A Great Aviator

Grace’s Guide confirms that Bentfield Charles HUCKS was born on this day in 1884 but his parents didn’t register the arrival in Bishop’s Stortford until the New Year. Most sources give Stansted as his birthplace, and within the village of Stansted Mountfitchet, there is an area called Bentfield. He was, of course, born before Stansted Airport was a twinkle in the eye of anyone. I wrote about Bennie and his brothers a while back – see The Three Marine Engineers.

The post’s link to “one pilot and his pupil” has broken. It refers to the unfortunate Hubert OXLEY and Robert WEISS. I will say more about them on the anniversary of their deaths but here is a brief newspaper report of their passing.

Bentfield volunteered to serve in the Royal Flying Corps but ill health limited his contribution to the Great War effort. He caught the “Spanish Flu” in 1918 and died from pneumonia.

Ann PYBUS was baptised at Filey St Oswald’s. Her mother Mary COWLING had been blessed there almost forty years earlier but her father hailed from Masham, sixty miles or so inland. Both parents are represented on the Shared Tree but with IDs MSLP-1CT and MGCT-1R3 they have yet to tie the knot. (Mary has, however, married George PARVUS at St Oswald’s on 30 December 1819.)

Ann married Charles PRESTON at St Oswald’s on 9 December 1857 but I have been unable to follow their progress thereafter. There are some indications that they continued to live in the East Riding and that neither reached a great age but there are no convincing birth registrations of children or census returns. Perhaps they went overseas.

Mary HALL was the second of James HODGSON’s three wives. They married at St Oswald’s and were living in Mosey’s Yard in 1841 and 1851. These census snapshots catch them with just one child, Mary Ann, born in 1828 and therefore the daughter of James’ first wife Mary ROSS (died 1834). Mary Hall appears not to have had any children. I am not sure when she died (hence the italics of uncertainty in the grid.  James married Sarah PINKNEY, previously the wife of Robert PINDER, in May 1856. I haven’t looked for James and “the other two wives” on the Shared Tree.

William John was born in Filey to Alexander John Porteous CHRYSTALL and Rita Annie HOLLIS. He died aged just 22; his last address was in Mere, on the Wirral.

(This is a “placeholder” image. I hope to photograph the stones again – after making them more presentable.)

Her parents registered her at birth as Maria and she is Maria on a headstone in Filey churchyard.

In between, you may find she goes by Mary or Marion.

She was the daughter of James PUTSEY, a licensed victualler in Scarborough, and Emma BAYES. She had seven children with Arthur Herbert HAXBY, a joiner who worked for Sawdons the Builders. In 1921 Maria ran a lodging house in Filey at 17 The Crescent and her last address was 4, Brooklands.

Beach 181 · Filey Sands

The Three Marine Engineers


Oil seems to have run through the veins of Frank, Edgar and Charles. A fourth brother, William, followed their father into mechanical engineering. All told, five HUCKS boys and one girl were born in St Pancras, Middlesex. Charles was the odd one out. Better known as Bennie Hucks, or just BC, he became one of Britain’s best known early aviators and  appropriately (but only with hindsight)  was born near Stansted Mountfichet, two miles from  what would become one of the UK’s busiest airports. I don’t know what motivated his parents, William and Kate Elizabeth nee PETCH, to name him after the village of his birth but one of the mottos of the Primary School that bears the name is “Optimism and positive thinking lead to success.” I suspect the human Bentfield had both in spades, being so magnificently daring and all.

This day in 1911 though he came unstuck in pursuit of a £50 prize for being the first person to fly a Yorkshire built aircraft into Leeds. He took off from Filey Sands in his Blackburn Mercury monoplane and turned the nose westward. Twelve miles from the coast and with another 50 to go his engine sputtered and died.

…the pilot was left with no option but to try and land the aircraft which he did on land belonging to Mr J.Coverdale, at Grange Farm, East Heslerton. The field he selected had cows in it which the pilot attempted to avoid. Following the landing the aircraft sustained damage but the pilot escaped uninjured and after a short time in the area he managed to borrow a bicycle from a Mr Edwin Owston and rode back to Filey!


GrangeFarmEastHeslertonI think I have found the obliging Mr OWSTON, born 15th May 1882, and working nearby as a Postman at the 1911 census! And (left) is a satellite view of Grange Farm. Alas, the pale specks in the pasture field are not cows.

Robert Blackburn built flying machines at Flat Cliffs, just south of Filey, and established a Flying School there. The lives of one pilot and his pupil ended on the beach.

Bennie survived several Yorkshire coast prangs, became the first pilot to cross the Bristol Channel in September 1911 and shortly afterwards assisted Harry Grindell MATTHEWS with the testing of his Aerophone. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War and approaching the end of the conflict was a Captain in the Aircraft Manufacturing Company. He died of pneumonia on 7th November 1918 at the age of 33 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery. I don’t think he married.

There are 19 people called HUCKS in Filey Genealogy & Connections. I did some family history research this morning and found Bennie’s great grandparents John HUCKS and Sarah HALFHIDE. They are both on FST (John MXYD-GGV) and so are a few others in his immediate family but mostly disconnected. I couldn’t find our aviator so if I have time tomorrow I’ll create a record and unite him with parents and the other two marine engineers at least.


This photo of Bennie is on the information board on Royal Parade, Filey so I have taken the liberty of snapping and sharing it. I think copyright is with BAE Systems. You will find quite a few photos of him online and a short film of him looping the loop. There are many brief feature articles about him too – and this obituary.