27th Mar 1776 - 6th Oct 1848
Slave-owner in Demerara and Surinam, MP for Sligo 1818-1820 and Totnes 1820-1826; 'a Devonian of humble origin, his mother’s family being tradesmen at Ashburton' [History of Parliament]. He made a counterclaim as mortgagee on British Guiana No. 2398A&B for Plantation Vrouw Anna, of which the 1817 Slave Register shows him as the proprietor and which he presumably had subsequently sold, taking back a mortgage as security for the payment(s) for the sale from the new owner(s): in this counterclaim, Bent was described as of Surinam. John Bent had been appointed Commissioner in Surinam to sequester the property of nationals of France and her allies in 1813. In a letter of 1835, he wrote to the Governor-General of Surinam 'as a proprietor, who acquired my property, and invested more capital in the Colony than any other inhabitant, during the dominion of the British government.' In the 1835 registration for Surinam, he appears aged 56 as an owner with Christopher James Farwell, his nephew.
According to the History of Parliament ‘He certainly had money, was known in the City and invested substantially in landed property in the Lindfield and Cuckfield area of Sussex, but no evidence has been found to corroborate an assertion of 1823 [of John Wade, Black Book (1823 edn.), p. 139, cited in Fisher] that he was “a West India planter”.’ He was described as being 'a commissioner in Demerara' [sic] when being put forward for the Sligo seat. In 1825-1826, Bent was involved in the scandal of the Arigna Iron and Coal Mining Company. The case concerned the alleged fraudulent appropriation of shareholders' money by Bent and other directors of the company. A Select Committee investigated; Bent was cleared but censured for imprudence. 'Bent passed the rest of his life in comparative obscurity as a Sussex squire.' He died October 1848 at Oat Hall, which he left to his only son, Gibbs Francis Bent.
Will of John Bent of [Oat Hall] Lindfield Sussex proved 11/11/1848. Under the will [made in 1838] and a series of codicils of 1839 and 1840, he dealt with his estate at Oat Hall, his house at 26 Cambridge Street Edgware Road London and the leasehold of a further house at the corner of Carburton Street and Gloucester Place, but made no reference to slave-property in Surinam or elsewhere. He named his living children as Gibbs Francis Bent, Margaret Hawkins, Maria Mary Dowden and Elizabeth Walthew: a fourth daughter, had died leaving him grandchildren named Rentoul to whom he left annuities.
T71/887 British Guiana claim nos. 2398A&B (Vrouw Anna); Essequibo and Demerary Royal Gazette 25/05/1813 for Bent's appointment in Surinam; an inventory of John Bent's estate drawn up in Surinam in 1861 showed Bent having mortgaged an estate called Bentshope in 1830, and being connected with his nephew to several other estates, including Herstelling, Esthersrust, Klein Lunenburg, Breedevort and Bucklebury [sic], [Colonial Office, Netherlands] No. 1.05.08.01 Inv. 174 of the Dutch West Indian Possessions; [Colonial Office, Netherlands], File Name: Unattended estate & orphans Surinam, Accession No. 1.05.11.13, Inventory number: 889 Saturday, July 13, 1861, Subject: estate John Bent & Inventory Pieces from the West Indian Bank. One of John Bent's sisters, Elizabeth, married Christopher Farwell 22/03/1802 in Devon (their son was Christopher James Farwell) and a second, Maria, married George Farwell, the father of Frederick Cooper Farwell, at Totnes 18/12/1810, Ancestry.com, England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 [database online]. Frederick Cooper Farwell's son Sir George Farwell is in the ODNB as 'judge.'
D. R. Fisher (ed.), The House of Commons 1820-1832 (7 vols., Cambridge, Cambridge University Press for the History of Parliament Trust, 2009), vol. 4; extends and corrects the entry for Bent in R. G. Thorne (ed.), The House of Commons, 1790-1820 (5 vols., London, Secker & Warburg for the History of Parliament Trust, 1986), vol. 3. Sonja Boon of Memorial University of Newfoundland, in a post on John Bent in Surinam dated 02/08/2016 and entitled 'Speculation', points out that John Bent called one of his plantations in Surinam 'Totness': https://saltwaterstories.net/ [accessed11/08/2016].
We are very grateful to Ank de Vogel-Muntslag and Okke ten Hove for information concerning John Bent in Surinam.
m. 17 Feb. 1801, Maria, da. of John Brown
1 son 4 daughters
£14,904 0S 5D
Unsuccessful claimant (Mortgagee)
Equitable Loan Co.
Financial services - credit
1818 - 1820
1820 - 1826
Oat Hall, Lindfield, Hayward’s Heath (near), Sussex, South-east England, England
Weaton House, Devon, Devon & Cornwall, England