Sir John Benn, 1st Baronet

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John Benn
Sir John Benn

Sir John Williams Benn, 1st Baronet, DL (13 November 1850 – 10 April 1922) was a British politician, particularly associated with London politics, and the grandfather of former MP and Cabinet Minister, Tony Benn.

Life and career[edit]

Benn was born in Manchester, to a middle-class family, the eldest son of Revd. Julius Benn (c.1826-1883) and grandson of William Benn,[1] but his parents moved the family to east London the following year, where they opened an institute for homeless boys. Benn was largely homeschooled and at the age of seventeen, he joined a furniture company. He later (1880) established a trade journal, The Cabinet Maker, which eventually became the furniture trade's leading publication: when politics became his main interest, the family's publishing business, Benn Brothers, was taken over by his eldest son Ernest Benn (1875–1954), who later renamed it Ernest Benn Limited. His niece was actress Dame Margaret Rutherford, the daughter of Benn's younger brother William Rutherford Benn who was put into a lunatic asylum following the murder of their father Reverend Julius Benn.

When the London County Council was established in January 1889, Benn accepted an invitation to stand as a Progressive Party candidate for East Finsbury and was elected. Like his contemporary Will Crooks, Benn was active in the London Dock Strike of 1889, and, as an increasingly prominent local politician, was invited to stand for Parliament in 1891 as the Liberal Party candidate for St George Division of Tower Hamlets.

He was later narrowly defeated at the general election in 1895 but he concentrated on his continuing work as a London councillor, helping introduce electric trams to London's streets in 1903. A year later, he returned to Parliament after winning a by-election at Devonport, a seat he retained until being defeated in 1910. In the meantime his son, 28-year-old William Wedgwood Benn, had also been elected to Parliament, winning Benn's former seat at St. George in 1906. Benn senior was appointed a deputy lieutenant of the County of London in February 1905.[2]

For his work as an MP, he was knighted in 1906 and created a baronet in 1914. John Benn remained a member of the London County Council until his death in 1922, leading the Progressive Party until ill health forced him to relinquish that role in 1918. In his final election campaign he was victorious, defeating the Labour Group Leader.

Kennington in the London County area 1918-49
London County Council election, 1922: Kennington[3] Electorate 31,838
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Municipal Reform Green tickY Harold Swann 5,728 31.8 +12.5
Progressive Green tickY Sir John Williams Benn 4,805 26.7 -4.6
Labour Harry Gosling 4,275 23.7 -7.9
Labour Charles William Gibson 3,212 17.8 n/a
Majority 530 3.0 -9.0
Municipal Reform gain from Labour Swing
Progressive hold Swing


  1. ^
  2. ^ "No. 27768". The London Gazette. 24 February 1905. p. 1399. 
  3. ^ London Municipal Notes - Volumes 18-23, London Municipal Society

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Ritchie
Member of Parliament for Tower Hamlets, St George
Succeeded by
Harry Hananel Marks
Preceded by
John Lockie
Hudson Kearley
Member of Parliament for Devonport
With: Hudson Kearley
Succeeded by
Sir John Jackson
Clement Kinloch-Cooke
Political offices
Preceded by
Lord Monkswell
Chairman of the London County Council
Succeeded by
Sir Edwin Cornwall
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Benn baronet
(of Old Knoll)
Succeeded by
Ernest Benn