"Woodlands"

John Risdon Bond

John Risdon Bond, my 3x Great Grandfather, his wife Mary and their several children arrived in South Benfleet from Devon, via Somerset, by 1881. They lived in a house called Woodlands, which stood at the junction of Vicarage Hill and the B1014, and he worked as a gamekeeper and it would seem used the house as a hunting lodge.

How and why the family came to Benfleet is a mystery, trouble did seem to follow John around so perhaps he was moving away from his problems! From newspaper articles in the 1880’s it’s possible to track his brushes with the law – he shot a dog he was supposed to be training, trespassed several times (looking for game!), injured several people in fights and argued with his dead landlords executor about terms of his lease…..it should be noted he wasn’t always found guilty and had in fact been part of the Devon Constabulary earlier in his life!

John’s greatest test came towards the end of the 1880’s when he was declared bankrupt. It was mentioned that he had to walk from Woodlands to Chelmsford for his hearing which was a round trip of some 35 miles! The date of his second hearing was changed without informing him and after walking the 17 or so miles in rain and knee high mud only to be told of the date change he apparently made loud protestations, which seems fair enough!

Following the bankruptcy hearing I lose sight of John and Mary and don’t yet know where they went or when they died although I suspect things may not have gone well for them in the 1890’s. Their son John Henry, my 2x Great Grandfather, pops up as a gamekeeper in Banstead, Surrey in 1891 and there or thereabouts the family would stay until my Grandparents moved to Kent in the 1960’s.

Sadly no photos survive to my knowledge of John and his family, I’m not sure I’d have wanted to be his neighbour but I would have liked to have a pint with him!

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