William Bentall

1776 - 1836



William Bentall invented the Goldhanger Plough while living at Cobbs Farm Goldhanger in the late 1700s. It was so efficient that other local farmers asked him to make one for them. The ploughs were probably initially made by the local blacksmith, but William Bentall soon opened a small foundry and smithy on land opposite his farmhouse as demand grew. His plough became well known around the world for over a century and had the named the 'Bentall Goldhanger' clearly cast into the casing, as shown in this close-up view. He did not patent the design however, and the Warren Ironwork on the Heybridge Causeway and others produced many imitations.

William was descended from a long line of the Bentall family that lived in Benthall Hall in Shropshire, and another branch of the same family developed a small haberdashery shop at Kingston-upon-Thames into the now famous very large departmental store.



In 1795 William Bentall became a manufacturer of agricultural machinery based in Goldhanger and ceased farming. He realised however that raw materials had to be imported and finished products shipped out by water and rail, and Cobbs Farm was not the ideal location, so in 1805 he located his works on the banks of the recently opened Chelmer and Blackwater canal at Heybridge, just three miles away. Raw materials could then be brought directly up the canal in lighters to the new works.

One of the reasons the Goldhanger Plough was so successful was its modular design and construction using separate replaceable parts with nuts and bolts, so that the plough could be repaired by the farmer without the need to transport it to a blacksmiths. The innovations continued and in the year following the move to Heybridge William Bentall introduced the first steam powered threshing machine followed by many other agricultural implements. William Bentall never took out patents on his designs but relied on customer satisfaction to ensure the continued success of his products. The Bentall name stood for quality and his factory always ran at maximum capacity. In 1836 William Bentall was succeeded by his son Edward Hammond Bentall and subsequently by several generations of the Bentall family. In order to safeguard the expanding business in 1839 the company began trading under the name of E.H.Bentall & Co. and in 1841 a patent was taken out for an "improved Goldhanger plough" to protect the product against imitations. . .


The success of the Company can be judged by these extracts for sales brochures and photograph of the family home taken a hundred years after the Company was formed. . .

Bentalls aerial view in 1980s   Bentalls warehouse 1880s   image016

At its peak just before WW1 the company employed around 700 people, and many of these were accommodated in houses provided by the Company adjacent to the factory. The first workers houses were built as long ago as 1815 when William was still managing the business. This terrace of red-brick cottages, now listed, were built in the Holloway Road, near The Square and opposite the family main residence and offices at the time, which much later became the Benbridge Hotel. . .


In 1961 the company was taken over by the Acrow group of companies which itself went into receivership in 1984, so the business that was founded nearly 180 years ago was finally closed down. However, one of todays agricultural companies still has past links with Bentalls and the Goldhanger Plough.

From. . .   www.bentallrowlands.com/about-us/history . .

Bentall Rowlands Storage Systems Limited can trace its origins back to the industrial and agricultural revolutions that sent waves of influence around the world. In the middle of the 18th century, William Bentall, an Essex agricultural engineer, designed the famous Goldhanger plough. Its design was so state of the art it remained in production until 1947. Over the years the Company passed from father to son - always innovative - always successful. Patents and designs followed rapid succession and by the late 19th century it had even diversified into the design and manufacture of yachts and motor cars. The Company grew and developed, exporting its products throughout the world. In 1961 the Acrow Group acquired the Company and rationalised it to concentrate on coffee machinery, bulk storage and handling equipment. In the early 1980s the Bentall companies were sold and moved to Scunthorpe. In 1988 the new company acquired Rowlands Engineers and amalgamated its bulk storage and handling business with that of Bentalls, all manufacturing being at the Scunthorpe site.


extract from. . . http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk

Monument Name: Goldhanger Iron Foundry SMR Number: 15303

The Goldhanger foundry was established by W. Bentall in 1808, but had closed by 1815 when Bentall moved the foundry from Goldhanger to Heybridge. Foundry field lies immediately east of Cobbs Farm and to the south of Maldon Road, and is recorded on the 1841 tithe map (ERO/D/CT 150) as field 132. Although no structural evidence survives the foundry was probably sited toward the north of the field beside the road. The field has not been excavated but has potentially important deposits of a short lived early nineteenth-century foundry comprising footings, foundations, working floors and furnace beds. This is of one of the earliest iron foundries to be established in Essex. The short period of operation and lack of subsequent development suggests the presence of significant and potentially schedulable archaeological remains.


The location of the Foundry Field is identified on both the 1820 Tithe Map & Awards and the 1838 Tithe Map Tithe Awards. In both Awards listings it is entry 132. In both the owner is given as Henry Coape and the occupier (farmer?) as James Wood. In the 1838 Tithe Awards it is listed as:

Place-name        No.      TL-x     TL-y       type   acres     use                  Owner                         Occupier                     Far

 Foundry field       132        897      84        field            9       arable    Coape, Henry, esq        Wood, James        Cobbs


The field is identified on English Heritage maps of listed sites, and a 1805 map show a small building in the north-east corner of this field. . .

Foundary Field map

1805  OS map


A report of an Archaeological Evaluation of Cobbs Farm lands undertaken in 2009, records. . .

. . .Goldhanger Iron Foundry was formerly located to the east of the site (EHER 15303). The foundry was established by W Bentall in 1808 but closed by 1815 to move to a site in Heybridge, the location shows potential for important archaeological remains of an early iron foundry. . .


In 1820 the date of the earlier Tithe Map & Awards, Cobbs Farmhouse, or homestead was recorded as in the ownership of Henry Coape with the occupier as James Wood, so presumable William was living in Heybridge by this time. However, in the same Tithe Awards document, William Bentall is recorded as being the owner of thirteen cottages in Goldhanger Parish, including a carpenters shop and the Pit cottages, which were being used as the village school at that time. They were still listed as in his ownership in Tithe Awards of 1838, which was two years after his recorded death.

These local newspapers advertisements would indicate that William continued to be the occupier and proprietor of property at Goldhanger until his death. . .

1837 - Garden of Goldhanger     1837 - Mr Bentall's Farm


In 1815 William Bentall had an iron chest made for St Peters Church, which remains in the Church today, and later his son Edward presented a set of iron gates to the Church also in recognition of the Company connections with the village. . .

Chest    Gates

There have been other links between the Bentall family and Goldhanger. Second Lieutenant Earnest Hammed Bentall Bentall, son of Edmund and Maude Bentall, served in WW-1 and was killed in action. His family purchased the former Sergeants Mess hut from Goldhanger aerodrome site, moved it to Heybridge Basin and commissioned it as St Georges Chapel in memory of their son. It has a fine stained glass window at the east end dedicated to their son. At the same time the Company acquired a redundant WW-1 aircraft hanger, which most probably came from the nearby Goldhanger aerodrome and May & Butcher who purchased many of the building from the site and sold them on. It was re-built on the Bentall factory site, but was never apparently used and became known as The White Elephant. It was finally removed and replaced by a new foundry building in 1949.


These two advertisements appeared in of a local newspaper adjacent to each other on the same day in 1850. Both refer to the Goldhanger Plough, and both claiming to have made improvements. . .

Chronicle 9 Aug  1850


and this drawing was in the 1851 Great Exhibition catalogue...

Bentalls Goldhanger plough in the 1851 exhibition.JPG


Over the years several Goldhanger ploughs have been preserved locally. . .

- Maura Benham had one in her garden in Goldhanger

- Cyril Southgate also had one in his garden in Goldhanger

- There is/was one in the Maldon & District Agricultural & Domestic Museum at Goldhanger

- There is one in Maldon Museum

- One can be seen at the Museum of Power at Langford ( close-up view of this plough )

- There is/was one at in the Chaff Room the Cressing Temple Barn.

- There is one inside the Parish Church at Layer Marney

- A plough was offered for sale at Chappel, Essex in 2008 for ₤200

- Others remain in private hands locally


Cyril and Eileen with their Goldhanger Plough

       the plough at the Museum of Power


There are also Warren Goldhanger Ploughs held locally, which are very similar in appearance . . .




Even in 1930 it was still good enough for the locals. . .

Bentall Plough 1930s article2


The book by Beryl Claydon entitled:  Heybridge in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,  published in 2012, devotes 33 pages to the history of the Bentall family and the Company, from which some of the information on this page has been taken.



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