. Smith and Sons, the undertakers) through the glass sides of which could be seen the large and exquisitely beautiful wreaths placed around the coffin.

Then came four splendidly fitted coaches and pair, containing the family and relatives of the deceased lady. Following these was the family coach, in which were the female servants of the house, the empty carriages of Sir Charles Lowther, J.B. Charlesworth, Esq, J.T. Leather, Esq., W. Wood Esq., C. Jewison, Esq., and other gentlemen.

The procession was proceeded by the gardeners and male servants of the establishment, the bearers being employees at the brewery. There were also present, The Hon. & Rev, P.Y. Savile, Rev. H. Ripley, Major Stocks, Captain Grayburn, J.B. Charlesworth, Esq., J.G. Turner, Esq., T.W. Jewison, Esq., I.W.H. White, Esq., R.J. Hudson, Esq., (Secretary of the Company) and other gentlemen and ladies.

The sad cortege moved slowly along from the house, and up the road towards Oulton church, which was reached about 12.25. The route was lined with people who showed the sense of loss they had sustained by the sorrow depicted on their tearful faces.

Arrived at the church gates, the body was taken out of the hearse, and followed on foot by the mourners and friends, was carried towards the church, where the procession was met by the Rev. G. Heberden, M.A., vicar of Rothwell, the Rev. R.H. Hamilton, vicar of Oulton, and an enlarged choir in their surplices.

The church itself was filled with villagers, the majority of whom were women, many feeling that in Mrs. Bentley they had lost a real friend in need.

The service was commenced by the chanting of the 39th Psalm, after which the vicar of Rothwell conducted the part of the burial service usually performed in church.

The procession then re-formed, and on arriving at the grave, the service was continued by the vicar of Oulton, concluding at one o’clock. The place of sepulture is on the south side of the church, and consists of a brick built vault of unusual width, leaving room right round the coffin. It is built in two portions immediately over the remains of Mr. Bentley’s father and mother, and consists of two separate parts, raised side by side from about eight feet below the surface and each divided into two portions.

The body of the deceased lady is placed in the first vault, and will be covered by a large stone slab resting on a ledge prepared, and this will form the foundation for the next interment. The sides of the entire sepulture were most tastefully and lavishly covered with rare and beautiful flowers, while the coffin was literally hidden by the numerous and carefully prepared floral wreaths placed there by relations and friends.

The body was encased in a shell, which was then enclosed in lead, the outer coffin of massive polished oak with heavy brass mountings, and bearing a plate with the inscription:

Sacred to the memory of
Jeannie Walker Hoyle,
Wife of Henry Bentley, Esq.,
Aged 47 years.

The funeral was under the management of Messrs. J.W. Smith and Sons, undertakers, of Leeds, who carried out the arrangement with the utmost attention and a highly satisfactory manner.

At Woodlesford church a muffled peal was rung 1882 changes, Oxford Violet and New London Pleasure, in 1 hour and 5 minutes by James Harrison, Rothwell; William Haigh, Joseph Robinson, James Haigh, (conductor) Fred Denison, Joseph Haigh, Woodlesford.

It is a melancholy but pleasing fact that according to her usual custom, Mrs. Bentley had got ready a large number of articles of clothing for poor women in Woodlesford, to be given to them on her birthday, which fell two or three weeks ago; owing to her absence from home ill, she had sent word that not being at home on the day, she would present these articles when she came back. Truly “Her works do follow her.”