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News > Heritage > The extraordinary life of Bening Arnold - Housemaster of The Close

The extraordinary life of Bening Arnold - Housemaster of The Close

12 Oct 2021
The Close 1937
The Close 1937

The following article has been researched as a result of an email enquiry from Daniela Jamois, the great grand daughter of former Housemaster Bening Arnold. Daniela was curious to find out more about where her grandmother Elizabeth Paine (nee Arnold) grew up.

Bening Mourant Arnold - Housemaster The Close 1926-40

The life story of Bening Arnold is a really quite special life. At the age of 14 he was on board the luxury liner SS Stella with his mother and brother, when it hit Les Casquets reef north of Alderney on the 30th March 1899 and sank in just eight minutes. Many failed to make it into the lifeboats. Of the 190 on board, 86 passengers and 19 crew were drowned. Bening's mother and brother both died in the accident, and Bening's great granddaughter Daniela Jamois explained that " Bening only survived because his mother had tied a football to his lapel, and he was a very strong swimmer". He managed to keep afloat and then managed to sit on the bottom of an upturned boat for 22 hours until he was rescued. The incident is often referred to as 'The Titanic of the Channel Islands'.

Major Bening Arnold joined Bradfield in January 1920 as an Assistant Master, after serving in the Royal Artillery. The Close had been a private house, but was bought by the College and opened as a boarding house in 1926. Bening was its first Housemaster. He remained as Housemaster with his wife Elsie by his side, until 1940 when the boarding house was forced to close due to falling pupil numbers during the War. Elizabeth Arnold, daughter of Bening and Elsie met John Paine (H 30-34), a pupil at Bradfield, whilst living in The Close with her parents, and they later married. 

Unexpectedly the boarding house was re-opened a year later in 1941.It was taken over by Claremont, a preparatory school which because of the war was evacuated from Hove to Bradfield, but Bening had left the College by then. In 2006, The Close as it was then, was renamed Stanley House, and became a boarding house for Girls. The Close relocated to a brand-new purpose-built boarding house at the top of the hill alongside House-on-the-hill where it is today.

Despite the horror he had endured as a 14-year-old, Bening Arnold never lost his connection with the sea. He could never resist Les Casquets and the rough waters around them which held a great attraction for him. He loved sailing his yacht Riduna III and was known throughout the Channel Islands affectionately as "Skipper". Very sadly on 20th May 1955, whilst rowing his dingy back from his yacht, towards the jetty in Braye Harbour on Alderney to pick up a friend, he was seen to collapse, the oars floated away and his dingy drifted away. By the time help was on hand it was too late for Bening, and upon his arrival at the Mignot Memorial Hospital he was pronounced dead. Bening died as he would wish to die, quickly and more or less in his beloved yacht.



Guernsey Weekly Press 1/6/1955






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