Willoughby Statham Smith was a successful businessman who moved to the area in about 1906. Willoughby S Smith had worked with his father (Willoughby Smith) and with him had greatly developed the technology of the underwater cables that connect the continents for telegraphy etc.
He visited America, and there in 1890 married his first wife Daisy Fletcher King. Daisy and Willoughby moved back to England, but Daisy died in 1902. He remarried some years later but his second wife Helen Gould left him in about 1920.
He purchased ‘Benchams’ – a large country house estate situated between the hamlets of Burrow and Southerton.
While at Benchams Willoughby S Smith collected many works of art, books, and statuary.
The house and grounds were beautified with treasures collected from around the world. Many of these objects were bequeathed to others after his death in 1946.
He was a great benefactor to the parish, providing funds for the Village Hall and for procurement of a Playing Field which would benefit all residents of the area.
He died in 1946 leaving a substantial estate, valued at the time as nearly £179,000 – which in value at 2015 is approximately £6.9M (after taxes approximately £138,000 or £5.3M). His generosity extended after his death, bequeathing some money to each of his employees at the time, and property and other goods to the longest-serving and most trusted of his staff. He also generously remembered the church and parish, leaving funds to support the maintenance of local amenities, as well as making provision for some professional local people who had assisted him during his lifetime. Naturally the bulk of his estate, including the house and lands, and shares in businesses, went to family members.
Willoughby Statham Smith was buried alongside his first wife, Daisy, in Putney Vale Cemetery.
There is a brass plaque in Harpford Church commemorating Willoughby Statham Smith’s life in the parish.