Jack Bentley and his Diary

Sources for Epsom and Ewell History
Sources for Epsom
and Ewell History

Lionel Jack Bentley lived with his wife Winifred at 11 Elmwood Drive, where Jack kept a diary throughout World War 2. We are grateful to their daughter Annette Louise Fooks for this document of wartime Ewell, from which we have transcribed entries of local interest.

Click here for extracts from Bentley Diary.

Many other items from the family are at Bourne Hall Museum (accessions 2013.035). These include Jack's National Registration form from December 1943 for joining the Territorial Army (General Service Corps Royal Engineers), after having been in the Home Guard; in July 1944 he was given compassionate leave due to enemy action, and in January 1945 he was discharged and posted to 28 Group P.C. They also include Winifred's cards as an Acting Air Raid Warden, December 1943, and a member of a Supplementary Fire Party. The Museum also has Jack's paint box, and a number of his watercolours, some of them donations, and some of them commissioned from Jack in the 1970s. These are all watercolours apart from an architectural drawing of Rose Cottage (1990.145-007) and the subjects are:

Nonsuch Park entrance
Nonsuch Park entrance (1990.144-001)
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

1990.144-001Nonsuch Park entrance.
1990.144-002The lodge at Nonsuch Park Red Gate.
1990.144-003The 'Old Repair Shop (Beams Garage), Ewell', 1961.
1990.144-004The 'Repair Yard, Ewell', 1961. This was a petrol station on the corner of Cheam Road and the High Street.
1990.145-001'The Horsepond, Ewell'.
1995.114-001The 'Entrance to Bourne Hall', 1967
1995.114-002'Ewell Village', 1967
2013.035-001'The Builders Yard, Ewell', in Kingston Road.
2013.035-002The High Street, Ewell.
1990.145-002The 'Rear View of Marquis of Granby from Station Approach', 1976.
1990.145-003'The Village, Ewell', 1976, junction of the High Street and Cheam Road.
OP 4897A copy of 'Old House, Church Street' (no.10), 1977.
1990.145-004'The Old Road to London, Church Street, Ewell', 1977.
1990.145-005The rear of Epsom Church Street, 1977.
1990.145-006'The Old Mill, Ewell', 1984, showing the Upper Mill.

The 'Old Repair Shop (Beams Garage), Ewell', 1961.
The 'Old Repair Shop (Beams Garage), Ewell', 1961. (1990.144-003)
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

This is the 'Parish Profile – Jack Bentley' written by Peggy Horsley for Ewell Parish News in October 1977:

Jack Bentley cannot remember a time when he was not drawing or painting.

From Pelham School, Wimbledon, he won a scholarship to Wimbledon College of Art. He was the youngest student ? not quite thirteen years old! He remembers the interview well. It lasted one-and-a-half hours, and he had to take a large number of his drawings along.

Although so young he already knew that he wanted to be an architect, and he evidently impressed the headmaster at that time, Mr. A.J. Collister ARCA, as he was able to study there for four years.

Unfortunately he left at the time of the depression. There were no jobs at all in architects' offices for a junior draughtsman. Finally, in desperation he took an office boy's job in the architect's department of Wimbledon Borough Council. He says it drove him mad to see other people drawing while he was wasting his time.

Jack still kept searching, and finally obtained the only drawing office position available in the area ? at Sycamore Shopfitters in Worple Road. He was told that if he could do perspectives he could have the job. This had always been his stumbling block, but he was so determined to succeed he asked someone to help him, and learnt the technique in half an hour! He got the job. When the employment situation improved he finally entered an architect's office and has specialised in perspectives ever since!

While all this was going on Jack continued at home with his water colour painting. He has exhibited his work four times at Bourne Hall and twice at the Whitehall Gallery, Cheam. He has painted nearly every building of interest in Ewell, either by commission or just for interest. His pictures are literally all over the world ? mostly by private purchases by visitors.

Now retired from architecture he is still painting pictures, and has recorded many buildings before demolition for the local historical societies. He has also made a measured drawing of Lord Rosebery's coach in Bourne Hall Museum. He still does perspectives in a freelance capacity and has designed parts of town centres in various parts of the country.

Like all jobs, architecture has its problems and also its lighter moments. On one site he was visiting, twenty scaffold boards were delivered and stacked outside the canteen while the men had their lunch. When they returned one hour later the whole lot had disappeared without trace, and were never found! At another site local children thought it would be a good idea to do some work on their own at the weekend, and when the men returned on Monday they found a tunnel running direct from their diggings, through the railway embankment, with a nice hollowed-out cave under the lines!

Although Jack's first love is painting, and he still paints at least one picture a week, he is also very interested in astronomy. He was a founder member of Ewell Astronomical Society, and has found the time to amass a great deal of knowledge about the stars, and give lectures occasionally. So far no perspectives of the stars have been required, but who knows! When they are, doubtless Jack will be there!
And this is a short life story written by Winifred Bentley for Bourne Hall Museum when she presented her old comptometer, accession 2002.010:
Win was born in 1911. She was the first scholarship girl to attend Wimbledon High School. At 16, Win left school to train as a Comptometer Operator at Felt and Tarrant College in the Aldwych, London. After completing her training she took several temporary posts to gain experience. In 1928, at the age of 17, Win was employed as a permanent operator by Brooke Bond, the tea company. She stayed 8 years, until the age of 25. In 1936 she married Jack Bentley, an architect and local artist, who often exhibited at Bourne Hall. After her marriage, however, Win left Brooke Bond, as married women in those days were not expected to work. In September 1939 Win and Jack moved to Ewell on the day the 2nd World War was declared. In 1941, due to the war, women were recalled to work to help with the war effort. Win returned to the comptometer and went to work for Legal & General for three weeks. She stayed for 5 years. Win became a mother and her daughter Anne now lives in Chessington. Win did not resume work until 1970 when she purchased this comptometer second hand, and advertised to work from home. She worked for a quantity surveyor in the evenings, and continued until computers superseded these original calculating machines. Jack died in 1990. Win still lives in Ewell, as she has done for the past 62 years.
Jeremy Harte © 2015
With thanks to Jeanne Wing for transcribing the full diary
and Sheila Ross for editing it.