Benedict Cumberbatch Family History


Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch was born on July 19th, 1976 to Timothy and Wanda Cumberbatch in London.  Both Benedict’s parents were actors.  Benedict is their only child, although he had a step-sister Tracey from Wanda’s previous marriage.

His own interest in acting began at school and he later trained at LAMDA (the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art).  Starting in 2001, he would appear in classic plays in theatres around London.

He became more widely known through TV in 2004 for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking (for which he received a BAFTA award); while his film breakthrough occurred two years later for William Pitt in Amazing Grace.  And he gained even greater recognition for playing Sherlock Holmes in the BBC TV series Sherlock which was a great success and lasted from 2010 to 2017.

Benedict’s Family History

Benedict’s family history is interesting because it has three different and very distinct phases:

  • the colonial planter phase which lasted in Barbados from 1705 until the closing years of slavery in the early 1800’s.
  • the high Victorian phase of upper-class Englishness where sons found work in foreign service (in this case in Turkey) or in the armed forces and the daughters married well.  This phase probably extended into the 1930’s.
  • and the third phase, the world of acting which Benedict inhabits, as did both of his parents.

The first phase is controversial today because of the connection to slavery.  Abraham Cumberbatch of Saint Andrew in Barbados, the progenitor of the family, had acquired properties there in the early 1700’s that used enslaved labor.

These properties were passed down through the generations to Abraham Parry Cumberbatch.  He died a wealthy man in 1840, an absentee landlord who benefited financially both before and after the emancipation of slaves.  There were around 250 slaves on his Cleland plantation at that time.

There has been speculation that the Barbados National Task Force on Reparations might seek reparations from families such as the Cumberbatches. In defense Benedict has said that, by the time of his birth in 1976, most of the money had run out and he grew up “definitely middle class’ (although he did go to Harrow).

Barbados, Plantations, and Slavery

The progenitor of Benedict’s Cumberbatch line was Abraham, son of Bristol merchant Joshua Cumberbatch.  Abraham came to Barbados as a young man in his twenties around the year 1705.  It was he who learnt about the process of making sugar and started the Farm and later the Cleland plantation.  He would die a wealthy man.  However, he had a problem.  He had no male heir, only three daughters.

Abraham Carlton was born in 1726, the son of Edward Carleton and Abraham’s daughter Ann. Ann was eighteen then and was only nineteen when she succumbed to tuberculosis in Barbados a year later.

Under the terms of her father’s will, her son Abraham would inherit all of his grandfather’s estate should he change his name to Cumberbatch.  This required an Act of Parliament in those days and duly happened in 1753.  Thereafter all the Cumberbatch male descendants, including Benedict, would have Carlton added to their Christian names.

Abraham Carlton, as well as inheriting the Cumberbatch estates, was a member of the Council of Barbados for thirty years before returning to England in 1785.  He died in Bristol the same year.

His eldest son Abraham inherited the family estates; while two younger sons, Edward and John, had ownership of the Nicholas and Ebworth plantations.  Abraham died of malignant fever in 1796 at the young age of forty-two, having returned to England like his father.

Abraham Parry was his only son.  For much of his life he was very much an absentee landlord for his two estates in Barbados, Cleland and Lammings, having moved back to England around 1805.  Yet he was able to receive £5,388, a very large sum in those days, in 1837 as compensation after slavery was abolished.  He died in Sussex three years later,

From Consuls in Turkey to Acting

These Cumberbatches, enriched by their estates, left Barbados around 1805 and returned, not to Bristol but to fine houses in the Home Counties – first in London and then in Tunbridge Wells.

Abraham Parry’s eldest son Abraham entered the British diplomatic service and was appointed Vice Consul in Istanbul in 1830 and Consul in 1845.  He was followed there by his younger half brother Robert who held consular posts in the region at Berdiansk and Smyrna from 1858 until his death in Turkey in 1876.  Robert’s son Henry Alfred was also a diplomat and served as Consul in Turkey and Lebanon.

Meanwhile Henry Alfred’s son Henry Carlton was a submarine officer in both World Wars and a prominent figure of London high society in the interwar period.  His marriage to Pauline Congdon in St Mary Abbot’s, Kensington in 1934 was reported in The Times.

His son Timothy attended Sherborne School in the 1950’s and decided that he wanted to become a professional actor.  Timothy Carlton (he ditched the Cumberbatch name as inappropriate for an actor) and his wife Wanda were both successful actors in their own right before their son Benedict came along.  They had met in 1970 while appearing in the TV drama A Family At War and married six years later.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Family Tree

  • Abraham Cumberbatch from Bristol (1685-1750) m. Ann (b. 1688) in Barbados in 1706.  He had left for Barbados in 1705 where he started the Farm plantation.
  • – Ann Cumberbatch (1708-1727)
  • – Mary Cumberbatch (1711-1743) m. John Sober
  • – Sarah Cumberbatch (1715-1797)
  • Colonel Edward Carleton (1704-1765) m. Ann Cumberbatch (died in 1727) in Barbados in 1725; rem. Susanna Scott (died in 1780) in 1732
  • – Abraham Carlton Cumberbatch (1726-1785)
  • – plus six Carlton children from his second marriage
  • Abraham Carlton Cumberbatch from Barbados m. Elizabeth Trent (1735-1794) in 1752
  • – Abraham C. Cumberbatch (1754-1796)
  • – Ann Cumberbatch (1754-1828) m. Dr. William Sandiford
  • – Edward C. Cumberbatch (1765-1821) m. Sarah Howell
  • – John T. Cumberbatch (died in 1822)
  • – Lawrence T. Cumberbatch (died in 1834)
  • Abraham Carlton Cumberbatch from Barbados m. Mary Sober (1765-1826) his second cousin in 1784.  She remarried after his death in 1796.
  • – Abraham P. Cumberbatch (1784-1840)
  • Abraham Parry Cumberbatch from Barbados m. Charlotte Jones (1786-1818) in London in 1805; rem. Caroline Chaloner (1788-1842) in London in 1819
  • – Abraham Cumberbatch (1807-1875) m. Charlotte Jones, entered diplomatic service and moved to Turkey in the 1830’s
  • – Eliza Cumberbatch (1809-1873) m. Rev. Henry Mitchell
  • – Emma Cumberbatch (1819-1905) m. Rev. John Olive
  • – Robert Cumberbatch (1821-1876), diplomat in Tuirkey
  • – Caroline Cumberbatch (1823-1891) m. Christopher Buckle
  • – Lawrence Cumberbatch (1827-1885) m. Harriet Smith
  • Robert William Cumberbatch m. Ellen Lloyd (1812-1845) in Berkshire in 1843; rem. Grace Hanson (1831-1910) in Constantinople in 1853
  • – Constance Cumberbatch (1857-1922) m. Sir Adam Block
  • – Henry Cumberbatch (1858-1918)
  • – Arthur Cumberbatch (1860-1921) m. Marian Tristram
  • – Gertrude Cumberbatch (1866-1924) m. Albert Wratislaw
  • – Cyril Cumberbatch (1873-1944) m. Marie Casanova
  • Henry Alfred Cumberbatch from Turkey m. Helene Rees (1869-1928) in Smyrna in 1891
  • – Robert Cumberbatch (1892-1963) m. Nora Skender
  • – Sybil Cumberbatch (1895-1947) m. Alwyn Barker
  • – Hugh Cumberbatch (1897-1951) m. Sheelagh Bradley
  • – Henry Cumberbatch (1900-1966)
  • – Nancy Cumberbatch (1905-1948)
  • Henry Carlton Cumberbatch m. Pauline Congdon (1913-2007) in London in 1934
  • – Timothy Cumberbatch (b. 1939)
  • – Amber Cumberbatch (b. 1946)
  • Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch aka actor Timothy Carlton m. Wanda Ventham (b. 1935) in 1976
  • – Tracey Peacock nee Tabernacle (1959-2021), step-sister
  • – Benedict Cumberbatch (b. 1976)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch m. Sophie Hunter (b. 1978) on the Isle of Wight in 2015
  • – Christopher (Kit) Cumberbatch (b. 2015)
  • – Hal Cumberbatch (b. 2017)
  • – Finn Cumberbatch (b. 2023)



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Written by Colin Shelley

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