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Irvin Bentley

HM Factory GretnaCoal Depot Foreman
Place of Residence at HM Factory Gretna Newfoundland Hostel, Butterdales, Dornock Dornock Birthplace Bradford Place of Death West Bowling Bradford


Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) :Irvin Bentley alias Herbert Taylor. He gained employment at Gretna as Herbert Taylor
Gender: Male
Date and place of birth: 1872 Hipperholme, Bradford
Date and Place of Death: Second quarter 1937 at West Bowling, Bradford
Nationality: English

Childhood: Normal
Parents: William Henry Bentley and Mary Anne nee Taylor
Parents occupations: Quarrier – delver
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance: None known
Occupation: Quarry man but at Gretna was a coal depot foreman
Place of residence at Gretna: Newfoundland Hostel, Butterdales, Dornock
Marital status: Married 3 times concurrently ( trigamist)
Children: One daughter to wife number 1 is known
Travels: None
Awards/recognitions: None
Positions held: None
Trivia / any other information: Lots – imprisoned many times

Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):


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Irvin Bentley alias Herbert Taylor 1872-1937 

This is an intriguing and complex tale of petty crime, deception, and imprisonment. Irvin/Herbert was accused of bigamy in 1918 but in fact he had already married bigamously in 1912 and had escaped detection. In 1918 he married  his 3rd concurrent wife. 

Irvin Bentley was born in 1872 to William Henry Bentley and Mary Anne nee Taylor. William from Northowram, Halifax and Mary from Leeds. They married on 14th February 1865 at the Parish Church, Halifax. The marriage registration gives both as living at Hipperholme. William, 19 a delver ( quarry worker ) and son of a stone merchant, Mary 21  the daughter of a coachman. The witnesses to this wedding were not family members.  

Between 1866 and 1874 William and Mary had 4 surviving children. Susan was born in 1866 and baptised at Lightcliffe, St Matthew on 1t April 1867. ( near Brighouse). Curiously there is a side note to the baptismal entry which reads “ Privately baptized”. 

On 9th April 1870  Henry more commonly later known as Harry was born. Irvin followed at Hipperholme in 1872. The Finally, Herbert arrived in 1874. Curiously there is no 1871 census return for this family.  

The 1881 census finds the Bentley family living at Hill Top, Lightcliffe. William Henry, 34 a stone merchant, Mary Anne. 37, Susan, 15 a scholar, Henry 10, Irvin 9, Herbert 7 and a 22 year old servant.  

In December 1890, 19 year old Irvin Bentley married 18 year old Sarah Hannah Bunney at Halifax. Only the district registration can be sourced therefore very few details can be gleaned. This was clearly marriage number one.  

We know from the 1939 register that Sarah was born on 14th October 1872. In the 1881 census we learn that Sarah and her parents, Thomas a stone delver aged 34 and Mary E her mother 32 are living at Crow Point Northowram, Halifax. She has older siblings no longer at home.  

The first census after Sarah married Irvin is in 1891. Irvin a 19 year old quarryman with Sarah H his 18 year old wife living at Hill Top , Lightcliffe next door to his parents and siblings at Hill Top Farm.  

On 7th July 1891, Sarah gave birth to a daughter, Florence. The Dumfries and Galloway Standard of Wednesday 20th March 1918 fills many gaps in the story for this period of  time. Irvin’s brother Herbert died at the age of 19 on 12th July 1892 and is buried at St Matthew’s Churchyard Lightcliffe.  

His mother died on 1st March 1894 aged 50 and is  also buried in St Matthew’s churchyard. casts a whole new cloak over the Bentley family. The burial records as follows:- 


In affectionate memory of WALTER BENTLEY of Lightcliffe who died August 18th 1899 aged 35 years. 

  Also in loving memory of HERBERT the son of William Henry and Mary Ann BENTLEY who died July 12th 1892, aged 19 years. In loving memory of MARY ANNE the wife of  WILLIAM HENRY BRIGGS BORN June 3rd 1843.  

Also in loving memory of WILIAM HENRY BENTLEY who died Liscannor, June 29th 1904, aged 57 years. Interred at Ennestymen Church, Castle Clare. Ireland.  


So, who was Irvin’s father and who was William Henry Briggs.  Assuming that Irvin’s father died in Ireland it is highly likely that he was in “The Clare Militia …a British militia regiment from 1789 to 1909”( )   

Herbert’s passing gave Irvin the opportunity to take his dead brother’s given name as part of his alias. He took his mother’s maiden name as his adopted family name thus reinventing himself, as and when it suited, as Herbert Taylor.  

We know that Sarah and Irvin lived together as man and wife up to 1896. ( D and G Standard 1918) 

The next definite fact of this relationship is to be found in the H.M.Prison Wakefield records. Irvin is dealt 2 calendar months hard labour in 1897 for “assaulting wife Sarah Hannah Bentley” . Described as a quarryman, 25, 5ft 9 1/4 ins tall of Hipperholme. His daughter was only 5 at this time  

This appears to be his first known crime. The D and G Standard 1918 states that Sarah said “ he disappeared at this time”. Perhaps she did not know that he was in prison or knew but did not admit to the fact.  

The Stockton Herald, South Durham and Cleveland Advertiser, Saturday 25th June 1898  

“ …yesterday at Stockton County Police Court, a tramp named Irvin Bentley was charged with having set fire to a haystack 12 tons weight…it is alleged the man was sleeping behind the stack with another man… the stack was totally destroyed.” 

He was remanded in custody. No further details regarding a prison sentence are available.  In a bigamy case of 1918 it is revealed that Sarah was allegedly seeking a separation order at this time but unfortunately for her  there were insufficient grounds.  

By the time of the 1901 census Sarah Hannah Bentley and 9 year old daughter  Florence   are living with Sarah’s sister Hannah and stone mason husband at 105, New Bank , Northowram, Halifax. Sarah now 28 is working as a worsted wear twister.  

Meanwhile, still as Irvin Bentley , her husband is living in a lodging house in Market Place, Wath-on-Dearne , a 29 year old quarryman.   

As described earlier, Irvin’s father William Henry died aged 57 in July 1904. in County Clare, probably whilst serving in the Clare Militia.  

10 years pass and Sarah is still living at 105 New Bank in 1911. Now 38, she  is still engaged as a worsted twister and 19 year old Florence is working  as a “twister silk”. This casts doubt on a claim made in the later  bigamy case by his representative that Sarah had abandoned Florence to the care of her sister.  

The 1911 census places Irvin , now 38 at 10 Melbourne Grove, Thornbury, Bradford. He is a boarder with Charles Thornton, 66 publican, Sarah Thornton 68. They have been married for 30 years but have no children. This is a second marriage for Charles. Ana Thornton, Charles’s  daughter , 34 and single. Irvin is listed as single . An engineer cost clerk. Neither of the last two facts are accurate. Were they aware that he had been in prison and what his crimes had been.   

This same year, Irvin’s brother Henry/Harry is in Southport a stone and granite merchant. His unmarried sister Susan at 45 is a domestic servant in Halifax.  

Having shared the home of Ana Thornton and given the impression that he was single, 38 year old Irvin Bentley married 34 year old Ana Thornton , milliner on 8th July 1912 at the Parish Church, Calverley. The marriage registration states clearly that Irvin’s father, deceased was James Bentley , an engineer. He had given his father his grandfather’s name of James and falsified the occupation. Ana’s father is now deceased , licensed victualler . The witnesses were Frederick and Evina Hainsworth whose names crop up again later in this story. Evina being Ana’s step sister.  

Ana was born on 2nd May 1876 at Beeston, Leeds to Charles Thornton and Anne nee Bentley. It is unclear as to any family connection between Anne Bentley and Irvin’s father but it is highly possible as Anne’s father was called William so Irvin’s father  William Henry and Anne could be siblings. This would make Irvin and his second wife , first cousins. Ann’a mother died in 1879 when Ana was only 3. Her father married Sarah Muff  in 1880. Sarah had clearly been married previously as the 1891 census also includes an Evina aged 22.  

This census gives Charles occupation as publican, Sarah, Evina and 14 year old Ana are Assistant publicans. This was a complete change of direction for Charles as in 1881 he had been a colliery hewer.Ana  written here as Ann is a 4 year old scholar.  

By 1901 Charles at 56 was a retired publican and Ana was at home with her father and step mother. Step sister Evina was married to Frederick Hainsworth, master butcher.     

Returning to 1911 when Irvin was staying at the Thornton home.  

Prior to Ana and Irvin’s marriage in July 1912, Ana’s father Charles and possible uncle of Irvin, died on 12th February 1912. Probate dated  May cites Evina ( wife of Fred Hainsworth) and Ana Thornton, spinster effects of £1425 2s. One wonders if Irvin married Ana on the spur of the moment hoping to access some funds.  

With 2 wives and no mention of bigamy at this stage in any prison or newspaper reports Irvin continued to engage in a life of crime and aliases. It is reported in the Leeds Mercury Saturday 26th July 1913 under the following headline. 


At Batley, yesterday, Irvin Bentley, alias Herbert Taylor, described as a quarryman, was committed to the Quarter Sessions charged with breaking and entering the lock-up shop of Rufus Barley, hair-dresser, of Hanging Heaton, on the 15th inst,, 

A constable found Bentley with a bottle of hair lotion in his possession, having apparently smashed the shop window. He told the constable he would have taken the shop if he had not appeared on the scene.” 

The outcome was related in one sentence in the Sheffield Telegraph Thursday 14th October 1913. A sentence of 9 month. The H.M.Prison Wakefield register record “Bentley, Irvin, Wakefield , shopbreaking and stealing, 9 months H L, quarry “ along with his height etc.  

The UK calendar of prisoners, logged this crime along with prior convictions and it appears that Irvin had travelled fairly widely.  

Irvin Bentley ( alias Herbert Taylor), 42, Quarryman 

18 mos., Glocester Assizes, 4th Nov., 1908, arson ( Herbert Taylor) 

6 mos., Lincol Co. Assizes, 30th Jan., 1913 shopbreaking ( Herbert Taylor) 

6 times for begging, &c.” 

“In August, 1915, she” ( Sarah)” met him in Halifax, and there was trouble between them in consequence of which some proceedings were taken against accused, who failed to appear. Following upon the meeting in August,1915  the wife had various letters from accused under the name Herbert Taylor, which name seemed to have taken. He arrived at Gretna about the end of 1915, and under that name he got employment in the coal depot and was ultimately appointed foreman.” Dumfries and Galloway Standard 20th March 1918. 

The Police Gazette Friday 25 February 1916 – 

“Yorkshire ( West Riding) Leeds(City),- for failing to appear at Leeds P sessions., 22nd inst.,to answer a charge of stealing a razor.- HERBERT TAYLOR alias Irvin Bentley CRO NO. 860-13, age 54, ht 5ft 93/4 in.,c. fresh, h. brown, e. blue, scar rt eyebrow. A labourer: native of Bradford. Pre.con. arson, shopbreaking, cyclestealing and minor offences at CHELTENMHAM, LONG SUTTON,HOLBEACH, STAMFORD, ( Herbert Taylor) and BATLEY ( Irvin Bentley) 

Warrant issued…” 

This contradicts his whereabouts in 1915 as described at his bigamy case which stated that he arrived at Gretna.  The age of 54 is an error and should be 45. Interestingly, the police in Leeds appear to assume that Herbert Taylor is his real name and Irvin Bentley an alias.    

At the beginning of 1916 Herbert “ became acquainted with Margaret Blower, a tablemaid in one of the hostels”. This date could also be in error if he was wanted in Leeds in February of 1916 for stealing a razor.  

On 8th January 1918 he married Margaret ( Maggie ) Blower. The registration shows Herbert Taylor , 38 a coal depot foreman, bachelor of Newfoundland House, Butterdales , Dornock. His deceased father is William Henry Taylor , quarry master. Margaret is 19 ,a domestic servant of No 8 Butterdales, Dornock. Her deceased father, John was a collier. The witnesses  to this Salvation Army marriage at Moat Road ,Annan were James and Sarah Stevenson. 

He falsified his status . He was in fact a trigamist not a bachelor. He falsified his age as 38 when he was in fact 46. He falsified his father’s family name to Taylor.  

  “The marriage was fixed for 16th December, but in order to make sure that he was free to marry accused wrote one letter addressing it to his wife at the last address where he knew that she lived, and letter was returned ‘‘not known”. He then married the girl Blower on 8th January, thinking It was all right that he could marry.” No mention is ever made of wife number 2, Ana.  

“He heard from a friend at Whitsuntide, 1917, that his daughter had told that friend that his wife was dead. It was quite possible that his daughter had made a mistake, because she was only two years of age at the time separation, and accused put her into the custody of a sister and maintained her until she was twenty-one. It was possible that she looked upon his sister as her mother, and it was really accused’s sister who was dead. “ We know that this section of the report in the D and G Standard of March 1918 was false as there are census returns for Sarah and Florence up to 1939.  

It is unclear what alerted the authorities to this case of bigamy.  

“The Sheriff said he could not see any extenuating circumstances in the case. It seemed to him a very cruel and wicked offence against a respectable young girl. The sentence would be one of imprisonment for twelve months.”  

To turn the clock back slightly to the Police Gazette dated 29th January 1918. He was remanded at Dumfries Police court till 1st charged with fraud for which he seemingly was given a sentence of 30 days. His age is given as 56 which is not correct.   

 “Bentley completed a term thirty days’ imprisonment for fraud in connection with the sale of coal at Gretna on 5th March, and was arrested leaving prison in respect of the charge of bigamy”. Dumfries and Galloway Standard 20th March 1918 .  

The marriage registration was corrected  on 16th March 1918 ( included in the attached folder) “ his wife Sarah Hannah Bunney being still alive and his marriage to her still subsisting.”  

Margaret or Maggie was born on 8th February 1898 in Dumfries. Her was deceased by the time she was born according to her birth registration. In 1901 ,at the age of 3, the census shows that she was living with her maternal grandparents in Kilmarnock. Her grandfather , John McCreadie a 54 year old gas work labourer originally from Ayr. Her grandmother Henrietta born in Dumfries and aunts and uncles Agnes 28, a barmaid , Hugh 17 a coalminer born in England, Louisa 16 a bar maid and Henrietta junior 8.  

The 1901 census for the rest of Maggie’s family places them at 26 Mansfield Road, New Bury, Farnworth. Her father is a colliery hewer and there are 3 siblings.  

In 1911 Margaret has rejoined her parents at Gorton New Road, New Bury. At 14 she is working as a doffer in a spinning room. Her mother Mary nee McCreadie is no longer included but a Bertha Blower so her father must have remarried and her mother must have died. There is a young child to this marriage. Records show that her then 16 year old brother was  involved in a mining accident in 1916 with damage to his leg.  

We can assume therefore that Margaret ( Maggie ) Brewer responded to the call by the Ministry of Munitions in 1916 and ended up as a table maid at Newfoundland House, Butterdales, Dornock, part of H.M.Factory Gretna. Unfortunately she met Irvin Bentley alias Herbert. 

Back to Herbert. On 3rd December 1918 records show that his daughter Florence married. 27 year old Florence married 32 year old cabinet maker Herbert Crabtree of 2, St George’s Square, Ovenden, the son of a cotton worker. Florence is of 105, New Bank , Halifax, the address she had lived at with her mother since 1901. Her father is listed as Irvin Bentley and his occupation has been greatly inflated in his absence to quarry owner. He was in prison at this point in time and probably did not know of this marriage. Sarah Hannah Bentley , wife number 1 , was a witness at this marriage.  

In 1921 he is at the same address as Ana Bentley – wife number 2- an address in Prestwich , Manchester.  ( 1921 census header information)  

They are still living as a couple but at 22 Hopbine Street, West Bowling , Halifax  in the 1928, 29, 30 and 31 electoral registers. 

Irvin Bentley died in the second quarter of 1937aged 65.  

The 1939 register lists Ana Bentley , widow , at 22  Hopbine Terrace where she had lived latterly with her husband. She died there in June 1961. He probate leaves effects of £1703 5s 10d to Florrie Hainsworth , spinster. The same family name as the witnesses at her wedding – probably Florrie is her niece.  

The 1939 register also lists Sarah Bentley as a widow of Claremont Street , Halifax. By the time of her death in 1962  at  Dalehurst Heath Avenue , Halifax on 25th January 1962 Sarah Hannah Bentley is described as a spinster in the probate entry. Effects of £3387 19s 10d to Barbara Winifred Braim ( wife of Henry Thomas Braim ).  

Had Sarah uncovered information that allowed her to have her marriage annulled between 1939 and 1962?  

In 1939 Florence and joiner husband are living at Woodside View , Halifax. She was predeceased by her husband Herbert/Hubert in 1959.  

No further trace of Maggie Blower can be found. Perhaps she married and changed her name after 1918.  

This is a tale that throws up more questions than answers- a truly intriguing and compelling biography.  

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