From Badenhall to Bednall

 650 Years in England

A brief overview 1200 to 1853
The Bednall Archive

Eight hundred years ago Robert de Badenhall lived in Staffordshire, England.  The reason his existence became a matter of record is that he was one of the knights of the Bishop of Chester from who he held the land known as Badenhall, from which he derived his name. It is from Robert’s family that the Bednalls of Adelaide, South Australia trace their descent.  The name Bednall is itself a derivation of Badenhall, although it did not appear in the modern form until the late 1600’s.  (See annex 1 for the origins and evolution of the Bednall name)

Today the Badenhall land accommodates a 16th century house (with possible earlier origins), a conference centre and a trout farm.  Now known as “Baden Hall” the name has changed little since 1200. 

Through succeeding centuries, the family’s fortunes waxed and waned, with later generations being recorded as lords of Badenhall (and other lands), farmers, blacksmiths and in a range of other occupations.Text Box: The 16th century house which stands at Badenhall today


The family lived in the midlands, chiefly in Staffordshire, from 1200 until the late 1700’s.  (See Family Tree 1, and a list of key historical references at annex 2.)

Leicester & London

In the late 1700’s two brothers, Thomas and Joseph Bednall, each moved from Hanbury in Staffordshire to Leicester.  It is in Leicester that the origins of the Australian branch of the family can be found. 

In February 1807 Joseph Bednall married Mary Stringer at the church of St Mary de Castro in Leicester.  In October 1811 Joseph and Mary had a son whom they named William[1]

William grew up in Leicester, and in November 1835 he married Etheldreda Henshaw Blore at Paddington Church, Middlesex (London).  He was 24 and she was 22.  The Blores were a family of some prominence, originally from Derbyshire.  Etheldreda’s father Thomas was a lawyer and historian who had published several books on antiquities[2], and Etheldreda’s half brother Edward (26 years her senior) was a noted architect, and held the position of Royal Architect to both King William IV, and later Queen Victoria[3] [4]

After their marriage William and Etheldreda lived in Leicester where their first child, William Tompson Bednall was born in August 1838.  He was baptised in the parish of St Mary’s.  The family then moved to London and in 1841, were living Dorset Street, St. Marylebone.  Later that year, their second child, Thomas Blore Bednall, was born and four years later, the family increased again with the birth of their daughter Etheldreda Alice Kendall Bednall (known as Alice). 

William Bednall senior, who was a builder, died in 1846,  “from the effects of an accident”  He was buried, just 35 years old, in Paddington Churchyard, Middlesex (London) leaving behind  Etheldreda, a widow at 33 and their three young children aged eight, five and one. 

After William’s death Etheldreda and her children stayed in London.  Young William was educated at the Philological School, London (now part of Kings College), and left school at 14, accepting an appointment in the Museum of Practical Geology in Jermyn Street, London.

Text Box: Etheldreda Bednall’s visiting card, about 1847
(black edging indicating her recent widowhood)

At or about this time the family were living with in the house of a Leicestershire man, William Watts. on Bread Street Hill, St. Olave's parish, London and and there is some uncertainty about the relationship since William Tompson  Bednall is recorded as Watts' son-in-law. No marriage certificate has, however, yet been found

Personal letters from that time indicate that Etheldreda’s two aunts, Alice Tompson and Anne Coxon (her father’s sisters) took an interest in her circumstances (see letter transcripts at annex 3).  The letters discuss Etheldreda’s possible entitlement to an inheritance from the estate of her father’s second wife, Dorothy Gell.

A new life in a new country

 On the fourth of May 1853, aged 40, and almost seven years after the death of her husband, Etheldreda and her three children set sail for South Australia.  This single momentous act has significantly shaped the history of the Bednall family.  The extent of Etheldreda’s influence and the strong links to the Blore family can be seen in the practice of giving the name Blore (and other names associated with the Blore family such as Etheldreda, Alice, Gell and Tompson) to succeeding generations of Bednalls[5].

[1] The name William has often been given to the eldest Bednall son since the early 1500s

[2] Thomas Blore was particularly known for his major work, a History of Rutland

[3] Edward was the son of Thomas’ first wife, and Etheldreda the daughter of his third.  Edward was known for his book The Monumental Remains of Noble and Eminent Persons

[4] Etheldreda’s father Thomas died in 1818 when Etheldreda was 5 years old.  She was raised by her mother in Leicester.  In 1834, when Etheldreda was 21, her mother died.  The following year (1835) she married William Bednall

[5] There is also some suggestion that from time to time the double surname Blore Bednall was used.

© R. Bednall,  2004