Russell Bencraft was for over 50 years one of the Southampton’s most prominent citizens. He was born in St Mary Street in 1858, his father being medical officer in the nearby workhouse. Bencraft initially followed his father into the medical profession and held the post of workhouse medical officer from 1885 to 1920. He held many other medical posts in his long career, but is probably best remembered for his business, political and sporting connections.

He was a director of Edwin Jones and Co, Southern Newspapers Ltd and Southampton Gaslight and Coke Company. He was for a time treasurer of University College, Southampton and for many years a member of Southampton Chamber of Commerce. He supported many charities including the Hampshire Girls’ Orphanage, and Southampton’s Sailors Home.

He was voted on to the Borough Council in 1889 and served as a magistrate from 1895 until his death in 1943. He was knighted in 1924.

He was influential in saving Hampshire County Cricket Club from extinction in 1879 and for the next few years ran the club almost single-handed. He was the driving force behind the acquisition of the Northlands Road ground, to which the club moved in 1885. He played for the club between 1876 and 1896.
He was a pioneer of local football, both as a player and a referee. He was president of St Mary’s F. C. and guided them during their transition to Southampton F. C. He was president of the Hampshire Football Association and the first president of the Southern Football League.

Sir William Russell Bencraft

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An oil painting, by Frank T. Copnall, now in Southampton Art Gallery.

Newspaper clippings:
Death of Sir Russell Bencraft - (SDE 28/12/1943)

Further reading:
Stories of Southampton Streets, by A. G. K. Leonard, p46-49. (HS/h)
Familiar and Forgotten, by Southampton Art Gallery. (HS/t)


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