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Benen-Stock, what's in a name?

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Anyone that's lived on Stanwell Moor will almost certainly have heard of Benen-Stock, whether from the road of the same name or possibly from reading the plaque in the village hall, but there are few alive to tell us who he was – you could be excused for not knowing the origins of the road name - so this month’s blog is an attempt to rectify that, and shed some light on why the village we know today owes so much to Louis Maurice Benen-Stock and his beloved wife, Doris.

Maybe the first thing to do is to introduce them, and put a face to the names…

Louis “Bill” Benen-Stock, 1970’s © Robinson Family

Louis Benen-Stock was born Levy Binensztok in Mile End, London in January 1892. His surviving family believe he was of Latvian descent, so his parents may well have been part of the estimated 120,000 people that arrived in the UK between 1875 and 1914 from the Russian Empire.

I can’t uncover much at all about his early life, but I do know that Levy graduated from the University of London in 1913 and with distinction at the age of just 21, and at some stage between then and 1916 he formally changed his name to Louis Maurice Benen-Stock. Precisely why is not known, but his father’s name was Maurice, and Benen-Stock is believed to be the phonetically correct pronunciation of his original surname.

Louis put his education to good use and trained as a teacher, and in his sign-up papers to the British Army in 1916 he gave his profession as Science Master. His address at that time was All Saints Road in Kensington and his next of kin was his father. It’s possible teaching was considered a reserved occupation, since just one day after joining the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, Louis was placed into reserve.

Within Louis’ military records is a letter confirming the reimbursement of his ticket to travel by ship from Havana, Cuba back to the UK in 1914 – the princely sum of 12 pounds, 7 shillings and 9 pence, approximately £12.38 in new money – and presumably to make himself available to serve his country. Louis’ grandson told me that he spoke fondly of his trip to Cuba and had learnt Spanish during his time abroad.

I’ll press “pause” on Louis for a moment so we can bring his wife Doris into the story, because without her he may never have set foot in Stanwell Moor…

# # #

Doris Mountsfield Whatmore was born in Wealdstone, Harrow in October 1887. In her Baptism record of early November her father is listed as a Schoolmaster so maybe it’s no surprise that by the 1911 Census, when Doris is boarding with the Perrymans at Rose Cottage in Stanwell, aged 23, her occupation is listed as Head Teacher and her employer, Middlesex County Council.

In 1911 Stanwell’s Church of England School was in Park Road – the single-story building is now a private residence but still standing – and Doris was its Headmistress.

Doris Mountsfield Whatmore © Robinson Family

While no one's around to tell us, it would be reasonable to assume that somewhere between early 1916 and 1918, Louis and Doris met via their shared teaching profession, but however they came to meet, romance blossomed, because when Louis was mobilised on 4th July 1918, just 4 weeks later he and Doris were married in Hendon, in the Parish Church close to her family. If you consider the statutory 3 weeks of Marriage Banns, their wedding date must have been set just 1 week after his mobilisation came through, so it’s likely the one prompted the other, and during wartime it was certainly common for couples to wed in a rush, not knowing what their futures held.

In any event, Louis was posted to nearby Hounslow Barracks as a Private on 5th Sep 1918 and must have shown leadership skills during his initial training as he was appointed Acting Lance Corporal in Dublin on 17th Oct 1918.

War ended in November 1918, so Louis never saw combat and in January 1919 he was transferred back to the Army Reserve.

In 1920 Louis and Doris were living in Ye Olde Cottages, Oaks Road, Stanwell when their first child, Betty was born, and just over 4 weeks later, on 31st March Louis was formally discharged from the British Army.

Within 2 years the Benen-Stock family had moved to Stanwell Moor and were living in “Beverley” on Hithermoor Road, and just a year later, towards the end of 1923 their second child Yvonne was born.

From this point on Louis and Doris both served their community – our village – with flying colours, and as well as being life-long professional Teachers, they served as Councillors in local Government for most of their adult lives.

It was 1925 when Louis first entered civic service, becoming a Parish Councillor for Stanwell. The Parish Council was part of Staines Rural District, which was itself part of Middlesex County Council.

A newspaper article in the West Drayton Gazette dated 29th April 1927 captures Council proceedings of the prior week, and highlights Louis’ attempt to get gas piped to Stanwell Moor. At the time, the Uxbridge Gas Company said that during 1914 they had “invested heavily” to bring the gas main to Stanwell, but in the end, the number of consumers had proven too low to justify the outlay. With respect to the recent request, they concluded that adding further infrastructure to bring gas to Stanwell Moor, an even smaller population, would also be unprofitable. However, they did say that if the Council developed the area, then they would “look again”, and although Louis had already initiated a response to the supplier asking them to reconsider, he “was afraid nothing further would be done”.

So, at the age of 35, Louis Benen-Stock was already established as a Councillor representing his community and pushing for improvements to Stanwell Moor, an activity that would keep him busy throughout his Council service, and one of many examples of him representing the villagers.

To put this in context, in 1927 the first phase (numbers 1 to 12) of Southern Cottages was under construction, but it would be the mid-1930’s before any additional housing was built on Stanwell Moor and till then most dwellings were cottages dating back to the 1800’s, so it’s difficult to argue with the business logic of the Uxbridge Gas Company!

As a wider context, just one month after that Council meeting, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic from New York to Paris; an event that pushed aviation forward in the public eye, and the early years of an industry that would significantly influence the fortunes, geography, and environment of Stanwell Moor with the construction of Heathrow just 17 years later.

Staines Rural District was disbanded in 1930 and Stanwell transferred into Staines Urban District, still under the control of Middlesex County Council. In 1932 Louis was elected as a Councillor for Stanwell Ward, the first Labour Councillor for the Urban District.

I also want to switch names yet again here, because Louis was known to everyone as Bill, and while I have no idea when that name was adopted or stuck, as I feel more and more familiar with this star couple, I’m going to use it from here on in.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Benen-Stocks were active throughout the community, and when the Runnymede Pageant was devised and held at Runnymede Meadow in June 1934, unsurprisingly both Bill and Doris played their part.

The pageant was made up of scenes from the history of Britain, with each scene assigned to the local Councils taking part. Scene 1 was “The Roman Conquest of Britain” and given to Staines and Ashford to organise, and that’s where Bill and Doris played their part, Doris quite literally!

Pageant of Runnymede by Seymour Vesy-Fitz Gerald, Public Domain

You can see that not only were Bill and Doris members of the Organising Committee, Bill was also one of the two Transport Officers, but Doris went a bit further...

Pageant of Runnymede by Seymour Vesy-Fitz Gerald, Public Domain

…and both she and their 14 year old daughter Betty were Britons, specifically Potters and cast members or “players” in the show.

I found a postcard from the event that pictures some of those “players” from the Roman Britain Scene and it’s just possible Doris and Betty are in it, so I’ll share it here and anyone that may have known them and is still around can take a look for me and let me know in the comments! I live in hope!

© Fleetway Press (1930) Ltd

The Fleetway Press prepared postcards that were sold at the show at 1 shilling for six!

Some fairly important people attended the pageant during its run from 9th to 16th June, including the then Duke and Duchess of York, who went on to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

There’s a short piece of movie that Pathe released, and to give you some idea of the event it can be found at the link below, although sadly it’s not Scene 1.

In 1936 the family moved into “Moorlands” on Horton Road – where they stayed for the rest of their lives - and a year later Doris joined her husband as a Labour Councillor.

Doris Mountsfield Benen-Stock © Robinson Family

As a sidenote, members of the Robb family (Robb’s Nurseries) owned both “Beverley” and “Moorlands” in the 1918 Electoral Register (Robert Robb and Thomas & Matilda Robb respectively) and both houses are still standing.

Despite their community mindedness, Bill and Doris’ private life on the Moor was not all plain sailing. There’s a report in the Middlesex Chronicle from early December 1939 of a burglary at “Moorlands” in which four men took money and personal items. They were disturbed by Yvonne, now 16 years old, returning from school. The men said they had “put 400 sandbags behind the house and covered them up”, then left, never to be seen again.

If the burglar’s story was an attempt to be credible, it makes me wonder if the flooding that has appeared on the Moor in the past 40 years goes back much further? It’s certainly the case that Horton Road, and close-by to Moorlands, has been flooded on numerous occasions.

In 1946 when Labour took control of Middlesex, Bill was made an Alderman, a position he held until 1952 when he was elected County Councillor for Staines North West, although he then lost the seat in 1955.

Stanwell Moor Football Club, Cup Winners, 1951-52. The photograph was likely taken at the side of The Anchor.

Front row, far left, Cyril Griffin (Southern Cottages); Back row, standing, 7th from left, Charlie Eeles (The Anchor); Standing, far right of picture, recently elected Middlesex County Councillor for Staines North West, Bill Benen-Stock. © Sherritt Family

Local Councillors spend much of their time attending Committee meetings and Bill and Doris were no exception. They were members of various Committees over the years and now and again they served on the same panels. For example, in Staines Urban District’s Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health & Chief Public Health Inspector for 1963 they are both listed as members of the Public Health Committee.

Throughout their time in Council and community service, Bill and Doris continued working in their chosen profession of teaching. Bill was a Mathematics Master although I can't find out where he taught. Aside from Doris being Headmistress at the Primary School in Park Road, I know from a resident of Stanwell Moor that in her later years she also gave one-to-one tuition at Abbotsford Secondary School, now Thomas Knyvett College in Stanwell Road, Ashford.

Doris and Bill outside Moorlands with their daughter Yvonne, 1963 © Robinson Family

In April 1965, Middlesex County Council was abolished, and Staines Urban District was transferred to Surrey County Council. At that time Bill was elected as a Labour County Councillor representing Stanwell Division and he successfully contested that seat for the next 8 years.

Sadly, on 3rd December 1965 Doris was fatally injured in a road traffic accident. She was heading home from a Darby and Joan Club meeting and was turning from Park Road into Stanwell Moor Road, a junction that had no traffic lights at that time, when her car was hit by another vehicle. Bill did not find out about her death until some 6 hours later. That junction was notorious for accidents and ironically, Doris had been campaigning for traffic lights there for many years; it was only as a result of her death they were finally installed.

A new housing development was well underway at Stanwell Moor in 1967, on what had been predominately open farmland, and in her honour and at Bill’s request, Staines Urban District named all three of the new streets on the estate after Doris: Mountsfield Close, Whatmore Close and of course, Benen-Stock Road representing her middle, maiden and married names respectively. In the same year, percussion instruments were presented to Stanwell Church of England School in memory of Doris, their former Headmistress.

Mountsfield Close street sign © Author

Despite his loss, Bill remained fully engaged in his Council work and campaigning for local villagers, and one such related to gravel extraction, an activity that has blighted Stanwell Moor and the surrounding area for many years and continues to do so; we have more “water features” than a garden centre! Bill and Doris had campaigned to stop the planned gravel extraction from Stanwell Place, which was to be demolished and the gravel extracted from beneath the grounds. Despite mass protests, they could not stop the house being demolished, but they did manage to get the extraction stopped, until that was over-ruled by Surrey County Council after a planning inquiry went in its favour. At a Surrey Planning Committee meeting on the subject in 1970, Bill argued with his colleagues, and particularly the Conservative member for Sunbury Common & Ashford Common. The row became so heated that the Chairman had to call for order!

Although this site is aimed at Stanwell Moor, I feel able to flag Bill’s campaigning regarding Stanwell Place because Census returns up to 1911 placed the house in this village, but it also helps build a picture of what he did – or tried to do - for those he represented (and in any event, he represented Stanwell too!). This recent article sheds a bit more light on Stanwell Place.

Bill had also been quite feisty when campaigning against aircraft noise in Stanwell Moor. The family had lived here since 1922, so they knew, more than anyone alive today, the impact Heathrow had on their peaceful village.

In 1974 the Urban Districts of both Staines and Sunbury-on-Thames were combined to form Spelthorne Council, still under Surrey County Council and an arrangement that continues to the present day. To recognise his service Bill was made an Honorary Freeman of the new Borough, the first to receive the appointment.

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours of June 1976, Bill was awarded an OBE for his civic service. He was amongst good company including Comedians Morecambe and Wise, BBC Newsreader Richard Baker, Rugby Player Mervyn Davies, and the recent Olympic Gold medal winner, Ice Skater John Curry.

Bill at Buckingham Palace, November 1976 © Robinson Family

Bill did not contest his seat in the Surrey County Council election of 1977 and it was lost to a Conservative candidate. He died on 1st September 1977, aged 85.

Stanwell Moor Village Hall plaque commemorating the life of

Councillor Louis "Bill" Benen-Stock © Author

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