Did you know?

by Hilly on August 15, 2012

The former Dolphin & Anchor Hotel, Chichester

One James Boxall, who was landlord of the Dolphin Inn on West Street in 1807, employed a coach driver called Reuben Benham.

One dark and tempestuous night in January 1808 Benham met with a fatal accident whilst negotiating a bridge at Midhurst in his coach.

Instead of going over the bridge he drove straight into the wharf (presumably on the River Rother!) and lost his life.

Had Reuben Benham managed to live to a very grand old age he would have met his great grandson who, born in 1866, became the world famous author – HG Wells!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Wood March 13, 2013 at 12:11 am

Not according to wikipedia and these genealogies which show her as being HG Wells’ mother and hence Reuben Benham was his great grandfather :

Reuben Benham born 1759 in St Peter the Great or Subdeanery of, Chichester, Sussex
died Jan 1808 in Midhurst canal
Married 2 Mar 1783 in St Peter the Great, Chichester
Elizabeth Willshire b 1762 died Aug 1839

Their child :

Sarah Benham born 17 Jan 1796 Chichester, Sussex
died 1853 Midhurst, Kent
married 30 Oct 1817
George Neal born 1797 Chichester, Sussex
died 1853 Midhurst, Kent

Their child :

Sarah Neal born 10 Oct 1822 Chichester, Sussex
died 1905 Liss, Hampshire
married 22 Nov 1853 London
Joseph Wells born 14 Jul 1828 Penhurst, East Sussex
died 14 Nov 1910 Liss, Petersfield, Hampshire

their child :
HG Wells 1866-1946





Bill Wood March 15, 2013 at 5:55 am

No, you are confusing the father with the son/brother.

Sarah Neal 1822-1905, the granddaughter of Reuben Benham 1759-1808, married in 1853 Joseph Wells 1828-1910, HG Wells’ father.

She didn’t marry her son, HG Wells’ brother, Frederick Joseph Wells born 1862 – which is clear and undeniable in the source records and in all of the genealogies that are derived from them.

Here are the original source records which prove it with no doubt about it at all.

You can easily check these yourself – and so can you Hilly, Hilary Sloan and or site moderator(s) – via the link I here supply and in various published genealogies easily found via google :

Marriages Dec 1853
NEAL Sarah London 1c 256
Wells Joseph London City 1c 256

Births Sep 1862
WELLS Frederick Joseph Bromley 2a 249


It’s an interesting fact that Reuben was HG Wells’ great grandfather and it adds interest to your piece here. I think you should include it.

And secondly you should include it in order to correct Cynthia Stokes’ mistake here.


Hilly March 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Hello Bill
I think this needs to be looked into a little more…. It is all very confusing as there is an article by HG Wells which refers to a great great uncle who died at Midhurst in 1808.
I Will get back to you. All very intriguing though and many thanks for your comments; it all brings the past back to life!


Bill Wood June 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Good, I’m glad you find it interesting and an addition to your site. As you can see, me too. Thanks for putting my research back on again.

That’s interesting. The plot thickens.

“The author and science fiction novelist H.G.Wells lived in Midhurst during the 1880s. He worked briefly as an apprentice at a chemist and a few years later he joined the Midhurst Grammar School where he was both a pupil and an assistant teacher.”


As it was such an awful tragedy then possibly it wasn’t the sort of thing that his family would discuss or tell him as a young child. Or perhaps it just didn’t crop up or maybe it had been kept from his mum and she didn’t know.

Maybe he only found out about it when he went to Midhurst. Perhaps when he was there, more than 70 years after the event, he heard about it from a third cousin once removed, for whom Reuben would have been their great great uncle and he assumed that he had the same relationship. Or from someone else who didn’t know the accurate genealogy.

I’ve checked again the source records re the genealogy at https://familysearch.org
and http://freebmd.rootsweb.com and they appear to be consistent with what all the genealogy researchers say and the data I posted above.

The surnames are relatively rare. There aren’t duplicate names or combinations of names in the same place at the same time which can’t be differentiated from each other, as is sometimes the case with big families, common names or incomplete records.

Although it’s possible that a key record or two of duplicate names have been lost that would seem to be rather unlikely in this instance seeing as the records are available and appear to be complete and definitive and consistent with each other.

So it does appear to be great grandfather, not great great uncle

When did Wells write that, does he quote his source, and is there anything more in the context of what he wrote about it that gives any more insight?


Bill Wood June 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm

A slight mistake, if you’d like to correct it, if you include this latest post :

not “a third cousin once removed”

it should be just “a third cousin” which is what would make Reuben a great great uncle.


Bill Wood June 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm

And a bit more, perhaps you could plonk this in with the previous post :
“After a short apprenticeship at a chemist in nearby Midhurst, and an even shorter stay as a boarder at Midhurst Grammar School, he signed his apprenticeship papers at Hyde’s. In 1883 Wells persuaded his parents to release him from the apprenticeship, taking an opportunity offered by Midhurst Grammar School again to become a pupil-teacher; his proficiency in Latin and science during his previous, short stay had been remembered.”



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