Witham Park, Witham Charterhouse, Somerset
The site was originally that of the first Carthusian monastery in England, founded in 1178 by King Henry II in expiation of the murder of St. Thomas a Becket. The Charterhouse was composed of two parts: an upper house and a lower house for lay brothers, which stood near the church in the village. The monastery was dissolved in 1539 and the buildings were acquired in 1544-45 by Ralph Hopton, an associate of Thomas Cromwell who survived his master's fall. He is believed to have converted part of the upper house into a dwelling, and comparison of early 18th century plans for remodelling Witham suggests that the old house was a quadrangular building of the type common in Tudor times. Indeed, it seems likely that the quadrangle around which the building was arranged perpetuates the form of the Little Cloister of the Charterhouse.
|Witham Friary: ground plan of James Gibbs scheme from Vitruvius Britannicus, 1717.|
The comments of 18th century visitors show that even after early 18th century remodelling it incorporated surviving work from the monastic period. William Strachey, who visited in the 1720s, described the house as 'a Quadrangle [with] the Old Dark Vaulted Carthusian Chapell on the N side & now [a] Convenient Cellar, [though] the Pillars and Niches for Images [and] Holy Water plainly discover what it hath been'. Although the house may have been quadrangular to start with, it seems likely that subsequent generations made improvements to the house, perhaps including the demolition of the western range, so as to create a U-shaped building of the kind that was fashionable in Elizabethan and Jacobean times. This may have been the work of Sir Ralph Hopton, later 1st Baron Hopton, who is also credited with laying out a garden, probably within the framework of the Great Cloister of the monastery, in the 1620s or 1630s. A reference to a chapel in the house in 1653 may be to the former monastic chapel in the north range.
The idea of remodelling the house at Witham again was probably first conceived by Catherine, Lady Wyndham, who was the chatelaine of Witham from 1697 to her son's coming of age in 1708. She seems to have turned to William Talman for designs, and his first sketch plan is on a sheet with other drawings which can be dated to c.1699-1702. It was Talman who first proposed enclosing the open courtyard of the house with a screen wall of giant columns, and although his scheme was not built, this idea obviously found favour as it was common to all the subsequent schemes by other architects. Sir William Wyndham came of age in 1708, and had a meteoric political career (as Secretary at War and Chancellor of the Exchequer) during the reign of Queen Anne, which came to an abrupt end after the Tories left office and he was implicated in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. Confined in the Tower of London for some months in 1715-16, on his release he wrote "I design to make up as soon as I can the time I have lost in my building, and I am therefore going immediately into the country". The implication is that he had was already planning, if not building, a new house at Witham before 1715. Wyndham evidently consulted several different architects about his building, and there are schemes by George Clarke and Nicholas Hawksmoor, and by Sir James Thornhill, as well as the preferred design by James Gibbs which was published in the second volume of Vitruvius Britannicus (1717).
Although it is often stated that the Gibbs house was 'almost certainly never built', Strachey described it as 'new built' and a survey of 1761 recorded that it was 'part old and part new built by Sir Wm. Wyndham who laid out by accounts above £10,000 in rebuilding and repairing it'. In 1993, a geophysical survey of the site showed evidence of walls on the north side of the Great Cloister corresponding to the plan shown in Vitruvius Britannicus, so it would seem that the Gibbs house was built. In 1761, Thomas Browne described the house as 'a large Capital Seat all built stone & slated... large enough to contain any family in the Kingdom'. On the ground floor were 'a neat Chapell' and service accommodation, while on the first floor were a 'very large and lofty hall', a drawing room, 'a large lofty Eating parlour' and a dining room, a large bedchamber, two dressing rooms, a library, a gunroom, a Long Gallery and five further bedrooms.
In 1754 Dr Richard Pococke visited the site and found 'the old chapel and some other parts of the nunnery remain'; but Sir Charles Wyndham, Earl of Egremont, had 'lately removed all his furniture from it, not purposing to live there any more'. Lord Egremont sold the estate through an intermediary to Alderman William Beckford in 1761, and Beckford at once commissioned Robert Adam to design a mansion for a new site just to the south of the old house. His motivation is somewhat uncertain, as his new house at Fonthill Splendens was still being completed, and was not far away, but the 1761 survey shows that the Gibbs house was in surprisingly poor condition. The existing house and the monastic ruins ('except for a small part connected with the east end of the church') were pulled down in about 1764.
|Witham Friary: design by Robert Adam for a new house, as published in Vitruvius Britannicus, 1771|
|Witham Friary: plan of new house designed by Robert Adam, as published in Vitruvius Britannicus, 1771|
The Adam house, designed in 1762 and illustrated in the fifth volume of Vitruvius Britannicus in 1771, consisted of a central block with five bays on the entrance front and seven on the garden front, joined by five-bay colonnaded links to two domed three-bay pavilions. In general composition, this was an arrangement similar to the houses he was designing around the same time of Harewood (Yorks WR) and Mersham-le-Hatch (Kent). The size of the house was enlarged slightly between the first scheme and the final designs, allowing for a rather grander interior treatment; the progress of the design can be followed from a series of drawings in the Adam archive at the Soane Museum. In the final design, the piano nobile consisted of a sequence of rooms of different shapes, and included many niches, apses, and screens of columns. The shell of the house was evidently largely complete and probably roofed when Beckford died in 1770, but work then stopped. As Collinson said in his History of Somerset in 1791, 'had it been finished, it would have been a superb pile'. With his heir William a minor and already possessed of Fonthill Splendens, the house was really surplus to requirements and by 1791 the building had been demolished. William Beckford sold the estate in 1810 to provide much-needed funds for the completion of Fonthill Abbey.
Descent: Ralph Hopton (c.1510-71); to niece, Rachel Hall, wife of Sir Arthur Hopton (c.1540-1607); to son, Robert Hopton (1575-1638); to son, Ralph Hopton (1596-1652), 1st Baron Hopton; sequestrated by Parliament but returned to his sister, Katherine, widow of John Wyndham; to son, Thomas Wyndham (c.1642-89); to son, Hopton Wyndham (c.1665-97); to kinsman, Sir William Wyndham (1687-1740), 3rd bt.; to son, Sir Charles Wyndham (1710-63), 4th bt. and 2nd Earl of Egremont; sold 1761 to Alderman William Beckford (1709-70); to son, William Thomas Beckford (1760-1844), who demolished it.
Basing Park, Hampshire
The first recorded mention of a house at Basing Park was in the year 1567, when it belonged to John Love, who perhaps erected the first house on the site. The property was initially a copyhold not a freehold, although progressive expansion of the estate meant that it was later held on mixed tenures. Unfortunately there seems to be no visual record of the house before the early 19th century (two watercolours of c.1810 were sold in Germany in 2017 but not illustrated in the auction house's catalogue, and I have not yet managed to track them down). The Beckfords established a well defined area of parkland around the house after 1759, and may have rebuilt or remodelled the house as a two-storey five-bay block with a central curved bow. In 1830 the estate was purchased by Sir Thomas Lethbridge of Sandhill Park (Som.), who made improvements to the property, adding a new wing designed by Sydney Smirke on the east side, consisting of an entrance hall and drawing room with chambers above. Joseph Martineau, owner from 1835, also 'improved the offices and many of the rooms'.
|Basing Park: engraving of the house in 1833, after the addition of the wing on the right by Sydney Smirke.|
|Basing House: the mansion after the addition of a third storey c.1870.|
The mansion was requisitioned for the use of American troops in the Second World War, and was returned to Otho Nicholson after hostilities ceased, in a poor state of repair. The estate was sold to the Earl Fitzwilliam, who let the house for use as a furniture store and sold the outlying portions of the estate to new owners. The house itself was sold in the early 1960s, and demolished in 1962.
|Basing Park: the new house from the south-east. Image: Shazz. Some rights reserved.|
Descent: perhaps built (before 1567) for Richard Love (d. 1616); to son, John Love (d. 1628); to son, Richard Love (1615-90); to son, Robert Love (d. 1723); to nephew, Richard Love (1702-87); to daughter Susannah (d. 1803), widow of Francis Beckford (1723-68); to son, Francis Love Beckford (c.1764-1838), who sold 1802 to Rev. Charles Gore; sold 1813 to Richard Norris; sold 1830 to Sir Thomas Buckler Lethbridge (1778-1849), 2nd bt.; sold 1835 to Joseph Martineau (d. 1863); sold 1863 to William Nicholson MP (1824-1909), gin distiller; to son, William Graham Nicholson MP (1862-1942); to son, Otho William Nicholson (1891-1978); sold 1944 to William Thomas George Wentworth-Fitzwilliam (1904-79), 10th Earl Fitzwilliam; sold to Leslie James Langmead (b. 1942), who rebuilt the house.
Stepleton House, Iwerne Stepleton, Dorset
A most attractive house built of a fine ashlar stone, which has been remarkably little altered since the 18th century. The central block of the present house is six bays square (except for the east front, which had only five bays, to allow for a central doorcase), and of two storeys over a basement. It seems to have been built for Thomas Fownes soon after he acquired the estate in 1654, and was built around a small central courtyard. On the north side, the basement storey still preserves mullioned windows, and the original fenestration on the upper floors was no doubt at first mullioned and transomed cross-windows; there may have been dormer windows in the roof, but the present dormers are 20th century. The original entrance to the house lay on the east, where there was probably a great hall, but the internal layout was much altered in the 18th century.
|Stepleton House: view of the central block from the south-east. This part of the house dates in essence from the 1650s, although altered after 1728. Image: Country Life.|
|Stepleton House: staircase hall. Image: Country Life.|
|Stepleton House: north front, showing the wings added in 1758.|
In 1811 the estate passed to Horace William Beckford (1777-1831), who had taken the name Pitt-Rivers on inheriting (by a special remainder) the title of 3rd Baron Rivers from a maternal relation. In 1828 he also inherited the Rushmore House estate (Wiltshire), which became the family's principal seat. Stepleton was either let or occupied by impecunious relations until 1917, when it was sold to Sir Randolph Baker (1879-1959), 4th bt., owner of the adjoining Ranston estate, who in turn sold it in 1923 to the tenant, Sir Ronald Charles Lindsay (1877-1949). The present owner and her late husband purchased it in 1985 and undertook a careful restoration of the house and its interiors. More recently, the gardens close to the house have been redesigned.
Descent: George Pitt sold 1654 to Thomas Fownes (d. 1673); to son, Richard Fownes (1652-1714); to son, Richard Fownes (d. 1730); to son, Thomas Fownes (b. 1699), who sold 1745 to Julines Beckford (c.1717-64); to son, Peter Beckford (c.1739-1811); to son, William Horace Beckford (later Pitt-Rivers) (1777-1831), 3rd Baron Rivers; to son, George Pitt-Rivers (1810-66), 4th Baron Rivers; to daughters, Blanche, Caroline and Gertrude Emily Pitt-Rivers... sold 1917 to Sir Randolph Baker of Ranston; sold 1923 to Sir Ronald Charles Lindsay (1877-1949); to nephew, David Alexander Robert Lindsay (1900-75), 28th Earl of Crawford and 11th Earl of Balcarres; to younger son, Hon. Patrick Lindsay (1928-86), who sold 1985 to Derek Coombs (1931-2014); to widow, Jennifer Coombs (b. 1953). The house was let in the 19th century.
Beckford family of Fonthill House, Basing Park and Stepleton House
|Peter Beckford (1643-1710)|
(2.1) Peter Beckford (1673-1735) (q.v.);(2.2) Priscilla Beckford (b. 1675), baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 20 May 1675;(2.3) Charles Beckford (b. & d. 1677), baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 3 August 1677; died in infancy and was buried at St Catherine, Jamaica, 14 August 1677;(2.4) Elizabeth Beckford (b. 1678), baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 8 October 1678;(2.5) Thomas Beckford (1682-1731); married Mary, daughter and heiress of Thomas Ballard esq. and had issue two sons and four daughters; murdered by a man he had offended, 1731.
He lived in Jamaica and built up an extensive portfolio of sugar plantations and other property, from which he derived 'immense wealth' by the time of his death.
He died in Spanish Town (Jamaica), 3 April 1710 and was buried in Spanish Town Cathedral, where he is commemorated by a monument. His first wife died in 1671. His second wife's date of death is unknown.
|Peter Beckford (1673-1735),|
a posthumous portrait
by Benjamin West
(1) Peter Beckford (1705-37) (q.v.);(2) Anne Beckford (1706-46), said to have been born in 1706; married, 8 November 1726, George Ellis (1704-40), chief justice of the island of Jamaica, and had issue four sons and one daughter; died in January 1745/6;(3) Phyllis Beckford (b. & d. 1708), born 21 May 1708; died in infancy, 28 July, and was buried in St Catherine, Jamaica, 29 July 1708, but is commemorated on her father's monument in Spanish Town Cathedral, Jamaica;(4) William Beckford (1709-70) (q.v.);(5) twin, Richard Beckford (1712-56), baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 3 February 1711/2; educated at Westminster School (admitted 1721), Balliol College, Oxford (matriculated 1728), University College, Oxford (BA 1731), and the Middle Temple (admitted 1730; called 1736); in 1754 he was the absentee landlord of 9,241 acres in Jamaica; MP for Bristol, 1754-56; Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths Company, 1755; alderman of the City of London, 1754-56; he was unmarried but in his will provided for Fanny Scott and her daughter Elizabeth and for Jane Foot and her son Beckford Foot in Jamaica and for Elizabeth Hay in London 'who I do esteem... in all respects my wife' and her son, William Beckford (1744-99), later an historian of France; died at Lyon (France), 24 January and was buried at Fonthill Gifford, 7 March 1756; will proved in PCC, 4 March 1756;(6) twin, Thomas Beckford (b. 1712), baptised at St. Catherine, Jamaica, 3 February 1711/2; educated at Westminster School (admitted 1721), but died young;(7) Nathaniel Beckford (1713-37), born 3 December 1713; educated at Westminster School (admitted 1722); merchant in London; died unmarried, June 1737; will proved in the PCC, 29 July 1737;(8) George Beckford (1715-25), baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 14 December 1715; educated at Westminster School (admitted 1724) and died there; buried at St Margaret, Westminster, 2 September 1725;(9) Julines Beckford (c.1717-64) (q.v.);(10) Bathshua Beckford (b. 1720), born and baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 11 June 1720; living in 1737 but probably died unmarried;(11) Francis Beckford (1723-68) (q.v.);(12) Elizabeth Beckford (1726-91), born 18 and baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 23 February 1725/6; a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, 1761-69; married 1st, 14 February 1744/5 at St James, Piccadilly, Westminster (Middx), Lt-Gen. Thomas Howard (1714-63), 2nd Earl of Effingham, and had issue two sons and four daughters; married 2nd, 21 May 1776 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster, as his second wife, Field-Marshal Sir George Howard KB (1718-96), Governor of Royal Hospital, Chelsea; died at Royal Hospital, 13 October and was buried at Great Bookham (Surrey), 20 October 1791.
At his death he was owner of 11 sugar plantations and 1,737 slaves and part-owner of five plantations and 577 slaves, all in Jamaica, and was estimated to be worth £300,000. Conflict between a settlement of the majority of his property on his eldest son, dated 1721, and his will was further complicated by the death of Peter junior in 1737 and the subsequent falling out between his widow and their son William.
He died 23 September 1735 and was buried at Spanish Town Cathedral, Jamaica; his will was proved in the PCC, 6 October 1735. His widow was buried at St Margaret, Westminster (Middx), 14 January 1750/1; her will was proved in the PCC, 4 February 1750/1.
Beckford, Peter (1705-37). Eldest son of Peter Beckford (1673-1735) and his wife Bathshua, daughter and co-heir of Col. Julines Herring, baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 18 February 1704/5. Educated at Westminster School, 1715-17, Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1720) and the Inner Temple (admitted 1720). By the time of his father's death he was a cause of concern to his mother and siblings because of his unpredictable behaviour. In 1736 he visited England but soon returned, and in the last months of his life he committed unspecified extravagances, and 'his mind was filled with strange and unreasonable fears and apprehensions of people's affecting him and endeavouring to destroy him by magic'. He died unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the bulk of his father's property in England and Jamaica, but at his death it passed to his next brother.
He died 16 August 1737 and was buried at Spanish Town Cathedral, Jamaica; his will was proved in the PCC, 16 December 1737.
|Alderman William Beckford (1709-70)|
(1) William Thomas Beckford (1760-1844) (q.v.).
He also left the following illegitimate children, reputedly by three different partners, including Hannah Thwaites alias Maxwell (d. 1794) (for whom he provided in his will):
(X1) Bathshua Barbara Beckford (c.1739-77); married, 15 December 1757 at East Knoyle (Wilts), as his second wife, Rev. Dr. Charles Wake (1722-96), rector of East Knoyle (Wilts), and had issue three sons and eight daughters; died 17 September 1777 and was buried at East Knoyle;(X2) Richard Beckford (1741-96), baptised at St Catherine, Jamaica, 8 January 1741/2; West India merchant in London, in partnership as Beckford & James of Nicholas Lane, Lombard St., London; MP for Bridport, 1780-84, Arundel, 1784-90, and Leominster, 1791-96; he was unmarried but had a long term relationship with Amy Ashton, for whom he provided in his will; died 12 August and was buried at St James, Piccadilly, Westminster (Middx), 20 August 1796; will proved 24 September 1796;(X3) John Beckford (d. 1814), born after 1744; in 1765 he was 'now employed in the counting house of Messrs. Hope & Co., merchants in Amsterdam', a Dutch bank specialising in loans to plantation owners in the West Indies at this time; later an officer in the Guards (Cornet, 1770; Sub-Lt., 1772; Guidon & Capt., 1776; retired 1779); married, 6 May 1797 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster, Maria Ann Strange (c.1756-1820); will proved in the PCC, 29 July 1814;(X4) Charles Beckford alias Jennings; 'a youth now living with Mr Benjamin Molineux of Wolverhampton' in 1765;(X5) Rose Beckford (d. 1801)*, of Offley Holes, Hitchin (Herts), born after 1744; educated at Peckham (Surrey); absentee owner of plantations on Nevis; died 28 August 1801 and was buried at Hitchin, 4 September 1801; administration of his goods with will annexed granted in the PCC, 2 November 1803; and a further grant of administration made 13 January 1863; he left an illegitimate daughter (Rose Hannah Beckford (1791-1836), unprovided for;(X6) Susanna Beckford* (c.1750-89), born about 1750; educated at Kensington (Middx); lived in London; portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds; died unmarried and was buried at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster, 10 September 1789; will proved in the PCC, 8 September 1789;(X7) Thomas Beckford* (1752-1824), born 13 June 1752; educated at Peckham (Surrey) and Balliol College, Oxford (matriculated 1769); lived at Bath (Som.); married, 27 September 1774 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster (Middx), Phyllis Howard (c.1748-1826); died 9 April 1824 and was buried at Woolley (Wilts); will proved in the PCC, 10 June 1824;(X8) Nathaniel Beckford* (d. 1810?), born after 1749; plantation and slave owner in Jamaica, who divided his time between London and Jamaica; a member of the legislative council of Jamaica, 1777-1810 (President, 1806); married, apparently as a child, August 1763 at Edinburgh (with a fortune of £3,000), Elizabeth, daughter of James Carroll (d. 1753), a Jamaica plantation and slave owner, and had issue one daughter; 'now living with Dr Wake at Knoyle (Wilts)' in 1765; said to have died in 1810.
He inherited part of his family's estates in Jamaica from his father in 1735, and the bulk of his father's property from his elder brother in 1737. He purchased the Fonthill (Wilts) estate in 1744, the Witham Friary estate in 1761 and the Eaton Bray estate (Beds.) in 1763. In 1754 he owned 42,075 acres in Jamaica, and at his death his property in Jamaica included 13 sugar plantations and over 3,000 slaves.
He died, reputedly of a fever brought on by 'political excitement', 21 June and was buried at Fonthill Gifford, 30 June 1770; his will was proved in the PCC, 18 July 1770. His widow lived at West End, Hampstead (Middx); she died 22 July, and was buried at Fonthill Gifford, 2 August 1798; her will was proved in the PCC, 31 August 1798.
* Children of William Beckford and Hannah Maxwell.
|William Thomas Beckford (1760-1844)|
(1) Margaret Maria Elizabeth Beckford (1784-1818), born 9 April 1784 and baptised at Fonthill Gifford, 24 March 1785; raised by her maternal grandmother at West End, Hampstead (Middx); disowned by her father after she eloped and married, 16 May 1811 at St George, Hanover Sq., London (without her father's consent), Lt-Gen. James Orde (1775-1850) of Weetwood (Northants), and had issue one son (who died in infancy) and two daughters; died at Bath (Som.), 7 September, and was buried at Fonthill Gifford, 12 September 1818;(2) Susanna Euphemia (k/a Susan) Beckford (1786-1859), born at Chateau-la-Tour, Vevey (Switzerland), 14 May, and was baptised at Vevey, 17 May 1786; raised by her maternal grandmother at West End, Hampstead (Middx); married, 26 April 1810 at St Marylebone (Middx), Alexander Hamilton (1767-1852), 10th Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, and had issue one son (later the 11th Duke) and one daughter; died 27 May 1859 and was buried at Hamilton (Lanarks); will proved 8 July 1859 (effects under £14,000).
He inherited his father's Fonthill and Jamaican estates in 1770, when the West Indian property was estimated to yield £40,000 a year, although this figure later declined rapidly. He built Fonthill Abbey from 1796 onwards and pulled down Fonthill Splendens in 1807 before selling the estate and moving to the Royal Crescent in Bath in 1822.
He died in Bath, 2 May 1844, and was buried in Lyncombe Cemetery there; his body was later reinterred in the grounds of the Lansdown Tower. His wife died in Switzerland following childbirth, 26 May 1786.
* A much fuller biography will be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and there are several biographical studies of his life including J. Lees-Milne, William Beckford, 1976 (now rather dated) and T. Mowl, William Beckford: composing for Mozart, 1998. Of particular interest in relation to his collections is D.E. Ostergard (ed.), William Beckford 1760-1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, 2001.
|Julines Beckford (c.1717-64).|
(1) Peter Beckford (1739-1811) (q.v.).
He inherited 8,197 acres of his father's estate in Jamaica in 1735, and bought the Stepleton House estate in 1745 for £12,600. He added the Shillingstone estate to it in 1759 and later the Durweston estate, and remodelled and enlarged the house.
He died in Jamaica, 27 November 1764; his will was proved in the PCC, 21 May 1765. His wife died in Jamaica, 15 March 1762.
|Peter Beckford (1740-1811) by Batoni.|
(1) Louisa Beckford (1774-88), born 4 May and baptised at St Marylebone (Middx), 31 May 1774; died young, 2 September 1788 and was buried in the English Cemetery at Livorno (Italy);(2) Maria Beckford (1775-80), born 20 June and baptised at Iwerne Steepleton,18 July 1775; died young and was buried at Iwerne Steepleton, 16 July 1780;(3) William Augustus Beckford (b. & d. 1776), baptised at Iwerne Steepleton, 9 June 1776; died in infancy and was buried at Iwerne Steepleton, 29 September 1776;(4) William Horace Beckford (1777-1831), 3rd Baron Rivers, born 2 December 1777; as a young man he ran up gambling debts of £12,000 which his maternal grandfather paid off; he inherited his grandfather's barony under a special remainder in the peerage patent in 1828 and took the surname Pitt-Rivers in lieu of Beckford for himself and his male issue and the name Pitt for his female issue; married, 9 February 1808, Frances (d. 1860), daughter and heiress of Lt Col. Francis Hale Rigby, of Mistley Hall (Essex), and had issue two sons and two daughters; he drowned in the Serpentine in Hyde Park (Middx), 23 January 1831, arousing suspicions of suicide;(5) Harriet Beckford (1779-1853), born 2 January and baptised at Iwerne Steepleton, 30 January 1779*; married, 27 January 1807 at Iwerne Steepleton, Henry Seymer (later Ker-Seymer) (1782-1834), of Hanford (Dorset), and had issue; lived latterly at Southampton (Hants); buried at Hanford, 27 December 1853; will proved in the PCC, 7 January 1854.
He inherited the Stepleton House estate and plantations in Jamaica from his father in 1764, but the income from his Jamaican estates steadily diminished due to soil erosion, hurricanes, an increase in the cost of slave labour, and mismanagement by his agents. To avoid insolvency he sold the Durweston part of his Dorset estate to Henry Portman of Bryanston in 1774 and mortgaged two of his Jamaican plantations to his father-in-law in 1778.
He died 18 February 1811 and was buried at Stepleton Iwerne (Dorset); his will, proved 28 March 1811, made provision for Signora Rosa Buggiani of Florence, who may have been a former mistress or an illegitimate daughter. His wife died of tuberculosis at Florence (Italy), 30 April 1791, and was buried in the English cemetery at Livorno (Italy).
* The parish register gives her name erroneously as Henrietta.
|Francis Beckford (1724-68)|
(2.1) Thomas Beckford (1757-81), born 6 March and baptised at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster, 7 March 1757; died unmarried and was buried at Ashtead (Surrey), 20 April 1781;(2.2) Susannah Beckford (1758-73), baptised at Epsom (Surrey), 15 September 1758; died young and was buried at Froxfield (Hants), 27 March 1773;(2.3) William Beckford (1759-71/1806), baptised at Epsom, 19 December 1759; died young and was buried at Froxfield, 15 November 1771 or was buried at Mitcham (Surrey), 9 December 1806;(2.4) Charlotte Beckford (1761-1803), said to have been born in Jamaica; married, 19 February 1793 at St Marylebone (Middx), John Charles Middleton (1755-1826), son of Rev. Samuel Middleton, and had issue three sons and three daughters; she and her husband rented Hinton Ampner (Hants), Rossington Hall (Yorks) and Shawford House, Twyford (Hants), and as a widower he settled at Hildersham House (Cambs); she died in London, 27 February 1803, and was buried at St Mary, Battersea (Surrey), 5 March 1803;(2.5) Bathshua Beckford (1762-1804?), born 15 August and baptised at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster, 28 August 1762; said to have died in 1804;(2.6) Francis Love Beckford (c.1764-1838) (q.v.);(2.7) Maria Beckford (1766-1854), born 30 August and baptised at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster, 27 September 1766; lived at South Stoneham House (Hants); died unmarried, 25 June 1854, and was buried at Froxfield (Hants); will proved in the PCC, 15 July 1854.
In 1735 he inherited 2,616 acres of his father's estate in Jamaica. He and his wife occupied Basing Park (Hants) in his father-in-law's lifetime.
He died 24 November 1768 and was buried at Froxfield (Hants), 6 December 1768. His first wife died at Bungay (Suffk), 'of a violent fever', 12 February 1754. His second wife died at her house in London, 5 January, and was buried at Froxfield, 13 January 1803.
Beckford, Francis Love (c.1764-1838). Third son of Francis Beckford (1723-68) and his second wife, Susannah, only daughter and heiress of Richard Love of Basing (Hants), born in Jamaica late in 1763 or early in 1764. An officer in the army (Ensign, 1783; Lt., 1785; retired 1788) and in the Bramdean Volunteers (Cornet, 1798). A Whig in politics. JP and DL (from 1821) for the Borough of Southampton. He married, 14 April 1788 at Goldielee, Dumfries (Dumfriess.), Joanna (1758-1814), third daughter and co-heiress of John Leigh of Northcourt House (IoW) and widow of Richard Bennett Lloyd (1750-87) of Maryland (USA), and had issue:
(1) Francis Love Beckford (1789-1875), of Mitcham (Surrey), born 15 February at baptised at St Marylebone (Middx), 20 March 1789; educated at Eton (admitted 1802) and Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1807); an officer in the Coldstream Guards (Ensign 1810; retired 1813), who served in the Peninsula Wars; died unmarried, 1 June and was buried at St Andrew, Ham, 5 June 1875; will proved 12 July 1875 (effects under £25,000);(2) William Beckford (1790-1859), of Ruxley Lodge (Surrey), born 23 March and baptised at St Marylebone, 30 March 1790; plantation owner and West India merchant; married, 12 January 1822 at St James, Piccadilly, Westminster (Middx), Maria Elizabeth (1802-90), daughter of Rev. John Bramston Stane of Forest Hall, High Ongar (Essex) and had issue one son and three daughters; died in Rome (Italy), 22 January 1859; will proved 8 March 1859 (effects under £25,000);(3) Cdr. John Leigh Beckford (1791-1858), baptised at St Marylebone, 25 July 1791; entered Royal Navy in 1803 (Lt., 1810; Cdr., 1821; retired on half pay, 1821); married, 6 November 1829 at Northwood (IoW), Harriet (1803-86), fourth daughter of George Ward of Northwood House (IoW); died 28 October 1858; will proved 17 November 1858 (effects under £12,000);(4) Carlton Beckford (1793-1829), born 15 January and baptised at St Marylebone (Middx), 2 March 1793; died unmarried and was buried at Nursling (Hants), 14 March 1829;(5) Anne Harriet Beckford (1795-1878); married, 29 August 1816 at St George, Hanover Sq., Westminster, her cousin, Andrew Arcedeckne MP (1780-1849) of Glevering Hall (Suffk), son of Chalenor Arcedeckne, and had issue one son and one daughter; died at her house in Grosvenor Square, Westminster, 27 March 1878; her will was proved 2 May 1878 (estate under £7000);(6) Rev. Charles Douglas Beckford (1798-1884), baptised 2 March 1798; educated at Brasenose College (matriculated 1816; BA 1819); Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, 1821-31 (MA 1823); ordained deacon, 1820 and priest, 1821, but never held a benefice; married, 26 May 1831 at Mitcham (Surrey), his cousin, Charlotte Maria (1795-1889), daughter of John Middleton of Hildersham House (Cambs), and had issue two daughters; lived in London; died 18 July 1884; will proved 9 September 1884 (effects £4,641);(7) Thomas Henry Beckford (1799-1814), born 11 January and baptised at St Marylebone, 19 February 1799; died young, 9 July, and was buried at All Saints, Southampton, 15 July 1814.
He inherited Basing Park and estates in Jamaica from his father, but sold Basing in 1802. He lived subsequently in Southampton (until 1831) and later at Ruxley Lodge, Thames Ditton.
He died at Mitcham (Surrey), 24 February and was buried at All Saints, Southampton, 3 March 1838; his will was proved in the PCC, 15 March 1838. His wife died at Southampton, 19 August 1814.
Burke's Landed Gentry, 1850, vol. 1, pp. 77-78; B. Alexander, England's wealthiest son: William Beckford, 1962; R. Wilson-North & S. Porter, 'Witham, Somerset: From Carthusian Monastery to Country House to Gothic Folly', Architectural History, 1997, pp. 81-98; T. Mowl, William Beckford: composing for Mozart, 1998, esp. ch. 15; J.M. Robinson, James Wyatt, 2011, pp. 233-38; P. Gauci, William Beckford: first Prime Minister of the London Empire, 2013; M. Hill, East Dorset Country Houses, 2013, pp. 304-10; M. Hill, J. Newman & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Dorset, 2018, pp. 336-37; C. Dakers (ed.), Fonthill Recovered: a Cultural History, 2018.
Location of archives
William Thomas Beckford (1760-1844): correspondence, papers and literary manuscripts [Bodleian Library, Oxford MSS Beckford]; papers [Private Collection]
Coat of arms
Per pale, gules and azure, on a chevron argent between three martlets or, an eagle displayed, sable, within a bordure of the fourth, charged with a double tressure, flory and counterflory, of the first.
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 30 September 2022.