Richard Benyon Croft (1843 -1912)


Richard Benyon Croft was another great benefactor of the School, whose life was devoted to public service. He was, for example, the moving spirit in starting the Ware Grammar School for Boys, being its Chairman of Governors until it was amalgamated with Hertford Grammar School in 1905. He had negotiated with Earl Cowper during the period of reconstruction and he became a governor of the school as well as being Chairman of the Ware Grammar School for Girls.

He himself attended the School (possibly as a boarder) until the age of 15 when he entered the Royal Navy attaining the rank of Lieutenant. In 1860 he was stationed in China during the Opium Wars; he took part in the capture of the Taku Forts, for which he was decorated and then fought against the Taiping Rebels at Shanghai. Having married Anne Page, daughter of the Ware maltster, he retired from the Navy and entered the Page family business, eventually becoming head of Henry Page and Co Ltd. He joined the Herts Yeomanry, from which he retired in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1889, and he also took great interest in the Herts Territorial Association. In later life he lived at Fanhams Hall, the Page estate outside Ware, and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

When the Hertfordshire County Council was founded in 1889 Croft became one of the first councillors, then an alderman, in 1892 the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, and in 1893 Deputy Lieutenant. He also was Chairman of the Lee Conservancy Board, Chairman of Ware Bench of Magistrates, a churchwarden of St Mary’s, Ware, and high ranking freemason. His son, Henry Page Croft, was Second-in-Command of the 1st Hertfordshire Regiment when it was summoned to France in November 1914. His successor in 1915 was Frank Page (see Page House), who went on in 1916 to take over as Commanding Officer. Henry was in Churchill’s wartime Cabinet, and later became 1st Baron Croft.

Croft’s obituary in the Hertfordshire Mercury in 1912 read: his genial personality, kind-heartedness and generosity gained for him lasting friends wherever he was known. He was a man of sincere religious connections, ever ready to do a kind act to his neighbours and to befriend the poor and needy. His beneficent influence was felt in many spheres of life. Though gentle and unostentatious in manner he was firm in his opinions and stood up unflinchingly for what he believed to be just and true. On the Magisterial Bench, in local and county administrative affairs, in Church matters, in politics, in business and private life he gained the highest respect.