Ancestry of Jeremy Bentham

This page written and copyright 2012 by Will Johnson,, Professional Genealogist

1 Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an author, jurist, philosopher, legal and social reformer.  He is considered by most to be the father of Utilitarianism, which was further developed by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).  Many sources repeat the nonsense that he was born on 15 Feb, but Bentham was actually born 4 Feb 1747/8 in Houndsditch, London and baptised 14 Feb 1747/8 at St Botolph without Aldgate, London (Batch C025557 wj), the son of Jeremiah Bentham and his wife Alicia (nee Grove).  Although known today as Jeremy Bentham, his name was Jeremiah like his father, and his father before him, "Jeremy" being a familiar version of "Jeremiah".

His father Jeremiah was an attorney and clerk to the Scrivener's Company, who had "...amassed a considerable fortune through dealing in property" (Source).  Jeremy's mother Alicia died in 1759 when Jeremy was only eleven years old.  Seven years later, his father married again, to a widow with two sons, the second of whom, Charles Abbott, "...became a successful and distinguished lawyer and politician." (Source)  Charles was created Baron Colchester in 1817.

Jeremy Bentham was something of a child prodigy, graduating from Queen's College, Oxford in 1764 when he was but 16 years old.  Although outwardly affectionate toward his father, he was bitter as well, possibly because the elder Jeremiah had pushed him hard toward the profession of law, a calling for which Jeremy had complete contempt. Instead, he devoted himself to study and writing and, for much of his career, Jeremy made occasional money through journalism and from an allowance from his father.

In 1774, Jeremy fell in love with Polly Dunkley, a girl of 17, but she was without income or prospects, so his father put a stop to that relationship.  Instead his father found a suitable match in a Miss Stratton and Jeremy paid her court but the relationship went nowhere.  Jeremy Bentham never married, and is not known to have had any illegitimate children either.

He wrote voraciously, but did not publish much of his own volition, always attempting to polish his works more, rather his works were either published by others, or published after his death.  A work baring his name, "Rationale of Punishment", was not published until some thirty years after he had penned the material.  It was however edited together, from various manuscripts, by the publisher, who also edited out a great deal of the skepticism and irreligious commentary.  He died 6 Jun 1832.

Primary sources for 1
  • Baptismal register of St Botolph without Aldgate, online at

Secondary sources for 1

2 Jeremiah Bentham

Jeremiah Bentham was baptised Dec 1712 at St Botolph without Aldgate, London, the son of Jeremiah Bentham and his wife Rebecca (Batch C006335 wj).  Jeremiah had married Rebecca Tabor, in that same parish, 17 Dec 1706 (Batch M000816 wj).  Although his parents had resolved that he would marry a lady of some substantial inheritence of 10,000 a year, he about 1742 fell deeply inn love with Alicia Grove, whom he had met accidentally at Buckholt Acres.  They married 24 Aug 1745. (Source) Jeremiah Bentham married the widow Alicia (nee Grove).  Their eldest surviving son was Jeremy Bentham the philosopher and author, born in 1748.

Although her father was a prosperous tradesman of Andover, Bentham's mother always spoke of the union as a mistake.  Jeremiah was an attorney and clerk to the Scriveners' Company.  In 1751 he was "of Barking, co Essex",  but by 1754, reciting that he was then "of Aldgate, London; Gent" he purchased the Advowson of the rectory of the parish of Harting, co Sussex. (Source)  The "George Woodward Grove" mentioned there being the brother of Jeremiah's wife Alicia Grove.

He was yet living in 1786, when a letter from him survives. (Source)

Primary sources for 2

  • Marriage register of St Botolph without Aldgate, online at
  • Baptismal register of St Botolph without Aldgate, online at

3 Alicia Grove

Alicia was born the daughter of Thomas Grove, a prosperous tradesman of Andover, by his wife Alicia Woodward.  Alicia Grove married firstly a Mr Whitehorn,  but there were apparently no surviving children of this union.  She married secondly, 24 Aug 1745, to Jeremiah Bentham, whom she had met accidentally at Buckholt Acres.  They were the parents of the author of philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and also of Samuel Bentham, whose son George Bentham (1800-1884) was a botanist and author of some note.  When Alicia's father died, her mother, now a widow sold the business and withdrew to Browning Hill, a country residence near Reading. (Source)  She died in 1759, and her husband married secondly some years later a widow with two sons of her own.

As a baby she called her son "Jerry", another familiar form for Jeremiah, and a letter of her's written at this time, yet exists.


4 Jeremiah Bentham

Jeremiah Bentham was baptised Aug 1683 at St Botolph without Aldgate, London, the son of Bryan Bentham and his wife Anne (Batch C006334 wj).  His parents Bryan "about 24" and Anne Gregory "about 20", had married by license Vic.Gen.Arch.Cant at St Michael's, Cornhill, London 17 Mar 1680/1 with the consent of her father Capt Jeremy Gregory (Source).  The Merchant Taylors' School Register shows the admission of one by this name on 11 Sep 1693, who had been born 15 Aug 1683, and on the same day a Bryan Bentham who had been born 28 Apr 1683 just four-and-a-half months earlier and so not a brother, but possibly a first cousin I suppose.  The modern editor states that he was the ancestor of our target person. (Source).  He was yet living as late as 1744, at Barking. 

5 Rebecca Tabor

Rebecca Tabor was born sometime between 1675 and 1698, the daughter of John Tabor, clerk, of Ramsden Bellhouse, co Essex who left a will (1709, 56 Lane), by his wife Dorothy Croxall.  She was yet living when Jeremy Bentham was a boy as he recalls visits to her at Barking.

6 Thomas Grove

Thomas Grove was a properous tradesman of Andover.  He died 1750/1

7 Alicia Woodward

Alicia Woodward, was born the daughter of William Woodward, who was rector of St Stephen's, Baughurst, Hampshire from 1668.  She was yet living when Jeremy Bentham was a boy, as he recalls in his writings, visits to her at her country house Browning Hill when she was than a widow.

8 Bryan Bentham

Bryan Bentham was born about 1656/7.  At the time of his marriage, the license dated 17 Mar 1680/1 calls him "Bryan Bentham, Jr of St Botolph's, clothworker" and aged "about 24".  Bryan Bentham and Anne Gregory were the parents of Jeremiah Bentham baptised 1683 in that same parish.  Bryan became Master of the Clothworkers' Company in 1693.  One of this name was Churchwarden at St Botolph's in 1701. (Source) Secondary sources also call him a pawnbroker, who "lost money by the stop of the Exchequer in 1672", which is quite unlikely, as this one was only 15 years old.  It's more likely that our Bryan was the son of yet another Bryan.

9 Anne Gregory

Anne was born the daughter of Jeremy Gregory, who by the time of her 1681 marriage was called "Captain".  The family evidently lived for some time in the parish of St Michael's, Cornhill, London as some of Jeremy's other children by his wife Elizabeth where baptised there, and at Anne's marriage she and her father are called "of" that place as well.   Bryan Bentham, clothworker "about 24" and Anne Gregory "about 20", married by license Vic.Gen.Arch.Cant at St Michael's, Cornhill, London 17 Mar 1680/1 with the consent of her father Capt Jeremy Gregory (Source). 

10 John Tabor

John Tabor married firstly at Shenley 5 Jul 1677 Debora Golty.  She must have died young.  John married secondly 2 Oct 1679 at Tollesbury, co Essex to Dorothy Croxall, daughter of Rev. Randolph Croxall who was then vicar of that place.  John was living in 1687 and also in 1690, when both of those years he was rector of South Hanningfield and called "of Ramsden Bellhouse".  He is named in the 1702 will of Sir Jeremiah Snow as "John Tabor and wife", but he was dead by 1709 when he left a will either dated that year or proved that year (PCC 56 Lane).  

This first marriage to Debora Golty is evidently the true basis for the claim that Jeremy Bentham's "great-grandfather" was a relation to Sir Jeremy Snow the banker, as Jeremy Snow's nephew Robert, had married Rebecca Goulty, possibly Debora's sister.  Jeremy's wife herself was also named Rebecca but her family name is not yet known by me.

11 Dorothy Croxall

Dorothy Croxall was born 16 Feb 1658/9 (Source), the daughter of Rev. Randolph Croxall, by his wife Dorothy Thacker. (Married in 1654, Batch I052281 wj)  At the time of her birth, Randolph was minister of Kirkland, co Cumberland.  Dorothy married John Tabor, who was then or later rector of South Hanningfield.

14 William Woodward

Rector of St Stephen's, Baughurst, Hampshire from 1668.  The Woodward family was of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.  As rector, he was merciless in his persecution of Quakers for non-payment of tithes.  He died of ague, in 1703 with an M.I. (Source)  He was the father of Alicia (Woodward) Grove, and also of that Thomas Woodward who brought out Tindal's "Christianity as Old as the Creation" (1730). 

18 Jeremy Gregory

Variants of the name Jeremy include Jeremiah, Hierom, Hiram, and Hieronymus.  On his daughter's 1680/1 marriage license, yet living, he is called Captain.

22 Randolph Croxall

Born at Shustoke, co Warwick.  Married 5 Jul 1654 at "Shystoke", co Warwick to Dorothy Thacker (Batch I052281 wj)  Eldest child Samuel was born in 1655.  Minister of Kirkland 1659, as "Randal Croxall" rector at Tolleshunt Knight 1662-, afterward Vicar of Tollesbury 1679, Vicar of Salisbury.  Either he is identical to, or possibly his father was, that Randolph Croxall named as "husbandman" living at Shustoke slightly earlier.

23 Dorothy Thacker