- 1846-1930 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
12 boxes (3 meters)
Name of creator
Colonel Benjamin Aylett Branfill was an artist, remembered especially for his enormous founding contributions and pioneering influence to the art scene in the late nineteenth century in Nelson, New Zealand. He was a well-known illustrator and was published in T.L Wilson’s History and Topography of Upminster (1880).
He was born on 26 February 1828 to Champion and Anne (nee Hammond) Branfill in Upminster, England. Benjamin was the fourth child of eight. He spent his childhood at Upminster Hall, a fifteenth-century Estate home that had been the ancestral home of his family since 1685. He was educated at Forest School in Walthamstow. Within the span of a year, between 1843 and 1844, Benjamin would lose both his brother, Egerton, and his father of illness. On the 5 April 1846, at the age of 18, he joined the 10th Royal Hussars Cavalry regiment (Prince of Wales’ Own) at the rank of Cornet, but quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant by 1847. He traveled to India with the regiment in 1846 and then to the Crimea in 1855. Upon returning to England in June 1856, he married Mary Anna Miers on 1 July 1857 at Cheltenham and they had 8 children: Champion Edward (b. 1858), Capel Aylett (b. 1859), Mary Leigh (b. 1860), Ethel Aylett (b. 1862), Helen Hammond (b. 1863), Egerton Brydges (b. 1864, d. 1866), Francis Lisle (b. 1865), and Benjamin (b. 1871). On 6 May 1859, he was assigned Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General (DAQMG) in Ireland and lived in Dublin until 1864. From 1864 to 1881, he traveled widely, making trips to Gibraltar, Cape Town, and Mauritius, as well as having extended postings in Bermuda (May 1873- March 1874) and India (1875-1876). He retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel in October 1877. He inherited Upminster Hall in 1873 and resided there with his family after his retirement. In 1881, he immigrated to New Zealand and settled in Nelson. Once there, he became an art instructor and critic for the Bishopdale Sketching Club. In New Zealand, Branfill’s life focused primarily on art, religious study, music, horticulture and photography. He died 4 January 1899 at the age of 70.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Contains the journals of Col. Benjamin Aylett Branfill, as well as sketchbooks and assorted papers including correspondence, photographs, and newspaper clippings. Also includes photography albums and genealogical information collected by his descendants, specifically the family of his daughter Helen Hammond de Caux.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
No restrictions on access
Material may be requested in person at the Fisher Library Reference Desk, or in advance using our online stack retrieval request form: https://fisher.library.utoronto.ca/stack-retrieval-form
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material