Samuel Levy Bensusan

b 1872 d 1958  Author

Samuel Levy Bensusan was born on 29 September 1872 at Dulwich, London where his father was a merchant dealing in feathers.

The family were practicing orthodox Jews, originating from Spain, who loved music which provided Samuel with a lifelong love of music

During schooling he developed a skill in writing which he was able to combine with his love of music becoming a music/drama critic with several magazines including the Illustrated London News and Vanity Fair.

Bensusan then began experimenting in writing novels and in a move that was to change his life visited Eastern Essex where he immediately fell in love with the countryside and the people.

In 1899 he rented Moynes Farmhouse at Asheldham which he used as a cottage to entertain friends he immediately fell in love with the countryside and the people

The 1901 census shows Bensusan staying at the Queens Head Public House at Bradwell on Sea where he no doubt saw many people who were to be models for characters in his books

In 1904 published his first book called Morocco which described journey through  Morocco that he made.

Several other books followed and he continued with newspaper articles and at one stage was editor for the Jewish World.

In 1909 he married Marian Lallah Prichard although there were to be no children from this marriage although Bensusan is rumoured to have fathered a child during an affair a few years earlier.

He was an early member of the Literary Society formed in 1924 and lived in Warrior Square, Hastings for a while.

His love of rural life led to his appointment as Press chief of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries although this lasted less than two years after Bensusan disagreed with the Departmental policy on Corn Law and refused to promote a policy with which he disagreed.

Bensusan then bought Mote Cottage which was situated on the Blackwater estuary between the marshland villages of St Lawrence and Bradwell not far from the Queens Head Public House.

As he grew older he moved to a house at Great Easton, then to Langham and finally to a nursing home at St Leonard's on Sea in Sussex where he died on 11 December 1958.

Although he wrote many books Bensusan is best known for the 24 books and 6 plays that he wrote about the Rural marshland area of Eastern Essex surrounding Mote Cottage.

In 1912 the first of these was Father William which featured the local Rector who was to appear in many of the books

These books used local dialect with simple stories of the lives of the people who inhabited the area.

marshland omnibus

The real identities of these fictitious characters and villages were an open secret although there appeared to be no resentment with Bensusan even when shady practices were described. Besusan became a well known and popular local character especially when buying ale for the local men who provided the inspiration for his characters.

Maychester was Bradwell on Sea , Market Waldren was Maldon, Chenchester was Chelmsford and the Mudfords were the villages of Tillingham, Asheldham and Southminster.

Some favourite characters include -

Solomon Woodpecker the farm labourer with an equal liking for the Wheatsheaf and profound rural thoughts

Martha Ram - the unqualified village midwife who hated modern medicine

Ephraim - The village carrier who was an elder of the Peculiar People (strict evangelist)

Mrs Wospottle - The lady who had views to share on everything

 James Blight - Poacher and opportunist

A recent quote from a Bensusan enthusiast shows the effect that his simple stories have achieved

"I am cheered by the notion that Solomon Woodpecker, Martha Ram and Mrs Wospottle were well known and real living breathing Marshland people and perhaps somewhere in a quiet churchyard Old Father William sleeps peacefully wrapped in his red flannel cloak"