Robert Benson (1st Lord Bingley) 1675-1731
Born at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, in 1675. His father was a lawyer, who managed to prosper under Charles I, the Commonwealth and the restored Charles II. He was twice Lord Mayor of York and five times MP for the City. When he died in 1676, he left the infant Robert "£3,000 per annum in land and £120,000 in money". From his mother, Dorothy, a daughter of Tobias Jenkins, he also inherited St.William's College in York (which remained in the family until the turn of the C20th).
Benson completed his education in 1697 with a Grand Tour of Europe. In Rome he met the future Earl of Aylesford, whose sister he was later to marry. More important he started to formulate his grand design for Bramham, based upon what he had seen of Italian architecture and French garden design. He probably masterminded the choice of site, the layout of the house, gardens, park, water and woodlands himself.
Away from Bramham, Robert Benson's career prospered both in politics and business. He was elected MP for York in 1705 and joined the Government in 1710, first as Commissioner of the Treasury and then Lord Treasurer to Queen Anne. In 1713 he became Ambassador to Spain and was created Lord Bingley. His last appointment was as Treasurer to the Household of George II.
In business, he was a director of the South Seas Company. An angry mob is reported to have stoned his carriage in Cavendish Square after the South Sea Bubble burst.
Horace Walpole (4th Earl of Oxford and builder of Strawberry Hill) dismissed Benson as "a person of no extraction" and on his elevation to the peerage, his lack of a coat of arms was remarked upon, but he found favour with Queen Anne; she was his guest at least once at Bramham. He also seems to have been accepted into society as he married Lady Elizabeth Finch, daughter of the 1st Earl of Aylesford. By her he had a daughter, Harriet, who succeeded him in 1731. He is buried in St Paul's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.