Tuesday, 9 August 2022

(522) Wrixon-Becher of Ballygiblin, Creagh, Assolas and Castle Hyde, baronets

Wrixon-Becher baronets
The Wrixon family of Ballygiblin and the Becher family of Creagh were united by the marriage in 1778 of William Wrixon (1756-1847) and Mary Becher (1758-1818). The Bechers of Creagh were a cadet branch of the Bechers of Aughadown, about whom I wrote recently. The Creagh estate seems to have been purchased by John Becher (1677-1743), who was the seventh son of Col. Thomas Becher (c.1640-1709) of Aughadown, but who became a merchant in Bristol and spent the whole of his adult life there. Having become wealthy through his mercantile activities, including slave trading, he seems to have purchased the Creagh estate (although I have not found any record of this transaction) for his eldest surviving son, John Becher (1700-37), who moved to Ireland to manage his property in the 1720s. The younger John married and produced three sons and two daughters before his death at the early age of 37. Creagh descended to his eldest son, Thomas Becher (c.1732-54) who died unmarried shortly after coming of age. Creagh therefore passed to the second son, John Townsend Becher (c.1734-60), but both he and his wife also died young, leaving their infant son and two daughters to be brought up by John's younger brother, Michael Henry Becher (c.1735-78) and his wife. John's son, Henry Townsend Becher (1759-80) was tragically killed on his 21st birthday when a gun he was loading exploded and blew off both his arms. Henry had made a will, which left the estate to the recently born eldest son of his sister Mary and her husband William Wrixon, on condition that he took the name and arms of Becher.

The Wrixons had been settled at Ballygiblin since at least the mid 17th century. The earliest I can find reference to is Robert Wrixon (d. 1666), but he may not have been the first. The Ballygiblin estate descended to his son, Henry Wrixon (c.1640-1714), who was succeeded in turn by his son Nicholas Wrixon (c.1680-c.1740) and grandson Henry Wrixon (c.1725-94). It was probably Henry who built the core of the later house at Ballygiblin, but by 1781 he had acquired Assolas House and made that his main residence. He was succeeded in both estates by his son, Col. William Wrixon (1756-1847), who was no doubt responsible for the remodelling of Assolas in a picturesque style reminiscent of the work of John Nash. Col. Wrixon lived to be ninety, and in about 1830 he handed over Ballygiblin to his son William (1780-1850), who had already inherited Creagh from his uncle, Henry Townsend Becher, and taken the additional name Becher in accordance with his uncle's will. Sir William Wrixon-Becher, as he became on being created a baronet in 1831, was what his contemporaries called a 'man of parts'. He combined physical prowess and intellectual ability with curiosity, energy and sufficient histrionic ability to make him a talented amateur actor. It was presumably through his theatrical activities that he met the celebrated professional actress, Elizabeth O'Neill, who became his wife in 1819. Having travelled around Europe, he was elected MP for Mallow in 1818, but he proved to be a disappointing performer in the House of Commons and did not seek re-election in 1826. His baronetcy was no doubt a reward for political service, albeit one deferred until the Whigs achieved power in 1831.

Location of the Becher estates in County Cork. The estates named in the text are marked in red. 

Sir William did not long survive his father, and at his death in 1850 he bequeathed Creagh, Ballygiblin and Assolas to his eldest son, Sir Henry Wrixon-Becher (1826-93), 2nd bt. The concentration of estates in the hands of his father and grandfather meant that the family had become comparatively rich, and Sir Henry was able to spend freely, especially as he remained a bachelor without dependents until his belated and childless marriage in 1878. As a young man, he travelled extensively, not just in Europe but also in the Near East and the Americas. He had a passion for sailing, and in the 1850s took his yacht across the Atlantic and back, and he continued to be a yachtsman throughout his life. In 1861 he purchased the Castle Hyde estate near Fermoy, although this may always have been intended as a home for his younger brother, Sir John Wrixon-Becher (1828-1914), 3rd bt., who occupied it from 1864. As Sir Henry was childless, when he died in 1893 the baronetcy and the four estates of Castle Hyde, Ballygiblin, Assolas and Creagh all passed to his brother Sir John, who in contrast to his brother had a large family of fourteen children. 
By the time of Sir John's death in 1914, the need to provide for this brood, together with the Agricultural Depression, the general trend of social legislation, increasing taxation and the deteriorating security situation for Protestant families (even popular and well-regarded ones like the Wrixon-Bechers), had made such an extensive estate unsustainable. Sir John's heir, Sir Eustace Wrixon-Becher (1859-1934), 4th bt., sold Castle Hyde in 1914 and Assolas in 1917.
Rowdell House (Sussex) in the early 20th century.
Image: West Sussex County Council Library Service
The deteriorating security situation caused him to look for a home in England, and he first leased Billington Manor (Beds) and in 1928 he purchased the Rowdell House estate in Sussex. Ballygiblin seems to have been sold around the time of his death, and his widow sold Creagh House in 1937, ending the family's role as landowners in County Cork. She and her son, Sir William Fane Wrixon-Becher (1915-2000), 5th bt. lived subsequently at Rowdell House, but in 1952 this was demolished. Sir William moved first to Courtlands, Corsham (Wilts) and after he was divorced from his first wife, to a house in Wilton Place, London. The present baronet, Sir John William Michael Wrixon-Becher (b. 1950), 6th bt., pursued a career in the City of London, and now lives in Herefordshire. He is unmarried, and there is no known heir to the baronetcy.

Ballygiblin House, Co. Cork

An 18th century house which was remodelled by William Vitruvius Morrison in Tudor Revival style between 1831 and 1835 for Sir William Wrixon-Becher, 1st bt. The original square Georgian house had a three-storey five-bay front with the central bay slightly recessed and  Venetian windows lighting the staircase.  Morrison added gables, tall chimneys and three- and four-light mullioned windows, as well as building a new L-shaped range of ashlar stone to its south side. The new wing housed a drawing room and dining room, with a dormered upper storey and a two-storey battlemented bay window lighting the drawing room and the dining room above it. Morrison also added a three-storey entrance tower, with an octagonal lantern and stone spire, in the angle between the new and old ranges, as well as inserting an armorial plaque above the entrance. 

Ballygiblin House: this seems to be the only known view of the house when it was still intact.
The house was unroofed by Capt. Hornsby in 1960 in an attempt to evade property taxes, and now stands as a gradually decaying ruin. The ruined state of the property makes it difficult to say anything much about the interior. Surviving drawings by Morrison suggest that he intended the vestibule in the base of the entrance tower to open into a galleried great hall, formed in the south-east corner of the old house, and connecting with a new staircase in the former entrance hall. The original staircase on the north side of the house was to be retained as a secondary staircase serving the private apartments. Traces of the latter could still be discerned in the 1980s, but nothing could be seen of the grander staircase, which may therefore never have been built.

Ballygiblin House: the ruins today. Image: Castlemagner Historical Society.
Behind the house is a small spiky orangery with arched windows and buttresses which rise into pinnacles, while to the north is a large stableyard, also of the 1830s, part of which was converted into a house in the 1960s. The entrance to the demesne is through a plain arched gateway with curved screen walls, the classicism of which contrasts markedly with the Tudor Gothic house. 

Descent: Robert Wrixon (d. 1666); to son, Henry Wrixon (c.1640-1714); to son, Nicholas Wrixon (c.1680-c.1740); to son, Henry Wrixon (c.1725-94); to son, Col. William Wrixon (1756-1847); to son, Sir William Wrixon-Becher (1780-1850), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Henry Wrixon-Becher (1826-93), 2nd bt.; to brother, Sir John Wrixon-Becher (1828-1914), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir Eustace Wrixon-Becher (1859-1934); sold 1935 to Jack Lombard; sold c.1955 to Capt. Hornsby, who unroofed the house...

Creagh House, Skibbereen, Co. Cork

Creagh House: after restoration in the early 21st century.
A pleasantly informal Regency house of two storeys above a basement, with irregular facades and a low hipped roof. It was probably built c.1820 for Sir William Wrixon-Becher (1780-1850), 1st bt., who could have rebuilt or remodelled an earlier house which had belonged to the Becher family for a century or more. The entrance front has a single deep bow window and a narrow bay to one side with a trellis porch. The side elevation has three bays and a full-height canted bow window on the end of the front range. The interior has a delicate stair with slender wooden balusters, a drawing room behind the curved bow, and a dining room behind the canted bow.

Creagh House: the Gothic folly created from the ruin of an old mill in the gardens. Image: Roaringwater Journal.
The original Italianate garden was redesigned as a charming romantic 'wild garden' of some 20 acres after the Second World War by Peter & Gwendoline Harold-Barry. The garden extends to the estuary of the River Ilen and incorporates a mill-race and millpond, with the ruin of the mill building retained as a Gothick folly. Both house and gardens were restored in the early 21st century by Leonard Donnelly.

Descent: John Becher (1700-37); to son, John Townsend Becher (c.1734-60); to son, Henry Townsend Becher (1759-80); to nephew, Sir William Wrixon-Becher (1780-1850), 1st bt.; to son, Sir Henry Wrixon-Becher (1826-93), 2nd bt.; to brother, Sir John Wrixon-Becher (1828-1914), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir Eustace Wrixon-Becher (1859-1934), 4th bt.; to widow, Lady Becher; sold 1937 to Peter Harold-Barry (1909-94); sold to Ken Lambert and Martin Sherry; sold 2001 to Leonard Donnelly; sold 2014. During the minority of Sir William Wrixon-Becher the house seems to have been let to Alexander O'Driscoll, who was resident in 1814.

Assolas House, Castlemagner, Co. Cork


Assolas House: the earlier part of the house, with the converted tower house at the centre and later wings.
In origin, Assolas was a tower house, which in the later 17th century was reduced in height and modernised with a two-storey, three-bay façade surmounted by a pedimental gable incorporating a chimneystack. To this, a new five-bay two-storey range was added in the 18th century, reputedly for the Rev. Francis Gore (1683-1748), who acquired the house c.1714, but more probably for one of his successors. The new range provides a front at right angles to the 17th century block. It now has bow ends, but it seems likely that these were added, along with a second two-storey wing with a curved bow (containing the kitchen) that balances it on the other side of the old tower, when the house was re-roofed with exceptionally wide eaves, presumably in the early 19th century. Also from that time are the tripartite window above the front door in the 18th century wing, and perhaps the Gothic fanlight of the door itself. 

Assolas House: the 18th century wing, as altered in the early 19th century.
Inside, the older part of the house retains some 17th century panelling in the deep window embrasures, while the principal rooms have early 18th century panelling and chair rails carved with dentils. The bow-ended dining room has timber Ionic pilasters. The house was frequently let in the 19th century, and perhaps escaped major later alterations on that account. In 1917 the house was sold to the Burke (now Bourke) family, who ran it as a guest house for thirty years until September 2005. It has now reverted to being their private home.

Descent: sold c.1714 to Rev. Francis Gore (1683-1748); sold to Philip Oliver (fl. 1749); sold before 1781 to Henry Wrixon (c.1725-94); to son, William Wrixon (c.1756-1847); to son, Sir William Wrixon-Becher (1780-1850), 1st bt., to son, Sir Henry Wrixon-Becher (1826-93), 2nd bt.; to brother, Sir John Wrixon-Becher (1828-1914), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir Eustace William Windham Wrixon-Becher (1859-1934), 4th bt.; who sold 1917 to John Owen Bourke; to son, Hugh Bourke; handed over 1984 to son, Joe Bourke (fl. 2006); for sale, 2022.

Castle Hyde, Fermoy, Co. Cork

The original seat of the Hyde family was called Carrigoneda, later renamed Castle Hyde, and probably stood on the clifftop above the present mansion, where the remains of a four-storey tower house covered in ivy can still be found. In 1587 it was described as 'double-vaulted and covered with thatch, as yet scarce finished' but it was burnt in 1588 and no doubt restored by Arthur Hyde, who had a grant of 12,000 acres of confiscated lands in Co. Cork in that year. 

Castle Hyde: the house in 1991. Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.
The present classical house stands in an enviable position above the River Blackwater, looking across the river to its former deer park on the opposite bank. It was built in c.1765-70 for John Hyde, almost certainly to the design of Davis Ducart, and is in essence a much simplified version of Ducart's Castletown Cox (Co. Kilkenny). Since Castletown Cox is one of Ireland's finest country houses, this is a distinguished pedigree, to which Castle Hyde lives up pretty well. The original house was extended and altered in c.1800-01 by Abraham Hargrave of Cork, who added the long single-storey wings, but has been little changed since. By the end of the 20th century the house had become very shabby and was generally deteriorating, but it was then subjected to an extremely thorough and no-expense-spared restoration which returned it to the pink of condition. The subsequent redecoration owes little to the traditional subtle palette of the Irish country house but can be changed in future.

Castle Hyde: the bridge linking the upper part of the staircase  to
the gardens behind. 
Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved. 
The 18th century house consists of two-and-a-half storeys above a basement, and has a seven-bay south-facing entrance front with the central three bays stepped forward and widely-spaced windows to either side. The windows in the basement are all lunettes, as at Castletown Cox and Kilshannig. The central window on the first floor and those to either side of the front door are arched but there is very little other decoration, and there is no pediment on the elevation. The quoins at the angles of the facade are straight-edged on the ground and first floors, while those on the top storey are staggered. This could indicate that the top storey is a later addition, and if one replaces the existing top storey in imagination with a heavier cornice and a parapet, the similarity to Castletown Cox might be increased. The rear of the house stands close enough to the cliff behind to be linked to it by a 19th century bridge that connects the upper landing of the staircase with the cliff-top gardens and a walk to Litter church. Hargrave's single-storey wings are recessed from the main block and consist of three-bay links to  deeper bow-fronted pavilions with low hipped roofs, which contain plainly decorated elliptical reception rooms.




Castle Hyde: entrance hall in 1991,
Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.
Castle Hyde: staircase hall in 1991.
Image: Nicholas Kingsley. Some rights reserved.




























Inside, the house has a triple-pile form, with a broad transverse corridor - more like a gallery -  which now connects at either end with the corridors in the later wings. The entrance hall is separated from the corridor by a screen of wooden fluted Corinthian columns, and is decorated with plasterwork attributed to Patrick Osborne, who also worked at Castletown Cox. The focus of the room is his swagged rosette in the centre of the ceiling and the Rococo scroll on the entablature above the screen, but the room also has two fine Portland stone chimneypieces and mahogany doors set in plain architraves. All this is now rather hard to appreciate because of the recent addition of a painted cloudscape on the ceiling in a surround of wreaths and linking ribbons, and the extensive application of bright gilding to the columns and plasterwork. The principal rooms to either side of the hall are more restrained, with plain ceilings and good neo-classical chimneypieces. On the north side of the house, opposite the entrance hall, is Hargrave's  cantilevered Portland stone staircase with delicate wrought iron railings, rising around an elliptical, top-lit compartment. As part of the recent refurbishment, this has been given a ceiling fresco in the style of Tiepolo, the bright colours and opulent forms of which sit unhappily above the spare elegance of the staircase.

Behind the house, in the base of the cliff, is an 18th century grotto, treated as a nymphaeum, with arched openings set in shallow recesses in a concave facade. This suggests that there was a landscape design of some sophistication. Another element of it was a timber bridge by Hargrave, long since lost, which spanned the Blackwater and connected the house to its park on the south bank. When the bridge collapsed, a pair of Coade stone sphinxes which flanked the approach were redeployed as additional ornaments for the entrance gateway to the demesne. The gateway, presumably by Hargrave but possibly later, consists of iron gates between two pairs of piers, each linked by heavily cusped Gothic arches over pedestrian entrances.

Descent: granted to Sir Arthur Hyde (d. 1600), kt.; to son, Sir Arthur Hyde (d. 1644), kt.; to son, William Hyde (1609-95); to grandson, Arthur Hyde (1671-1720); to son, Arthur Hyde (b. 1697); to son, Arthur Hyde (d. 1772); to brother, John Hyde (d. 1797); to son, John Hyde (c.1774-1832); to son, John Hyde (1803-85), who sold 1851 through Incumbered Estates Court to Arthur Guinness; sold by 1856 to John Sadleir (d. 1861); sold 1861 to Sir Henry Wrixon-Becher (1826-93), 2nd bt., who leased it to his brother, Sir John Wrixon-Becher (1828-1914) from 1864; sold 1914 to Lady Isabel Arthington Walker; sold 1920 to Robert H. Wood; sold 1931 to Henry Laughlin (the Castlehyde Co.); sold c.1983... sold 2001 to Michael Flatley (b. 1958).

Becher of Creagh


Becher, John (1677-1743). Seventh son of Col. Thomas Becher (c.1640-1709) and his wife Elizabeth (d. c.1721), eldest daughter of Maj. Henry Turner of Bandon Bridge (Co. Cork), recorder of Limerick, born 1 September 1677. Apprenticed to his future father-in-law at Bristol, 1690. Merchant, shipowner, and slave trading agent in Bristol. Sheriff of Bristol, 1713 and Mayor of Bristol, 1721. Master of the Bristol Merchant Venturers, 1722. He married 1st, 17 October 1695 at St Werburgh, Bristol, Hester (c.1676-1705), daughter of Sir John Duddlestone, 1st bt., and 2nd, 1710 (licence 26 October), probably at Bitton (Glos), Mary (1687?-1753), probably the daughter of Edward Cranfield of Bath, and had issue:
(1.1) Thomas Becher (1697-98), born 6 February 1696/7; died in infancy about February 1697/8;
(1.2) Elizabeth Becher (1698-c.1730), born 10 March 1697/8; married, 1723 (licence), Robert Travers of Cork, merchant, and had issue one daughter; living in 1726 but perhaps died before 1733 when a Robert Travers of Cork married an Elizabeth Dunscombe;
(1.3) Thomas Becher (b. & d. 1699), born 12 March 1698/9; died in infancy, 15 April 1699;
(1.4) John Becher (1700-37) (q.v.);
(1.5) Susanna Becher (b. & d. 1701), born 13 March 1700/1; died in infancy, July 1701;
(1.6) Rev. Henry Becher (1702-43), born 26 April and baptised at St Michael, Bristol, 27 April 1702; educated at Merton and St John's Colleges, Oxford (matriculated 1718; BA 1724; MA 1728); curate in Oxford and Winchester, 1725-28; served as chaplain to his distant kinsman, Sir Edward Becher (1682-1732) during his term as Lord Mayor of London, 1727-28; burgess of Bristol, 1731; minister of St James, Duke's Place, Westminster, 1728-43; rector of St Stephen, Bristol, 1730-43 and of Temple church, Bristol, 1739-43; chaplain to Frederick, Prince of Wales*, 1738; married, 22 August 1725 at St James, Duke's Place, Westminster (Middx), Mary Matthews and had issue six sons and four daughters; died 17 December 1743 and was buried at St Stephen, Bristol;
(1.7) William Becher (b. & d. 1703), born 26 August 1703; died in infancy, 18 September 1703;
(1.8) Michael Becher (1704-58), baptised at St Michael, Bristol, 9 January 1704/5; merchant and burgess in Bristol; sheriff of Bristol, 1739-40; Master of the Bristol Merchant Venturers, 1749-50; died unmarried, 18 December and was buried in the Gaunts Chapel, St Marks, Bristol, 21 December 1758;
(2.1) Edward Becher (1711-46), born 18 September 1711; manager of a sugar plantation in Jamaica; married, 1736 in Jamaica, Hannah (1714-88) (who m2, by 1753, William Jenkyns), daughter of Richard Sharpe, and had issue three sons and six daughters; died in Jamaica, October 1746;
(2.2) Cranfield Becher (1713-99), born 13 June 1713; merchant in Bristol; married, 5 January 1741 at the Mayor's Chapel, Bristol, Bridget Swymmer (1719-1820), but had no issue; died 10 May and was buried at St Augustine-the-Less, 13 May 1799; will proved in the PCC, 1 June 1799;
(2.3) George Becher (1715-54), born 26 June and baptised at St Stephen, Bristol, 11 July 1715; apprenticed to his father and was admitted a burgess of Bristol, 1739; lived latterly at Winterbourne (Glos); married 1st, 10 February 1742/3 at Temple Church, Bristol, Elizabeth Williams (d. by 1751) and had issue one daughter; married 2nd, 8 October 1751 at Bedminster (Som.), Ann (1727-62), daughter of Rosewell Gibbs of Bath (Som.), and had issue a further daughter; died in April 1754 and was buried in Gaunts Chapel, St Mark, Bristol;
(2.4) Mary Cranfield Becher (1716-c.1747), born 6 December 1716; married, 12 February 1738 in Dublin (apparently against her father's wishes as he cut her out of his will with a legacy of five shillings), Richard Hungerford (who m2, 1747, his cousin Mary Hungerford); living in 1742 but died in or before 1747;
(2.5) William Becher (1718-23), born 21 February 1717/8; died young and was buried at Gaunts Chapel, St Mark, Bristol, 8 February 1722/3;
(2.6) Ann Becher (1721-48), born 14 May 1721; married, 26 March 1747 at Bath Abbey, Charles Porter of Bristol, attorney; died without issue, 3 April and was buried at Gaunt's Chapel, St Mark, Bristol, 7 April 1748;
(2.7) William Becher (b. & d. 1723), born 3 February 1722/3; died in infancy, 7 February, and was buried at St Augustine-the-Less, Bristol, 8 February 1722/3.
He lived in Bristol and Stapleton (Glos), and probably purchased the Creagh estate at Skibbereen (Co. Cork).
He died 9 July 1743 and was buried in Gaunts Chapel, St Mark, Bristol; his will was proved in the PCC, 10 August 1743. His first wife died 10 January 1704/5. His widow died in June 1753 and was buried with her husband; her will was proved at Bristol, 10 July 1753.
* Some sources say he was also a chaplain to King George II, but this is unlikely as the King and Prince Frederick did not get on.

Becher, John (1700-37). Third, but eldest surviving son of John Becher (1677-1743) and his first wife, Hester, daughter of Sir John Duddlestone, 1st bt., of Bristol, baptised at St Michael, Bristol, 6 April 1700. Admitted a burgess of Bristol in right of his father, 1725, but moved to Ireland to live on his father's lands there. He married, 17 August 1727, Mary (b. 1710), only daughter of Rev. Philip Townsend (1664-1735), rector of Christ Church alias Holy Trinity, Cork, and had issue:
(1) Helena Becher (c.1730-c.1760), born about 1730; married, 1752, Edward Mansel Townsend (b. 1727) of Whitehall (Co. Cork) (who m2, 2 October 1762, Anne Baldwin (d. 1778?), and had further issue one son), son of Samuel Townsend (1692-1759), and had issue one daughter; living in 1754 but died before 1762;
(2) Thomas Becher (c.1732-54), born about 1732; inherited the Creagh estate from his father in 1737 and came of age about 1753; died unmarried of a fever at Creagh, 2 August 1754;
(3) John Townsend Becher (c.1734-60) (q.v.);
(4) Michael Henry Becher (c.1735-78), born about 1735; married, 10 January 1767 at St Nicholas, Cork, Catherine (b. 1741), daughter of Col. Savage French of Marino, Cork, and had issue one son and one daughter; they also raised his elder brother's three orphaned children; died August 1778; will proved 1779;
(5) Eliza Turner Becher (c.1737-63), born about 1737; married, 28 October 1758 at Aughadown (Co. Cork), Richard Cox (1735-60), eldest son of Sir Richard Cox of Dunmanway, but had no issue; died June 1763.
He was given the Creagh estate at Skibbereen by his father.
He died in the lifetime of his father at Aughadown, 29 March 1737; his will was not proved until 4 August 1743. His widow married 2nd, September 1739, as his second wife, Capt. Luke Mercer (c.1710-81) of Brennanstown (Co. Dublin), a noted revenue officer, but her death has not been traced.

Becher, John Townsend (c.1734-60). Second son of John Becher (1700-37) and his wife Mary, only daughter of Rev. Philip Townshend, rector of Christ Church alias Holy Trinity, Cork, born about 1734. After the death of his widow, his orphaned children were raised by his brother Michael Henry Becher (c.1735-78). He married, 17 February 1755 at Cork, Mary (1735-61), elder daughter of Rev. Morgan O'Donovan of Ballincalla (Co. Cork), and had issue:
(1) Mary Becher (1758-1818), born 1758; married, 27 July 1778 at Creagh, William Wrixon (1756-1847) [for whom see below], and had issue four sons and four daughters; died 17 April 1818;
(2) Henry Townsend Becher (1759-80), born 21 December 1759; educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1776); JP for Co. Cork, 1779-80; inherited Creagh from his father in 1760, but was unmarried and without issue when he was killed on his twenty-first birthday by the explosion of a gun he was loading, which blew off both his arms; died 21 December 1780 and was buried at Aughadown, where he is commemorated by a monument erected by his nephew, Sir William Wrixon-Becher, in 1818, who inherited the Creagh estate on the condition that he took the name Becher; his will was proved in 1787;
(3) Anne Townsend Becher (1761-1830), born after the death of her father, 20 January 1761; married, 1 May 1786 at Ballygiblin, Maj. James Lombard (1760-99) of Ballygriffin (Co. Tipperary), and had issue at least four daughters; died 17 July 1830 and was buried at Castlemagner, where she is commemorated by a monument.
He inherited the Creagh estate at Skibbereen from his elder brother in 1754. He lived at Anne Grove or Annis Grove (perhaps the Annes Grove that was the home of the Grove (later Grove Annesley family, which he may have rented). His wife brought him a dowry of £5,000.
He died at Dunmanway (Co. Cork), 22 November 1760; his will was proved in 1762. His widow died in Cork, 7 February 1761, probably following the birth of her last child.

Wrixon (later Wrixon-Becher) family of Ballygiblin, Creagh, Assolas, and Castle Hyde, baronets


Wrixon, Henry (c.1640-1714). Said to be the son of Robert Wrixon (d. 1666) of Ballygiblin, born about 1640. He married, about 1670, Catherine Wilson (b. c.1647) of Cork, and reputedly had issue nine children including:
(1) Ellinor Wrixon (b. c.1672), born about 1672; married 1st, 1691, Richard Lake, and had issue one son; married 2nd, 1699 (licence 9 December), Roger Crofts (d. 1724) of Knockbarry, and had further issue two sons and four daughters;
(2) Robert Wrixon (c.1674- 1750), born about 1674; married, 1701, Mary Raymund (d. 1760), and had issue two sons and two daughters; said to have died 7 February 1749/50; will proved in Dublin, 19 June 1750;
(3) John Wrixon (c.1675-1744), of Blossomfort (Co. Cork), born about 1675; married 1st, 1703, Mary, sister of Arthur Bastable of Castlemagner, and had issue four sons; married 2nd, Mary (d. 1745), daughter of Thomas Owgan; will proved 27 March 1744;
(4) Henry Wrixon (c.1678-1732), of Glenfield (Co. Cork), born about 1678; JP for Co. Cork from 1723; married, 1710, Mary, sister of John Yeamans, and had issue five sons and five daughters; will proved 31 May 1732;
(5) Nicholas Wrixon (c.1680-1740) (q.v.);
(6) Alicia Wrixon (c.1682-1760), born about 1682; married, 1706, John Freeman (1678-1741) of Ballinguile (Co. Cork), second son of Richard Freeman of Castle Cor (Co. Cork), and had issue six sons and four daughters; died 13 December 1760.
He lived at Ballygiblin (Co. Cork).
He died after 13 April 1714; his will was proved 9 October 1714. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Wrixon, Nicholas (c.1680-1740). Fourth son of Henry Wrixon (c.1640-1714) and his wife Catherine. He married Jane, daughter of Charles Bastable of Castle Magner, and had issue:
(1) Charity Wrixon (b. c.1718); married, 1736, Arthur Lysaght (b. c.1710), son of Nicholas Lysaght and younger brother of John Lysaght, 1st Baron Lisle of Mountnorth, and had issue three sons and two daughters;
(2) Henry Wrixon (c.1725-94) (q.v.).
He inherited Ballygiblin from his father in 1714.
He died in 1740; his will was proved 19 November 1740. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Wrixon, Henry (c.1725-94).  Only recorded son of Nicholas Wrixon (c.1680-1740) and his wife Jane, daughter of Charles Bastable of Castle Magner,  born about 1725. He was known as 'Galloping Harry' and was Master of the Duhallow Hunt, which he maintained at his own expense from about 1745. He married, 1747 (licence 22 January 1746/7), Anna (fl. 1787), daughter of William Mansfield, and had issue:
(1) Mary Wrixon (c.1751-1810), born about 1751; married, 30 May 1772, William Hare (1751-1837), 1st Baron Ennismore (and later 1st Viscount and 1st Earl of Listowel) (who m2, 5 March 1812, Anne, daughter of John Latham of Meldrum (Co. Tipperary)), and had issue two sons and four daughters; died 5 August and was buried at Westminster Abbey, 11 August 1810;
(2) William Wrixon (1756-1847) (q.v.). 
He inherited Ballygiblin from his father in 1740 and came of age about 1746. He bought Assolas (Co. Cork) before 1781 and made that his main residence.
He died 'after a few minutes illness', 12 July 1794; his will was proved 16 September 1794. His wife was living in 1787 but her date of death is unknown.

Col. William Wrixon (1756-1847) 
Wrixon, Col. William  (1756-1847).
Only recorded son of Henry Wrixon (c.1725-94) and his wife Anna, daughter of William Mansfield, born 1756. High Sheriff of Co. Cork, 1778-79. JP and DL for County Cork. Colonel of the Duhallow Volunteer Cavalry. Master of the Duhallow Hunt, which he funded until it became a subscription pack in 1800. He married, 27 July 1778 at Creagh, Mary (1758-1818), daughter of John Townsend Becher (c.1734-60) [for whom see above], and had issue: 
(1) Henry Wrixon (1779-86) said to have been born in 1779 and to have died young, 1786; 
(2) Sir William Wrixon-Becher (1780-1850), 1st bt. (q.v.);
(3) John Michael Wrixon (1781-1855), born 31 August 1781; educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1798; BA 1803), Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1800; called 1807) and King's Inns, Dublin (admitted 1802); barrister-at-law; High Sheriff of Co. Cork, 1815; JP for Co. Cork; Mayor of Youghal (Co. Cork), 1838; died unmarried, 27 April 1855 and was buried at Castlemagner; will proved in the PCC, 20 May 1856;
(4) Rev. Nicholas Wrixon (1783-1869), born 18 February 1783; educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1801) and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1805; BA 1806; MA 1819); rector of Mallow, 1808-28; vicar of Kilbrin and Liscarroll, 1828-69 and rector of Subulter, 1858-69; prebendary of Cloyne; died 9 April 1869; will proved in Dublin, 4 June 1869 (effects under £12,000);
(5) Henrietta Wrixon (1784-1800); educated at Blacklands School, London, where she died, 27 May 1800; buried in the north cloister of Westminster Abbey, 2 June 1800;
(6) Marianne Wrixon (c.1788-1872), born about 1788; married, 15 May 1813 at Ballynamona (Co. Cork), Thomas Harris (b. c.1784; d. by 1849) and had issue at least two sons and three daughters; died at Kilkenny, 11 August 1872;
(7) Jane Charlotte Wrixon (1790-1864); died unmarried, 4 May, and was buried at Castlemagner, 9 May 1864; administration of her goods was granted 4 July 1864 (effects under £600);
(8) Georgina Charlotte Wrixon (c.1793-1867), born about 1793; married, 19 October 1813 at Ballymagooly (Co. Cork), Robert de la Cour (c.1788-1878) of Fairy Hill, Mallow (Co. Cork); died 9 September 1867.
He inherited Ballygiblin and Assolas from his father in 1794, and redeveloped the village of Cecilstown on his Ballygiblin property. He probably remodelled Assolas in the early 19th century.
He died aged 90 on 2 January, and was buried at Castlemagner, 6 January 1847. His wife died at Trafalgar, near Cork, 17 April 1818.

Sir William Wrixon-Becher, 1st bt. 
Wrixon-Becher, Sir William (1780-1850), 1st bt.
Eldest son of William Wrixon (1756-1847) and his wife Mary, daughter of John Townsend Becher of Creagh, born 31 July 1780. Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford (matriculated 1796), where he and a friend set up a coach and four and were noted for fast driving on the roads around the city. He subsequently travelled extensively in Europe, and acquired a reputation for his skill as an amateur actor. He became MP for Mallow (Co. Cork), 1818-26 in the Irish Catholic interest (Daniel O'Connell was his agent at the election in 1820) but he found his acting skills did not translate well to the Commons chamber and he chose not to stand for re-election in 1826. JP for County Cork. He took the additional name Becher by royal licence in 1831 (although he seems to have used it informally throughout his life), and was created a baronet, 30 September 1831. He married, 18 December 1819 at Kilfane (Co. Kilkenny), Elizabeth (1791-1872), a celebrated actress, daughter of John O'Neill of Drogheda (Co. Louth), actor-manager, and had issue:
(1) A son (b. & d. 1820), born 4 September 1820 but died the following day;
(2) Mary Sarah Wrixon-Becher (1821-99), born in London, 4 November 1821 and baptised at Castlemagner, 10 July 1822; married, 4 November 1852 at St Peter, Eaton Sq., Westminster (Middx), Richard Wallis Goold-Adams (1802-73) of Jamesbrook (Co. Cork), and had issue seven sons; died 31 December 1899; administration of her goods was granted 12 March 1900 (estate £1,163);
(3) Elizabeth Wrixon-Becher (1823-1906), born 4 July 1823; married, 19 January 1856 at Kilbrin (Co. Cork), as his second wife, William Norton Barry (1814-71) of Castle Cor (Co. Cork) and had issue one son and one daughter; died 22 May 1906; will proved in London, 25 July 1906 (estate £3,196);
(4) Sir Henry Wrixon-Becher (1826-93), 2nd bt. (q.v.);
(5) Sir John Wrixon-Becher (1828-1914), 3rd bt. (q.v.);
(6) William Nicholas Wrixon-Becher (1831-1912), born 25 August and baptised at Castlemagner, 26 August 1831; an officer in 62nd Foot (Ensign, 1851; Lt., 1852; retired 1853); DL for Co. Cork from 1863; married, 16 August 1888 at Shippool (Co. Cork), Georgiana Henrietta (c.1837-1916), fourth daughter of Capt. William Henry Herrick RN of Shippool, but had no issue; died 12 December 1912; administration of his goods granted to his widow at Dublin, 14 August 1913 (estate £4,519).
He inherited Creagh under the will of his uncle, Henry Townsend Becher (1759-80), and was given Ballygiblin by his father. He rebuilt or remodelled both houses: Creagh c.1820 and Ballygiblin in 1831-35. He inherited Assolas from his father in 1847.
He died 23 October 1850 and was buried at Castlemagner, where he is commemorated by a headstone in the churchyard; his will was proved in the PCC, 26 April 1851. His widow died 29 October 1872 and was also buried at Castlemagner; her will was proved in London, 4 January 1873.

Wrixon-Becher, Sir Henry (1826-93), 2nd bt. Second but eldest surviving son of Sir William Wrixon-Becher (1780-1850), 1st bt., and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John O'Neill of Drogheda (Co. Louth), baptised at Castlemagner, 4 June 1826. Educated at University College, Oxford (matriculated 1846). An officer in the Rifle Brigade (2nd Lt., 1847; retired 1851). As a young man he travelled extensively, visiting Europe, Syria, Egypt, Canada and Argentina. A noted yachtsman, he crossed the Atlantic from Gibraltar to Quebec and returned to Cork in the 1850s, and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the Royal Cork Yacht Club. He married, 20 February 1878 at Bathwick (Som.), Florence Elizabeth Hannah (1851-1912), eldest daughter of Frederick John Walker of The Priory, Bathwick Hill, Bath (Som.), but had no issue.
He inherited Ballygiblin, Creagh and Assolas from his father in 1850, and purchased Castle Hyde in 1861. In 1878 HRH the Duke of Connaught tried to buy Ballygiblin as a hunting seat, but he declined to sell.
He died at Ostend (Belgium), 25 November 1893, and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery; his will was proved in Dublin, 6 March 1894 (effects £12,307). His widow married 2nd, 8 March 1894 at Shalfleet (Hants), Arthur Denis Henry Heber Reynell-Pack (1860-1937) of Netherton near Newton Abbot (Devon) and Sulgrave Manor (Northants), and died 26 September 1912; her will was proved 5 November 1912 (estate £11,466).

Wrixon-Becher, Sir John (1828-1914), 3rd bt. Third, but second surviving son of Sir William Wrixon-Becher (1780-1850), 1st bt., and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John O'Neill of Drogheda (Co. Louth), born and baptised at Castlemagner, 16 August 1828. Educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1847; BA 1852; MA 1855) and Inner Temple (admitted 1849 but withdrew 1857). JP and DL for Co. Cork; High Sheriff of Co. Cork, 1867-68. He succeeded his elder brother as 3rd baronet, 25 November 1893. It is notable that most of his children dropped the Wrixon element of their surname in later life. He married, 6 May 1857 at Ballyhooly (Co. Cork), Lady Emily Catherine (1834-1916), second daughter of William Hare (1801-56), 2nd Earl of Listowel, and had issue:
(1) Victoria Emily Wrixon-Becher (1858-1930), born at Convamore, 10 November 1858; died unmarried at the home of her sister Georgiana, 6 August 1930; administration of goods granted 24 February 1931 (estate £500);
(2) Sir Eustace William Windham Wrixon-Becher (1859-1934), 4th bt. (q.v.);
(3) Mary Wrixon-Becher (1861-1939), born at Hollybrook, 16 April 1861; lived at Killetra, Mallow (Co. Cork); died unmarried, 27 June 1939; will proved 11 October 1939 (estate in England, £2,939) and 21 November 1939 (estate in Ireland, £29);
(4) Edgar Wrixon-Becher (1862-1929?), born at Hollybrook, 12 October 1862; seaman; in US Navy, 1881-84 (Ordinary Seaman) and by 1911 a farmworker at Ardee (Co. Louth); retired by 1915, but seems to have had little contact with his family; probably the man of this name who died unmarried in Cardiff, 1929;
(5) Cecil Eleanor Wrixon-Becher (1864-1927), born at Hollybrook, 19 January 1864; educated at St John the Baptist School, St. John's Wood, London; trained as a nurse at Queen's Nursing Institute, 1888-92; nursing superintendent at Buxton (Derbys), 1893-94; married, 27 March 1894 at Castlemagner, as his first wife, Dr. Percy Hope Murray MB (1869-1957) of Oakhurst, Hambledon (Hants) (who m2, 27 September 1927, her sister Hilda), son of Robert Mitchell Murray, and had issue two sons (the elder of whom inherited Castle Cor (Co. Cork) from his aunt Adelaide Norton Barry but sold it c.1960); died 18 March 1927; administration of her goods granted 5 July 1927 (estate £1,128);
(6) Barbara Elizabeth Wrixon-Becher (1865-1943), born at Creagh, 28 May 1865; lived at Killetra, Mallow (Co. Cork); died unmarried, 8 March 1943; will proved 3 September 1943 (in Ireland) and 28 September 1943 in England (estate in Ireland, £560; estate in England, £9,083);
(7) Henry Wrixon-Becher (1866-1951), born 27 July 1866; an officer in the army (Lt., 1886; Capt., 1895; Maj. 1905; retired 1907 but returned to colours as Temp. Lt-Col. by 1914), who served in the Boer War (mentioned in despatches) and First World War (mentioned in despatches, wounded); awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre; lived latterly at Killetra, Mallow (Co. Cork); died unmarried, 9 June 1951; will proved in England 7 November 1951 (estate in England, £16,908) and Ireland, 17 October 1951 (estate in Ireland £1,296);
(8) Arthur Nicholas Wrixon-Becher (b. 1868), born 3 August 1868; educated at Cheam School; emigrated to America and became a US citizen; worked as a druggist; crossed the Atlantic on the Lusitania just a fortnight before the ship was torpedoed in 1915; probably died unmarried but death not traced;
(9) Adelaide Maud Wrixon-Becher (1870-1959), born 28 May 1870; tennis player (winner of Irish women's singles, 1911, 1913; competed at Wimbledon, 1901; in later life a fearless rider to hounds with the Duhallow Hunt; inherited Castle Cor from her husband and left it to her nephew, Kenneth Hope Murray, who sold it c.1960; married, 1 June 1899 at Castlemagner, as his second wife, William Norton Barry (1859-1935) of Castle Cor (Co. Cork), but had no issue; died 3 July 1959; will proved in Ireland, 3 May 1960 (estate in Ireland, £10,628), and in England, 7 December 1960 (effects in England, £397);
(10) Charles Edward Wrixon-Becher (1871-82), born 27 November 1871; died young as the result of a drowning accident, 5 May 1882, and was buried at Castle Hyde;
(11) Alice Elizabeth Wrixon-Becher (1873-1941), born 7 June 1873; married, 28 June 1899, Hon. Horace George Lysaght (1873-1918), only son of George William James Lysaght (1840-1919), 6th Baron Lisle, and had issue three sons and three daughters (of whom two died in infancy); died 8 September 1941 and was buried at Newmarket (Co. Cork);
(12) Evelyn Susan Wrixon-Becher (1875-1950), born 29 January 1875; lived at Killetra, Mallow (Co. Cork); died unmarried, 17 August 1950;
(13) Georgiana Victoria Wrixon-Becher  (1876-1966), born 8 October 1876; married, 23 August 1898, Brig-Gen. Edward Wilfred Spedding CMG OBE (1867-1939), son of John James Spedding of Windebrowe, Keswick (Cumbld), and had issue two sons and one daughter; died aged 89 on 5 January 1966; will proved 13 October 1966 (estate £17,326);
(14) Hilda Mary Wrixon-Becher (1878-1958), born 5 December 1878; married, 27 September 1927, her deceased sister's husband, Dr. Percy Hope Murray MB (1869-1957) of Oakhurst, Hambledon (Hants); died without issue, 1 December 1958; will proved 12 February 1958 (estate £37,385).
He inherited Castle Hyde, Ballygiblin, Creagh and Assolas from his elder brother in 1893.
He died 24 April 1914 and was buried at Castlemagner; his will was proved in Dublin, 1 October 1914 (estate £11,229). His widow died 31 December 1916; her will was proved 30 March 1917 (estate £1,859).

Sir Eustace Wrixon-Becher, 4th bt. 
Wrixon-Becher, Sir Eustace William Windham (1859-1934), 4th bt.
Eldest son of Sir John Wrixon-Becher (1828-1914), 3rd bt., and his wife Lady Emily Catherine (d. 1916), second daughter of William Hare (1801-56), 2nd Earl of Listowel, born at Hollybrook (Co. Cork), 27 December 1859. DL for Co. Cork; High Sheriff of Co. Cork, 1917-18. He succeeded his father as 4th baronet, 24 April 1914. He married, 8 October 1907 at Elvetham (Hants), the Hon. Constance (1877-1957), second daughter and co-heir of Augustus Cholmondeley Gough-Calthorpe (1829-1910), 6th Baron Calthorpe, and had issue:
(1) Muriel Mary Wrixon-Becher (1909-70), born 21 February 1909; married, 29 July 1932 at Washington (Sussex), James Reginald Dorrington Salusbury-Trelawny (1908-80), solicitor (who m2, 8 May 1971, Vieno Helenä (1934-2009), daughter of Väinö Junno of Finland), son of Lt-Col. James Edward Salusbury-Trelawny, and had issue one son and one daughter; died 25 April 1970; will proved 11 August 1970 (estate £25,440);
(2) Aileen Wrixon-Becher (1910-88), born 2 July 1910; served in Women's Land Army in Second World War; died unmarried at Cecilstown (Co. Cork), 1 February 1988; will proved in London, 16 December 1988 (estate £203,257);
(3) Sheila Wrixon-Becher (1913-2000), born 5 February 1913; served in Women's Land Army in Second World War, but later lived in USA; died unmarried in Petworth (Sussex), 17 November 2000; will proved 27 June 2001;
(4) Rosemary Wrixon-Becher (1914-2007), born 12 August 1914; married, 16 February 1938 (div. 1948), Cyril Jeremy Taylor Watson (1904-74), younger son of Cyril Francis Watson of Greysouthern, Cockermouth (Cumbld), and had issue three daughters; died aged 92 on 7 January 2007; will proved 28 March 2007;
(5) Sir William Fane Wrixon-Becher (1915-2000), 5th bt. (q.v.).
He inherited Castle Hyde, Ballygiblin, Creagh and Assolas from his father in 1914, but sold Castle Hyde in 1914 and Assolas in 1917. He bought Rowdell House in Sussex in 1928. Ballygiblin seems to have been sold around the time of his death. He left Creagh House to his widow, who sold it in 1937, and she and her children lived subsequently at Rowdell until 1952, when Rowdell House was demolished.
He died of a coronary thrombosis, 14 October 1934 and was buried at Sullington (Sussex), 17 October 1934; his will was proved in London, 23 January 1935 (estate £32,429). His widow died 20 October and was buried at Washington (Sussex), 23 October 1957; her will was proved 20 December 1957 (estate £46.154).

Sir William Wrixon-Becher, 5th bt. 
Wrixon-Becher, Sir William Fane (1915-2000), 5th bt.
Only son of Sir Eustace William Windham 
Wrixon-Becher (1859-1934), 4th bt., and his wife the Hon. Constance, second daughter and co-heir of Augustus Cholmondeley Gough Calthorpe, 6th Baron Calthorpe, born 7 September 1915. Educated at Harrow and Magdalene College, Cambridge (BA). An officer in the Rifle Brigade Supplementary Reserve of Officers in Second World War (2nd Lt., 1936; T/Maj., 1943; Capt. and Hon. Maj., 1948; wounded twice); awarded MC, 1943. He played minor counties cricket for Wiltshire, and was a keen follower of the game. He married 1st, 22 August 1946 (div. 1960), the Hon. Ursula Vanda Maud (1912-84), second daughter of George Crespigny Brabazon Vivian (1878-1940), 4th Baron Vivian and formerly wife of Maj. Philip Alexander Clement Bridgewater (1910-79) of Southdown, Tavistock (Devon); and 2nd, 6 July 1960 at Caxton Hall Registry Office, Yvonne Margaret (d. 2004), youngest daughter of Arthur Stuart Johnson of Henshall Hall, Congleton (Ches.) and formerly wife of Roger Edward Lloyd Lloyd-Mostyn (1920-2000), later 5th Baron Mostyn, and had issue:
(1.1) Susannah Elizabeth Wrixon-Becher (b. 1948), born 27 January 1948; married 1st, 3 October 1970, George Michael Alexander Pitt Whitson (d. 1974), elder son of H. Whitson of Edmonston, Biggar (Lanarks), and had issue one son; married 2nd, 7 June 1975, as his second wife, Timothy William Jackson OBE, son of Col. W.H. Jackson CBE DL and had further issue one son and one daughter (who died in infancy); now living;
(1.2) Sir John William Michael Wrixon-Becher (b. 1950), 6th bt., of Byford Court (Herefs), born 29 September 1950; educated at Harrow and University of Neuchâtel; financial adviser; underwriter with Lloyds, 1971-87; director of Wise Speke Financial Services, 1986-93; Consultant, HSBC Financial Services Ltd., 1993-2000; director of Old St. Productions Ltd., 2000-03; partner in Ford Reynolds and Associates, 2000-05 and principal of Becher Ford Reynolds, since 2006; director of Future Electric Ltd. since 2009 and Orkney Wind Farms since 2010; succeeded his father as 6th baronet, 6 January 2000; is unmarried and without issue, meaning there is no known heir to the baronetcy. 
He lived at Rowdell, Pulborough (Sussex) and later at Courtlands, Corsham (Wilts) and Wilton Place in London.
He died 6 January 2000; his will was proved 30 May 2000. His first wife married 3rd, 6 March 1962, as his second wife, David William Maurice Boyle (1910-84), 9th Earl of Glasgow, and died 11 November 1984. His widow died 3 May 2004; her will was proved 22 September 2004.

Principal sources

Burke's Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 101; Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 2003, pp. 4253-54; Irish Architectural Archive, The architecture of Richard Morrison and William Vitruvius Morrison, 1989, pp. 19-20; M.C. Lyons, Illustrated incumbered estates: Ireland, 1850-1905, pp. 20-21; F. Keohane, The buildings of Ireland: Cork - city and county, 2020, pp. 293-95, 317, 363; https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/leisure-recreation-and-community/history-and-heritage/west-sussex-past-portal/west-sussex-past-pictures-library-and-museum-images/

Location of archives

No significant accumulation is known to survive.

Coat of arms

Vairé, argent and gules, on a canton or, a stag's head couped, sable.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone demonstrate how the Creagh estate was acquired by the Becher family?
  • Can anyone provide:
    • a view of Ballygiblin before the additions and alterations by W.V. Morrison or any internal photographs or drawings of Ballygiblin before it was unroofed and became derelict;
    • information about the ownership of Castle Hyde between 1983 and 2001;
  • Can anyone provide photographs or portraits of the people whose names appear in bold above, for whom no image is currently shown?
  • If anyone can offer further information or corrections to any part of this article I should be most grateful. I am always particularly pleased to hear from current owners or the descendants of families associated with a property who can supply information from their own research or personal knowledge for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 9 August 2022 and updated 10 August 2022.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

(521) Becher of Howbury Hall

Becher of Howbury
The Becher (sometimes Bechar, Beecher or Beacher) family were settled in western Kent in the 15th and 16th centuries as yeomen and minor gentry with landholdings in Leigh, Penshurst, Chiddingstone, Cowden, Mereworth and Wrotham. John Becher of Powndrowen House, Penshurst (which he sold to a relative) is said to have had no less than eleven sons, the youngest of whom, Henry Becher (c.1511-71) (with whom the genealogy below begins), was apprenticed to a London haberdasher and became a freeman of the city of London in 1534. A career as a merchant followed, and in due course Henry joined the Common Council, becoming an alderman in 1567 and serving as one of the sheriffs of London in 1570. He became sufficiently wealthy to invest in the purchase of lands, although his acquisitions were scattered around the country rather than being concentrated in a particular area. He was succeeded in his business by his eldest son, Henry Becher (c.1544-1608), who seems to have retired in about 1597, when he bought the Fotheringhay College estate in Northamptonshire.
Fotheringhay College: the buildings as shown on a 16th century estate map.
This property consisted of the ruins of the claustral buildings of the a college of secular priests attached to Fotheringhay church, which had served as the mausoleum of the Dukes of York in 15th century. The college had been dissolved in 1549 and the college buildings were unroofed and partly demolished soon afterwards. It seems likely, since the Bechers were resident in the early 17th century, that they either repaired part of the ruined buildings of the college or built a new house on the site.

Henry Becher died in 1608 and was succeeded by his eldest son, William Becher (1574-1640), who was knighted in 1619. He was brought up as a gentleman, being educated at Cambridge and becoming MP for Huntingdon in 1601. He lived at Howbury Hall in Bedfordshire, and although he does not seem to have bought the freehold of it until about 1624, he was evidently living there during his father's lifetime, for in 1603 he exercised his right to appoint a new minister at the local parish church of Renhold, and in 1612-13 he was High Sheriff of Bedfordshire. He probably built the Jacobean house which was recorded by Thomas Fisher in about 1815. After buying the freehold of Howbury, he proceeded to sell the Fotheringhay College property in 1629, although some land at Fotheringhay probably remained in the possession of his siblings, as members of the family continued to be buried there into the mid 17th century.

Sir William Becher seems to have been of a Puritan persuasion, and he married a daughter of Oliver St. John, 1st Baron St. John of Bletsoe, whose family were among the leading Presbyterians in the country. They had an enormous family of at least 17 children (some sources say 19!) and their sons included a Puritan minister and a Presbyterian academic who was intruded into Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1644 (but expelled in 1650, after the Presbyterians fell out among themselves). The heir to Howbury was Oliver Becher (1598-c.1659), who inherited the estate just before the outbreak of the Civil War and held it through the two troubled decades of the war and Commonwealth. He was an officer in the Parliamentarian army during the Civil War, and played an active part in the fighting between 1642 and 1644. His exact date of death is uncertain, but he was succeeded in about 1659 by his eldest son, William Becher (1628-94), who may have held more moderate views than his father. He seems to have been popular with the restored monarchy, being knighted in 1660 and appointed as a militia officer, JP and Deputy Lieutenant in the same year. In 1661 he was one of the magistrates who tried John Bunyan for offences under the Conventicle Act of 1593 and sent him to Bedford Gaol, and this also suggests that he was relatively comfortable with the emerging limits to religious toleration. Against this must be set the fact that his first wife was a St. John; so perhaps the reality is that Sir William recognised the need for compromise if the religious and political wounds of the Civil War and Commonwealth were to be healed.

Sir William's eldest son and heir was William Becher (1661-1724), who was apprenticed to a London mercer and became a freeman of London in 1691, although it seems likely that his business career was cut short when he inherited the Howbury estate from his father in 1694. He became a justice of the peace for Bedfordshire, but did not fulfil the wide range of public responsibilities which his father had taken on, and he remains a comparatively obscure figure. His only surviving son, William Becher (1697-1751) is even more obscure: all that is known of him is that he married in 1726 an Elizabeth Clarke (d. 1766), who may have been a relative of his father's second wife. When he died in 1751 he left the Howbury estate to her for life, with remainder to a succession of distant cousins.

The man who actually came into possession on the death of William's widow in 1766 was John Becher (1711-c.1779), a great-great-grandson of Sir William Becher (1574-1640). The intervening generations had all been London merchants, but John went abroad and became a merchant first at Alicante (Spain) and after about 1740 at Livorno (Italy), where there was a large expatriate community of English merchants. He married in Livorno in 1744 and all his children were born there, and although he returned to England in 1766 to claim his inheritance, his complex business affairs took him back to Italy, and he was still there in 1776, shortly before his death. He was a partner in a hemp manufactory which was described in 1775 as "gone by ye Devil, the partners are all by the Ears and gone to law together, and poor old Becher will be trick'd out of all". He was also associated in business with his son William (b. 1748), who contracted a gambling habit and ran up large debts. Either on that account or because his son remained in Italy to manage the family interests there, John left the Howbury estate to his younger brother, Richard Becher (1721-82), who had recently returned from India with a modest fortune. Unfortunately, Richard was persuaded to place his 'modest fortune' at risk, either to help a friend or to guarantee his nephew's gambling debts (accounts differ) and he was obliged to sell the Howbury estate to the Polhill family (who still own it) in 1781 and to return to India to resume earning a living. He died soon afterwards, and his sons all made careers in the service of the East India Company. The gambling ne'er-do-well William Becher (b. 1748) was married and in Paris by 1790, but is said later to have emigrated to the West Indies, where he had died by 1809. 

Howbury Hall, Renhold, Bedfordshire

The estate belonged in the late 16th and 17th centuries to the Gostwick family of Willington Hall, and it seems unlikely that they had or needed a house of any great consequence at Howbury. It is likely, however, that a new mansion was built for Sir William Becher after he acquired the estate, and this would appear to be consistent with the appearance of the house recorded by Thomas Fisher c.1815. 

Howbury Hall: watercolour by Thomas Fisher, c.1815, showing the Jacobean house. Image: Cheffins Fine Art.
Sir William's new house consisted of a hall range with two cross-wings and a central porch between two tall and symmetrically placed dormer windows. Mullioned or mullioned and transomed windows survived in the dormers and the wings in the early 19th century, but the fenestration of the centre had been regularized with sash windows, probably in the early 18th century, when the surviving U-plan stables and the dairy/laundry building near the house were built. An irregular service wing adjoined the main building on the east, part of which survived until c.1960, when it was taken down after an outbreak of wet and dry rot and death watch beetle.

In 1847 the Jacobean house was seriously damaged by fire after a thoughtless workman lit a fire in the roof to destroy a nest of bees. The house was unoccupied and unfurnished at the time, and the books had been removed, but the entrance hall, drawing room, library and many bedrooms, comprising the left-hand wing were burned to the ground, with nothing but the chimneystacks and small sections of wall attached to them surviving. The billiard room, dining room, some further bedrooms, and the service accommodation in the right-hand wing, remained standing, though considerably damaged. 

Howbury Hall: engraving of 1851 showing the house with only one wing.

Howbury Hall: the entrance front today
The house was rebuilt in 1849 for Frederick Charles Polhill-Turner (1826-81) by James Horsford of Bedford with a rendered five-bay front of two storeys, plus wings with two-storey canted bay-windows, although an engraving of 1851 shows only one wing. The wings have cast iron balconies on the first floor. The design is still entirely pre-Victorian in feeling, and the interior decoration is still in a delicate classical style. The elegant central hall has a screen of Ionic marble columns and an imperial staircase behind it lit by an arched window. In the east wing, there is some surviving earlier work, including a reset staircase with rustic columns as balusters and walls with stucco that seems to date from c.1730-40. 

Descent: Sir John Nevill; granted 1538 to Sir John Gostwick (d. 1545); to son, William Gostwick (d. 1545); to uncle, William Gostwick (d. 1549); to son, John Gostwick (d. 1581); to son, Sir William Gostwick (d. 1615), 1st bt.; who leased it about 1603 and whose son, Sir Edward Gostwick (d. 1630) sold it c.1624 to Sir William Becher (1574-1640); to son, Oliver Becher (1598-c.1659); to son, Sir William Becher (1628-94), kt.; to son, William Becher (1661-1724); to son, William Becher (1697-1751); to widow, Elizabeth Becher (d. 1766) for life and then to distant kinsman, John Becher (1711-c.1779); to brother, Richard Becher (1721-82), who sold 1781 to Nathaniel Polhill (1723-82); to son, Nathaniel Polhill (1756-82); to son, Nathaniel Polhill (d. 1802); to uncle, John Polhill (1757-1828); to son, Thomas Polhill (1794-1828); to brother, Frederick Polhill (1798-1848); to son, Frederick Charles Polhill-Turner (1826-81); to son, Frederick Edward Polhill-Turner (1858-1903);to brother, Cecil Henry Polhill-Turner (1860-1938); to son, Cecil Charles Polhill (1890-1957); to nephew, Anthony Nathaniel Polhill (1921-2007); handed over 1995 to nephew, Arthur Julian George Polhill (b. 1956).

Becher family of Howbury Hall


Becher, Henry (c.1511-71). Said to have been the eleventh and youngest son of John Becher of Powndrowen House, Penshurst (Kent) and his wife, born in or before 1511. Apprenticed to William Gressant of London, haberdasher, and was made free of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, 1534. He became a member of the Russia Company and of the Company of Merchant Adventurers, and traded extensively in fine cloths, dyes, books and haberdashery items including pins. He was elected to the Common Council of the City of London (Alderman for Bridge Ward Without, 1567-71; Sheriff, 1570-71*). He married 1st, about 1540, Alice, daughter of Thomas Heron of Edgcumbe House, Croydon (Surrey), and 2nd, 16 May 1566 at St. Christopher-le-Stocks, London, Jane (d. 1588), said to be the daughter of Geoffrey Gittons of Wrexham (Flints) and the widow of Oliver Lovibond of London, and had issue:
(1.1) Elizabeth Becher (c.1542-1612), born about 1542; married 1st, 5 October 1560 at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, Clement Kelk (1523-93) of London, haberdasher and merchant adventurer; married 2nd, 7 January 1594 at St Helen, Bishopsgate, London, as his third wife, Thomas Harrison (1530-1602) of Finchampstead (Berks), surveyor of the staple; apparently died without issue and was buried at Finchampstead, 10 September 1612; will proved 1612;
(1.2) Henry Becher (c.1544-1608) (q.v.);
(1.3) Edward Becher (c.1545-1607?), of Allhallows, London; said to have been an esquire of the body to Queen Elizabeth I; possibly the man of this name admitted to Lincoln's Inn, 1595/6; married, 1580 (licence 5 October), the Hon. Frances (b. 1549), daughter of William Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham, and widow of Thomas Coppinger (d. 1580) of Davington (Kent), and had issue three sons; said to have died at Finchampstead, 1607;
(1.4) Phane Becher (c.1546-92) [for whom see my post on the Becher family of Aughadown and Hollybrook]
(1.5) Mary Becher (c.1549-1600); married, 4 September 1569 at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, Chideock Wardour (1542-1611) of Plaitford (Hants), Clerk of the Pells in the Exchequer and MP for Stockbridge (Hants), 1589 and Ludgershall (Wilts), 1593, and had issue one son and three daughters; died 19 September 1600 and was buried at Chiswick (Middx), where she and her husband are commemorated by a monument;
(1.6) Margaret Becher (c.1551-1621); married, 23 July 1571 at Stratfield Saye (Hants), Sir Thomas Dabridgecourt (c.1546-1614), kt., of Stratfield Saye, eldest son of George Dabridgecourt (and whose sister Susan married her brother Phane), and had issue at least three sons and two daughters; buried at Stratfield Saye, 30 October 1621; her will was proved 29 November 1622;
(1.7) Mabel Becher (b. c.1553); married, 3 February 1575/6 at East Tisted (Hants), Sir Richard Norton (c.1552-1611) of Tisted (Hants) (who m2, after 1598, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Capell of Rudgwick (Sussex) and widow of Humphrey Adderley (1511/2-98) of Weddington Hall (Northants)), and had issue three sons and two daughters; died about 1590-95;
(1.8) William Becher (c.1554-1631), born about 1554 (aged 16 in 1571); made free of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, 1577; admitted to the Inner Temple, 1597; married, 14 April 1578 at Islington (Middx), Judith (c.1561-1630), daughter of John Quarles of London, and had issue four sons and six daughters (including Sir William Becher (1581-1651), kt., MP, Clerk of the Privy Council and diplomat); buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), 21 October 1631;
(1.9) Dorothy Becher (c.1555-58), born about 1555; died young and was buried at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 8 April 1558;
(1.10) Bartholomew Becher (b. c.1556), born about 1556; educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge (matriculated 1572) and Middle Temple (admitted 1573; called to bar, 1589); barrister-at-law; married Alice Miller; living in 1592 but death not traced.
He lived in Walbrook Ward in 1541 and at a house known as 'The Worm on the Hoop' next to St. Christopher-le-Stocks church by 1548. He purchased manors and other property in Devon, Somerset (Huntspill), Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire (the manor of Caldecott in South Weald), Wiltshire, Surrey (the manor of Palmers in Croydon), Essex and Suffolk, and inherited property at Penshurst (Kent) from his father.
He died 15 January and was buried at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 29 January 1570/71, where he was commemorated by a monument. His will (proved in the PCC, 3 February 1570/1) made charitable bequests for the poor of Penshurst and Chiddingstone. His first wife died in or before 1566 and was buried at St Christopher-le-Stocks. His widow married 3rd, 9 August 1571 at St John, Hampstead (Middx), Sir Richard Pipe (d. 1587), alderman and draper of London; she died at his estate in Wallingwells (Notts) in 1588; her will was proved in the PCC, 30 November 1588.
* Not 1569-70, as is often stated.

Becher, Henry (c.1544-1608). Eldest son of Henry Becher (c.1511-71) and his first wife, Alice, daughter of Thomas Heron of Edgcumbe House, Croydon (Surrey), born about 1544 (aged 26 in 1571). He was made free of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers in London, 1565 (Second Warden, 1584; First Warden, 1586). He married, 14 May 1571 at St Mary Woolchurch Haw, London, Judith (c.1548-1615), daughter and sole heiress of John Rich MD, apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I, and had issue including:
(1) Jane Becher (1572-75), baptised at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 23 November 1572; died young and was buried in the same church, 16 August 1575;
(2) Sir William Becher (1574-1640), kt. (q.v.);
(3) Edward Becher (1577-c.1658), baptised at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 3 August 1577; educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge (matriculated 1592) and Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1596); died unmarried and was buried at Fotheringhay, 24 September 1658; will proved in the PCC, 15 October 1658;
(4) Elizabeth Becher (1580-1652), baptised at St. Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 28 August 1580; inherited her father's property at Huntspill (Som.); married, 17 August 1602 at Fotheringhay, as his second wife, Thomas Anscell (d. 1623) of Great Barford (Beds), and had issue at least three sons and two daughters; lived latterly at Kempston (Beds); buried at Great Barford, 19 September 1652; will proved in the PCC, 7 May 1653;
(5) George Becher (b. 1587; fl. 1640), baptised at St. Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 17 April 1587; lived at Clavering (Essex); married, 2 September 1618 at Battersea (Surrey), Elizabeth Whitney, and had issue at least two sons and two daughters; living in 1640 but death not traced;
(6) Ursula Becher (b. 1589; fl. 1640), baptised at St. Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 5 January 1589; married, 26 February 1608/9 at Fotheringhay, Matthew Robinson (fl. 1647) of Longthorpe (Hunts), and had issue at least one son and two daughters; living in 1640;
(7) Dorothy Becher (1590-1651), baptised at Southill (Beds), 25 October 1590; married, 27 November 1610 at Fotheringhay, George Kimpton (d. 1656) of Weston (Herts); buried at Weston, 9 June 1651.
He purchased the rectory and college buildings at Fotheringhay (Northants) from Gamaliel Crays in 1597. He also had property in Bedfordshire and Somerset (Huntspill).
He was buried at Fotheringhay, 1 June 1608; his will was proved 15 December 1608. His widow was buried at Fotheringhay, 4 October 1615; her will was proved 7 December 1615.

Becher, Sir William (1574-1640)*. Eldest son of Henry Becher (c.1544-1608) and his wife Judith, daughter of John Rich MD, physician to Queen Elizabeth I, baptised at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 12 September 1574. Educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge (matriculated c.1592). MP for Huntingdon, 1601. High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, 1612-13. He was knighted by King James I at Kirby Hall (Northants), 27 July 1619. He married, 25 February 1594/5 at Southill (Beds), the Hon. Elizabeth (c.1578-1658), daughter of Oliver St. John (d. 1582), 1st Baron St. John of Bletsoe, and had issue:
(1) Olive Becher (b. 1596), baptised at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, 23 May 1596;
(2) Oliver Becher (1598-c.1659) (q.v.);
(3) twin, Dorothy Becher (1600-59?), baptised at Bletsoe, 15 April 1600; married 1st, 16 January 1626/7 at Fotheringhay, as his second wife, William Conyers (d. 1639) of Walthamstow (Essex), serjeant-at-law and 2nd, 8 August 1654 at Walthamstow, Stephen Harvey of London; probably the woman of this name buried at Toppesfield (Essex), 29 October 1659;
(4) twin, Judith Becher (b. & d. 1600), baptised at Bletsoe, 15 April 1600; died in infancy and was buried at Bletsoe, 5 August 1600;
(5) Henry Becher (1602-c.1660), baptised at Fotheringhay, 2 May 1602; married, 31 July 1623 at St Margaret, Westminster (Middx), Anne Silvester (fl. 1666), and had issue one son and six daughters; died between 1657 (when he was named in the will of an uncle) and 1666 (when his brother Francis' will says he was deceased);
(6) Anne Becher (1603-59), baptised at Renhold, 9 October 1603; married, 26 August 1625 at Fotheringhay, Edmund Harding of Aspley Guise (Beds); buried at Aspley Guise, 10 August 1659;
(7) Elizabeth Becher (1606-c.1655), baptised at Renhold, 9 March 1605/6; died unmarried and was described as 'lately deceased' in the will of her uncle Edward Becher in March 1655/6;
(8) William Becher (b. & d. 1607), baptised at Renhold, 26 July 1607; died in infancy and was buried at Renhold, 17 November 1607;
(9) Rev. William Becher (1608-61), baptised at Renhold, 20 November 1608; possibly educated at Oxford University; ordained 1636; rector of Woodford (Northants), 1638-61, and probably a Puritan as the owner of the advowson held Puritan views; died, probably unmarried, about September 1661;
(10) Edward Becher (1610-c.1635), baptised at Renhold, 5 August 1610; educated at St John's College, Cambridge (matriculated 1628; BA 1631); said to have died in Germany before 1640;
(11) St. John Becher (1611-59), baptised at Renhold, 14 November 1611; probably the man of this name buried at Renhold, 20 April 1659;
(12) Judith Becher (b. 1612), baptised at Renhold, 29 November 1612; died unmarried;
(13) Francis Becher (1614-97) [for whom see below];
(14) Fane Becher (1615-c.1619), baptised at Fotheringhay, 21 December 1615; died aged about four years;
(15) Katherine Becher (b. 1618), baptised at Renhold, 23 December 1618; living unmarried in 1655/6;
(16) Howard Becher (1620-95), baptised at Fotheringhay, 29 June 1620; educated at Emmanuel College and Peterhouse, Cambridge (matriculated 1637; BA 1639; MA 1643); intruded as a Presbyterian Fellow of Peterhouse, 1644 and was one of the Taxors of the University, 1646, but was one of three Fellows ejected by the visitors in 1650; he transferred to Oxford, where he was incorporated in 1655; and died unmarried at the house of Samuel Clark in Oxford; will proved 16 March 1694/5.
(17) John Becher (b. 1622), baptised at Fotheringhay, 9 May 1622; living in 1695, when he was executor of his brother Howard's will.
He inherited Fotheringhay College from his father in 1608, but sold it to John Browne, 1629. He leased the manor of Howbury in or before 1603 and purchased the freehold in 1624.
He was buried at Renhold, 22 December 1640; his will was proved 2 April 1641. His widow was buried at Renhold, 15 September 1658.
* He is frequently confused with his cousin and namesake, William Becher (1580-1651).

Becher, Oliver (1598-c.1659). Eldest son of Sir William Becher (1574-1640) and his wife, the Hon. Elizabeth, daughter of Oliver St. John (d. 1582), 1st Baron St. John of Bletsoe, baptised at Bletsoe, 31 December 1598. Educated at Queens' College, Cambridge (matriculated 1615) and Lincoln's Inn (admitted 1617). An officer in the Parliamentary Army in the Civil War (Capt., 1642; Maj., 1643). He married, 24 July 1627 at East Haddon (Northants), Elizabeth (c.1599-1663), daughter of Sir William Tate (d. 1617), kt., of Delapré Abbey (Northants), and had issue:
(1) Sir William Becher (1628-94) (q.v.);
(2) Oliver Becher (1629-80), born 4 July and baptised at Fotheringhay, 16 July 1629; educated at Middle Temple (admitted 1666); lived at Brill (Bucks) and later at West Lynn (Norfk); married, 15 December 1670, Sarah Wyan (b. c.1640) of London, but apparently had no issue; buried at Renhold, 16 October or 12 November 1680*;
(3) Edward Becher (1630-35), baptised at Fotheringhay, 25 October 1630; died young, 13 December 1635 and was buried at Hardingstone (Northants);
(4) Elizabeth Becher (1632-80), born 14 March and baptised at Renhold, 22 March 1631/2; died unmarried at the home of her brother-in-law, Oliver Williams, and was buried at St Faith by St Paul's, London, 25 April 1680;
(5) John Becher (1633-34), born 30 July and baptised at Renhold, 20 August 1633; died in infancy, 28 February and was buried at Renhold, 1 March 1633/4;
(6) Francis Becher (1634-97), born 2 August and baptised at Renhold, 10 August 1634; died unmarried, 3 January and was buried at Renhold, 12 January 1696/7;
(7) Mary Becher (1635-59), born 12 September and baptised at Renhold, 13 September 1635; died unmarried and was buried at Renhold, 11 May 1659;
(8) Judith Becher (1636-55), born 14 October 1636; died unmarried and was buried at St. Bartholomew the Great, London, 17 December 1655 'from the house of the Countess of Bolingbroke';
(9) St. John Becher (b. 1637), born at Howbury, 8 November 1637; possibly the man of this name who married, 17 November 1670 at St Alphage, London Wall, London, Elizabeth Hunton, and had issue one son;
(10) Catherine Becher (1640-1704), born 8 August and baptised at Renhold, 17 August 1640; married 1st, 6 April 1680, Oliver Williams (d. 1693) of London, apothecary, and 2nd, 8 April 1695 at St Dunstan, Stepney (Middx), Richard Becher (c.1653-1701) [for whom see below]; she died without issue and was buried at St Faith by St Paul's, London, 3 November 1704; her will was proved 6 November 1704.
He inherited the Howbury estate from his father in 1640. His wife is said to have been co-heir (with her sister) to her grandfather, Edward La Zouche, 11th Baron Zouch of Harringworth.
He was apparently living in 1658 but dead by 1659, but his burial has not been traced. His widow was buried at Renhold, 20 March 1662/3.
* The original register gives the dates as 16 October; the bishop's transcript as 12 November.

Becher, Sir William (1628-94). Eldest son of Oliver Becher (1598-c.1659) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Tate of Delapré Abbey (Northants), born 24 April and baptised at Fotheringhay (Northants), 5 May 1628. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1645) and the Inner Temple (admitted 1647). He was nominated as one of the Knights of the Royal Oak in 1660 and when this order was abandoned, was knighted at Whitehall, 16 November 1660. JP for Bedfordshire (in which capacity he was one of the magistrates who sent John Bunyan to prison), 1660-80, 1689-94; and DL for Bedfordshire, 1660-79, 1688, 1689-94. MP for Bedford, 1667-79. An officer in the Bedfordshire militia (Capt-Lt., 1660). He married 1st, 15 February 1655/6 at Renhold, his second cousin once removed, the Hon. Frances (1626-58), daughter of Oliver St. John, Baron St. John of Bletsoe, son of Oliver St. John, 4th Baron St. John of Bletsoe and 1st Earl of Bolingbroke; married 2nd, 24 December 1660 at St Paul, Paul's Wharf, London, Elizabeth (d. 1705), daughter of John Huxley of Edmonton (Middx) and Eaton Bray (Beds), and widow of Thomas Hillersdon of Elstow (Beds), and had issue:
(1.1) Arabella Becher (1657-1700), born 17 January and baptised at Renhold, 30 January 1656/7; married, 1684 (licence 14 June), Thomas Huxley (c.1638-94), of North Mimms (Herts), the brother of her father's second wife, and had issue at least two daughters; buried at Renhold, 13 October 1700;
(1.2) St. John Becher (1658-85), born 2 August and baptised at Renhold, 17 August 1658; educated at Queens' College, Cambridge (matriculated 1677) and Inner Temple (admitted 1678); died unmarried and was buried at Renhold, 17 March 1684/5;
(2.1) William Becher (1661-1724) (q.v.);
(2.2) Elizabeth Becher (1663-1701), born 4 March and baptised at Renhold, 12 March 1662/3; died unmarried, of smallpox, 17 April, and was buried at Renhold, 22 April 1701, where she is commemorated by monument attributed to Edward Stanton;
(2.3) John Becher (1664-73), born 22 June and baptised at Renhold, 21 July 1664; died young and was buried at Renhold, 11 May 1673;
(2.4) George Becher (1667-1740), born 28 October and baptised at Renhold, 11 November 1667; apprenticed to an attorney and educated at Inner Temple (admitted 1688); a member of the South Sea Company; lived at Stepney and Hammersmith (Middx) but latterly in London; died unmarried and was buried at Renhold, 12 November 1740; his will was proved 21 November 1740.
He inherited Howbury (Beds) from his father in about 1659. His widow moved to Bow (Middx) after he died.
He died 5 December and was buried at Renhold (Beds), 9 December 1694, where he is commemorated by a monument attributed to William Stanton; his will was proved 1 January 1694/5. His first wife was buried 17 September 1658. His widow died at Bow (Middx), 12 January, and was buried at Elstow, 20 January 1704/5; her will was proved 24 January 1704/5.

Becher, William (1661-1724). Eldest son of Sir William Becher (1628-94), kt., and his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John Huxley of Edmonton (Middx) and widow of Thomas Hillersdon of Elstow (Beds), said to have been born 4 January 1661. Apprenticed to Samuel Moyer of London, mercer, 1679, and made free of the Mercer's Company, 1691. JP for Bedfordshire. He married 1st, 3 September 1695 at Kempston (Beds), Mary (1673-97), daughter of Matthew Dennis of Kempston; and 2nd, 10 August 1699 at St Benet, Paul's Wharf, London, Jane (c.1669-1741), daughter and heir of George Clarke MP (c.1626-89) of Watford (Northants), and had issue:
(1.1) William Becher (1697-1751) (q.v.);
(2.1) Jane Rachel Becher (1700-70), born 12 July and baptised at Kensington (Middx), 3 August 1700; married, 28 January 1719/20 at St James Piccadilly, Westminster (Middx), as his third wife, Thomas Lewis (1685-1732) of St. Pierre (Mon.), MP for Monmouthshire, 1713, 1715-22, and had issue two sons and five daughters; buried at St George-the-Martyr, London, 25 June 1770; will proved in the PCC, 26 June 1770;
(2.2) Mary Becher (1702-03), born 3 July 1702; died of convulsions in infancy, 13 January, and was buried at Renhold, 17 January 1702/3.
He inherited the Howbury estate from his father in 1694. His widow lived latterly in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London.
He was buried at Renhold, 5 June 1724; his will was proved in the PCC, 16 June 1724 and included a bequest of money to support a schoolmaster at Renhold. His first wife died following the birth of her son, 17 November and was buried at Renhold, 20 November 1697. His widow was buried at Lamb's Conduit Burial Ground, Bloomsbury (Middx), 25 April 1741; her will was proved in the PCC, 22 April 1741.

Becher, William (1697-1751). Only son of William Becher (1661-1724) and his first wife Mary, daughter of Matthew Dennis of Kempston (Beds), born 2 October and baptised at Renhold, 8 October 1697. He married, 16 June 1726 at St John, Clerkenwell (Middx), Elizabeth (1696?-1766), daughter of John Clarke of Hackney (Middx), but had no issue.
He inherited the Howbury estate from his father in 1724. In his will he left his estate to his widow for life, with remainder to his nephew, Craven Lewis, second son of his sister, Jane Rachel Lewis, provided he took the name and arms of Becher. In the event, which transpired, that Craven did not survive his widow, the estate was to pass to the oldest surviving male child of his cousin John Becher (1683-1744), for whom see below.
He died 12 June and was buried 24 June 1751 at Renhold, where he is commemorated by a monument erected in 1753; his will was proved in the PCC, 1 July 1751. His widow lived at Red Lion Square in London, and died 3 July 1766; she was probably buried at Renhold in accordance with her will, though she does not appear in the register; her will was proved in the PCC, 6 August 1766.

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Becher, Francis (1614-97). Seventh son of Sir William Becher (1574-1640) and his wife, the Hon. Elizabeth, daughter of Oliver St. John, 1st Baron St. John of Bletsoe, baptised at Renhold, 29 May 1614. Citizen and skinner of London. He married, 22 June 1647 at St Christopher-le-Stocks, London, Anne Dawson (1628-1700), and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Becher (c.1650-85), born about 1650; died unmarried and was buried in the family vault at St Stephen Walbrook, London, 7 March 1684/5; will proved 15 January 1686/7;
(2) Richard Becher (c.1653-1701); grocer and druggist of London; married, 1st, 30 October 1676 at St Mary Woolnoth, London, Lydia (1653-94), daughter of William Marston of London, and 2nd, 1695 (licence 8 April), Catherine, daughter of Oliver Becher and widow of Oliver Williams, and had issue six sons and three daughters; buried at St Stephen, Walbrook, London, 30 December 1701;
(3) Edward Becher (c.1654-1711) (q.v.)
He died 3 January and was buried at Renhold, 12 January 1696/7. His wife died in 1700.

Becher, Edward (c.1654-1711). Younger son of Francis Becher (1614-97) and his wife Anne Dawson, born about 1654. Citizen and draper of London (freeman, 1676); warden of the Draper's Company, 1706. He married 30 January 1680/1 at St Stephen, Coleman St., London, Joyce (c.1656-94), daughter of William Marston of London and sister of his brother Richard's wife, and had issue:
(1) Francis Becher (c.1681-82), born about 1681; died in infancy and was buried at St Botolph Bishopsgate, London, 10 July 1682;
(2) Sir Edward Becher (1682-1732), kt., baptised at St Botolph, Bishopsgate, London, 2 March 1681/2; citizen and draper of London; Master of the Draper's Company, 1719-20; a director of the South Sea Company, 1724-32; common councilman for Bishopsgate Without Ward, 1711-18, and alderman, 1718-32 (sheriff, 1721-22; Lord Mayor, 1727-28); knighted, 8 May 1722; married, 6 May 1707 at St Saviour, Southwark (Surrey), Ann (b. 1684)*, daughter of James Becher, and had issue two sons and three daughters; died 2 September and was buried at St Botolph, Bishopsgate, London, 10 September 1732; administration of his goods granted  26 September 1732;
(3) John Becher (1683-1744) (q.v.);
(4) Mary Becher (1687-1766), baptised at St Botolph, Bishopsgate, London, 30 December 1687; married, 7 February 1709/10 at St Stephen, Coleman St., London, Richard Samborne (1684-1758) of New Inn and later of Hatfield, and had issue one son and one daughter; buried at Hatfield (Herts), 13 February 1766;
(5) Unnamed son (c.1688-89), probably born in December 1688; died in infancy and was buried at St Botolph Bishopsgate, 1 January 1689;
(6) Elizabeth Becher (1692-1746), baptised at St Botolph Bishopsgate, London, 25 February 1691/2; married, 14 April 1713 at St Anne & St Agnes, Aldersgate, London, Thomas Ange (d. 1733), and had issue one daughter; buried at Wanstead (Essex), 10 February 1745/6; 
(7) George Becher (b. 1693), baptised at St Botolph Bishopsgate, London, 17 October 1693; living in 1711, but no further reference found.
He lived in London.
He was buried at Richmond (Surrey), August 1711; his will was proved in the PCC, 15 October 1711. His wife was buried in the family vault at St Stephen, Walbrook, London, 29 December 1694.
* His widow may be the Ann Becher who married, 11 December 1729 at St Lawrence Jewry, London, Samuel King.

Becher, John (1683-1744). Third son of Edward Becher (c.1654-1711) and his wife Joyce, daughter of William Marston, baptised at St Botolph, Bishopsgate, London, 16 October 1683Dry salter in Watling St., London. He married, 20 November 1707 at Mortlake (Surrey), Jane (b. 1685), daughter of Robert Eyre (1658-1718) of Mortlake, and had issue:
(1) Jane Becher (1708-99), born and baptised at St Augustine, Watling St., London, 7 September 1708; said to have died unmarried, 6 November 1799;
(2) Robert Becher (b. 1709), born and baptised at St Augustine, Watling St., London, 11 August 1709; apparently living in 1750 but died before 1766;
(3) John Becher (1711-c.1779) (q.v.);
(4) Edward Becher (1713-48), baptised at St Augustine, Watling St., London, 1 April 1713; said to have died in 1748;
(5) Anne Becher (b. 1715), born and baptised at St Augustine, Watling St., London, 2 May 1715;
(6) Mary Becher (1717-76), baptised at St Augustine, Watling St., London, 21 January 1716/7; died 31 December 1776;
(7) William Becher (b. 1720), born 14 March and baptised at St Augustine, Watling St., London, 18 March 1719/20; died before 1748;
(8) Richard Becher (1721-82) (q.v.).
He lived in London.
He died 4 November 1744. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Becher, John (1711-c.1779). Second son of John Becher (1683-1744) and his wife Jane, daughter of Robert Eyre of Mortlake (Surrey), born and baptised at St Augustine, Watling St., London, 5 October 1711. Merchant at Alicante (Spain) and later at Livorno (Italy), where he was a partner in a hemp manufactory and a ship-broking firm among other enterprises. High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, 1778-79. He married, 10 March 1744 at Livorno (Italy), Mary (1721-1801), third daughter of Samuel Tucker, formerly consul at Alicante (Spain), and had issue:
(1) Jane Harriot Becher (1745-51), born at Livorno, 25 November 1745; died young, 29 January 1751 and was buried in the English Cemetery at Livorno;
(2) John Becher (b. 1747), born at Livorno, 1747 but died in infancy;
(3) William Becher (b. 1748), born at Livorno, 2 June 1748; engaged with his father in business activities in Livorno by 1775; an officer in the Bedfordshire militia (Capt.), who ran up substantial gambling debts, paying off which may have cost his uncle the Howbury estate; he was living in France by 1790 and emigrated eventually to the West Indies, having married, 30 November 1778 at St Marylebone (Middx), Martha, eldest daughter of John Ford of London, by whom he had one son and one daughter; his death was erroneously reported in the press in 1770 but he was really dead by the time of his daughter's marriage in 1809;
(4) A daughter (b. & d. 1749), born at Livorno (Italy), 2 September 1749 but died the same day;
(5) Jane Harriot Becher (b. & d. 1751), born at Livorno, 20 June 1751; died in infancy, 28 August 1751.
He lived at Livorno (Italy) until at least 1776, but must I think have been in England for his shrievalty. He inherited Howbury from the widow of his first cousin once removed in 1766. At his death it passed not to his son but to his younger brother.
He died in or about 1779, but no record of his death, burial or will can be found. His widow was buried at Putney (Surrey), 24 June 1801.

Becher, Richard (1721-82). Fifth son of John Becher (1683-1744) and his wife Jane, daughter of Robert Eyre of Mortlake (Surrey), born 26 November and baptised at Richmond (Surrey), 4 December 1721. An officer in the East India Company's service in India from 1743-61, when he was dismissed for having signed Lord Clive's letter of remonstrance to the Directors in 1759; in 1767, when Clive was Governor General, he was reappointed to the Bengal Council and in 1769 became the British Resident at Murshidabad. He is said to have made heroic efforts to alleviate the horrors of the Bengal Famine of 1770, and was noted for his honesty and freedom from graft. In 1774 he returned to England with a modest fortune, which he was said to soon afterwards have 'risked and lost in trying to help a friend', although the he may actually have felt obliged to pay his nephew William's gambling debts. He was obliged to sell the family estate which he inherited in about 1779 and to return to India to earn a living, being appointed as head of the Calcutta Mint, 1781. However, his health was no longer up to the stresses of life in India and he died little more than a year later. He married 1st, 29 November 1752 at St John, Calcutta (India), Charlotte (1738-59), daughter of Fenwick Golightly (b. 1702), and 2nd, 21 December 1765 at St Andrew Undershaft, London, Anne (1743-1808), daughter of Samuel Haselby, and had issue:
(1.1) Charlotte Becher (1754-56), baptised at Calcutta, 3 July 1754; died in infancy, 20 November 1756 at Fultah (India);
(2.1) Richard Stephens Becher (1764-1846), born prior to the marriage of his parents, 15 March and baptised at St Andrew, Holborn, 17 March 1764; an official in the Bengal Civil Service (writer, 1781; commercial resident at Commercolly, 1790 and Bareilly, 1802; third member of the Board of Trade, 1805; salt agent at Tumlook, 1809; retired 1815); married, 12 August 1815 at St Marylebone, Frances Wyatt (1773-1855), but had no issue; however, he had four sons and three daughters born in India before his marriage whose mother(s) are unknown; died in Brighton, 9 April and was buried at St Nicholas, Brighton, 16 April 1846; will proved in the PCC, 1846;
(2.2) twin, John Stephens Becher (1765-1830), born  prior to the marriage of his parents, 21 June 1765; an official in the Bengal Civil Service (writer, 1781; paymaster of troops in Bengal presidency, 1791; judge at Moorshedabad, 1797; judge of court of appeal, 1804; retired 1805); after retirement he settled at Chancellor House, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells (Kent); he was unmarried, but had five illegitimate sons in India between 1790 and 1803, possibly by Jane, daughter of Major Thomas Reed, for whom he made provision in his will; died at Speldhurst (Kent), 28 March 1830; will proved in the PCC, 13 April 1830;
(2.3) twin, Robert Stephens Becher (1765-1818), born  prior to the marriage of his parents, 21 June 1765; an officer in the service of the East India Company, 1781-92 (Cadet, 1781; Ensign, 1781; Lieutenant, 1782); indigo manufacturer and merchant in Cawnpore, 1782-1808, when his production facilities were seized by Almas Ali Khan, the principal Amaldar of the Nawab Wazir of Oudh; married, 10 April 1801 at St Marylebone (Middx), Louisa (1781-1847), eldest daughter of Charles John Purling, and had issue six sons and two daughters; died at sea while returning to England, 8 August 1818;
(2.4) Charlotte Becher (1767-1837), born 2 August and baptised at Calcutta, 8 September 1767; married, 31 October 1783 at Epsom (Surrey), Maj. Charles Marsack (1736-1820) of Caversham Park (Oxon), reputedly the illegitimate son of HRH Frederick, Prince of Wales by his mistress Margaret, Countess of Marsac, and had issue seven sons and four daughters; died at Caversham, 26 January 1837, and was buried at Speldhurst (Kent);
(2.5) William Augustus Becher (1772-78), born in India, 26 September 1772; died young, 28 March 1778;
(2.6) Charles Grant Becher (1777-1842), born 5 February and baptised at St Marylebone (Middx), 7 March 1777; joined the East India Company's service, initially in the military branch (Cadet, 1793; Cornet, 1794; resigned 1795), but transferred to Bengal Civil Service (Writer, 1795; Salt Agent for Cuttack, 1795-1826, when he was removed for corruption, possibly unjustly; Commercial Resident at Rungpore from 1826); married 1st, 9 January 1800 at Berhampore (India), Mary Penneck (d. 1805), daughter of Lt. Henry Reid, and had issue two daughters; married 2nd, 10 January 1807 at Calcutta, Charlotte (1790-1816), daughter of Richard Humfrays, and had further issue three sons and three daughters; died at Nice (France), 16 July 1842;
(2.7) Sophia Becher (1779-83?), born 4 August and baptised at St. Marylebone, 14 August 1779;  died young and was probably the child of this name buried at Putney (Surrey), 17 August 1783;
(2.8) George Becher (1780-1837), born 1 September and baptised at Godstone (Surrey), 10 October 1780; an officer in the East India Company's army (Cadet, 1794; Cornet, 1795; Lt. 1800; Capt-Lt., 1805; Capt. 1812; Maj. 1818; Lt-Col., 1824; Colonel, 1829); married, 10 August 1807 at Dinapore (India), Harriet Geldart (1784-1870), daughter of John Barclay of Tain (Ross & Cromarty), and had issue ten sons and one daughter; died at sea while returning to England on furlough, 15 November 1837.
He lived in Bedford Square, London, but inherited the Howbury estate from his elder brother in about 1779. In 1781 he sold the estate to Nathaniel Polhill in order to pay off his debts. He had then 'lately left the United Kingdom for the East Indies'.
He died in Calcutta (India), 17 October 1782. His first wife died in Calcutta, 14 October 1759. His widow married 2nd, 31 December 1784 at Epsom, Maj-Gen. Charles Auriol (1756-1821), and was buried at St Giles, Camberwell (Surrey), 7 July 1808; administration of her goods with will annexed was granted 8 March 1809; her second husband was buried at Littleham-cum-Exmouth (Devon), 31 January 1821.

Principal sources

Burke's Irish Family Records, 1976, p. 100; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, 1997, p. 70; C. O'Brien & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough, 2nd edn., 2014, pp. 270-71;
No significant archive is known to survive, although some miscellaneous deeds, manorial records and estate papers are to be found among the archives of the Polhill family [Bedfordshire Archives, PO] and others have been purchased by Bedfordshire Archives.

Coat of arms

Vairé, argent and gules, on a canton or, a stag's head couped, sable.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone provide photographs or portraits of the people whose names appear in bold above, for whom no image is currently shown?
  • If anyone can offer further information or corrections to any part of this article I should be most grateful. I am always particularly pleased to hear from current owners or the descendants of families associated with a property who can supply information from their own research or personal knowledge for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 31 July 2022 and updated 2 August 2022.