Rev John Gordon Bennett and family

Scope and Content

Most of the collection consists of the correspondence of John Gordon Bennett written to his family in England whilst he was a missionary in India, principally in Medak. There is also a significant amount of correspondence written by his wife Dorothy for much of the same period. The remainder of the collection comprises a contemporary copy of John Gordon Bennett's diary whilst serving as a chaplain for the Young Men's Christian Association during the Mesopotamia campaign of World War One; his mother's diary recording her, her husband's and daughter's visit to see their son in India in 1912 & 1913; a file on the sinking of HMS Exeter and the experiences of one of its crew, John's brother N.J.M Bennett; photographs depicting family and missionary life in India.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Gordon Bennett was born in Louth, Lincolnshire, in 1885 and educated at The Leys School and Kings College, Cambridge. He was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1907 and his first posting was in Cambridge as chaplain at The Leys School. In 1909 Bennett became a missionary for the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in their Hyderabad District in India and remained there, excluding the odd furlough and brief service in World War One, for the next twenty-seven years. In April 1914 he married Dorothy Lewis, the daughter of Rev James Lewis, and she spent many of the subsequent years supporting his work.

Bennett's work focused on education, particularly with regard to theological instruction. For much of his service he was involved in the training of evangelists, including becoming the principal of the training institute at Medak and putting his knowledge of Telugu to good use there. Under his guidance the institute grew considerably and produced evangelists to work across India. They were particularly needed to respond to the mass movement of conversion to Methodism in the area, which had begun in the late nineteenth century, and which increased the number of baptised Methodists in the Hyderabad District from a base of around 4,000 to over 120,000 by the late 1930s. This all happened under the stewardship of the district by Rev Charles Posnett who also made Medak a centre for Christianity in the region with the building of an imposing Gothic style church as well as a hospital, an orphanage and a girls' school during the 1920s.

For a brief period during World War One Bennett served as a chaplain in the Young Men's Christian Association supporting troops in the Ottoman campaign and following the advance from Basra to Baghdad. Once back in India he spent much of his spare time promoting the Boy Scouts movement in the area including forming the first rural troop and later serving as district commissioner. In addition to his other duties he also served on the South India Provincial Synod, including as its chairman for a time. In recognition of his work he was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind medal.

In 1936 the Bennetts returned to England and settled in Cambridge. Rev Bennett's duties included supporting the local student population and he was later seconded to work with the British and Foreign Bible Society. He also continued his connection to missionary work and was a member of the Methodist Missionary Society Missionary Committee at the time of his death on 31 January 1944. His wife, Dorothy, died in 1966.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged in three sections: correspondence, manuscripts and visual material. The original numbering of correspondence files and their contents has not been altered.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Acquisition Information

Collection accepted as a deposit on behalf of the Methodist Church, March 2009, from Antony Bennett.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Copyright mostly held by Bennett Family

Custodial History

Antony Bennett, son of Rev John Gordon and Dorothy Bennett, inherited these papers between 1989 and 2001.

Related Material

Also within the records of the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society is the official correspondence for John Gordon Bennett (MMS/India/Correspondence/Hyderabad/FBN 13-15). Further information on Bennett's work, as well as the work of his colleagues, will be contained in the relevant Synod Minutes (MMS/India/Synod Minutes/FBN 7-8 & 12-19).