Commander John Becher was the tenth known child of the Rev Henry
Becher and Mary Matthews and the only one to have children of his own. He was
the third son to be named John.
He was born in Bristol in 1737 & Baptised at St Stephens on 27th July 1737. He became a Bristol Burgess on the 9th of March 1764, by right of his father, Henry Becher, clerk. John Becher was described as a Gentleman.
He and his brother Michael both made their careers in the navy. John's first known voyage was on the "Fowey" with Captain Mackenzie as an able seaman to the West Indies in 1752. He was promoted to midshipman on 16 May 1753. John was whipped for a misdemeanour that he claimed to have no part in & asked Admiral Smith for a discharge, which he received.
John Becher's signature when he was about 15, from a letter written to his patron Admiral Thomas Smith.
His elder brother Michael arranged for his younger brother "Jack" to sail with him on "Jason" in 1754 when he was made Lieutenant. He wished to be able to keep the affectionate eye of an elder brother on his sibling. Sadly, Captain Michael Becher died on the 26th Decenber 1760 off the coast of Africa.
John married on the 26th September 1761at Hagley, near Stourbridge, to Ann Haysham. Ann was the daughter of Thomas Haysham & Ann Attwick. The Attwick family supplies iron-mongery to the Navy at Portsmouth.
John was appointed as a Lieutenant on the 21st Jan 1757 & became a Commander on the 1st Feb 1778. He served on the St Albans off New York, The Eagle, the Arial, the Camilla & the Nautilus between 1777-9. The ship's muster books reveal that he had seven year old Alexander Becher and five year old Robert Becher with him as servants [apparently a way to increase pay....I can't help but wonder how his wife felt about this!]
Back on dry land, the family lives in Shutt End house at Kingswinford, Staffordshire until John's death on the 7th of November 1783 after an accident on about 5th November at the mill at Stourton during an iron rolling demonstration. After John's death his widow moves to Fareham, living there until 1820, when the family moved to Gosport. She was buried at Fareham on the 28th June 1825 aged 88.
Ann [Haysham] & John Becher from sketches that Thackeray made from
portraits of his Great Grandparents.
A letter written by Thackeray's daughter Annie mentions ancestral portraits hanging in the house at Fareham, among them a Joshua Reynolds. In her introduction to Thackeray's "The Newcomes" Annie identifies the portrait as one of Ann [Haysham] Becher. The portrait was left to her eldest nephew Admiral Alexander Becher. The sketch above is most likely of the painting.
John and Ann Becher had seven children;
1. Rev Michael Thomas Becher
b. Born 1762-4, baptised 24th May 1764 at St Augustine The Less, Bristol [with brother John Harman]
d. 3rd June 1809 at Bury, Suffolk "in his 45th year" [The Derby Mercury 22 June 1809]. Buried at St James, Bury where there is a memorial to him & another in the Church at Ickworth.
Michael Thomas was probably named after his Father's brother Michael Becher [and maybe his Uncle too] & Thomas for Ann's father or maybe even his Great Great Grandfather Thomas Becher.
He attended Eton school, winning a medal in sixth form. He was admitted as a scholar at King's College, Cambridge on the 11th Nov 1781 aged 17, winning the Browne medal in 1782, BA in 1786, MA in 1789. He was an assistant at Harrow school until he was chosen in late 1787 to be the Head Master of the Grammar School at Bury St Edmonds. He was in that position until his death on the 19th June 1809. In 1805 he also became the Rector of Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire.
He married on the 7th of August 1806 at Wooten Wawen, Warwick to Jane Margaret Scott nee Comyn. She was seventeen years older that Michael, born on the 4th of July 1747 at Rotherhithe. She was previously married to Lieutenant Robert Somerville Scott on the 24th November 1764 until he died on 25th December 1770 in Dominica of a tropical disease, leaving Jane with a son, John Alexander Scott born in 1768 and two daughters. So when she married the Rev Michael Becher, she had been a widow for 36 years. Jane died only two years later on the 18th of November 1808, followed by Michael on the 19th June 1809. He left his Estate to three spinster sisters apparently living in his house, Sophia Stanley, Sarah Frances Stanley & Charlotte Stanley. Their connection to the family is not clear, but apparently Jane was a housekeeper to a Stanley family before she married Rev Michael Thomas Becher.
Michael Thomas Becher's Bookplate
Thanks to Tony Pincott
2. John Harman Becher
b. 24 March 1764 [according to his will] and baptised on the 24th May 1764 at St Augustine The Less, Bristol [with brother Michael Thomas]
d. Buried on the 6th October 1800 in Calcutta, India.
John Harman Becher was of course named for his father John & probably for his Grandfather, John Becher, Mayor of Bristol. I have not yet found out who the Harman was in honour of.
The two boys would seem to be twins, although they were not, as far as I know, referred to as such. As they were both apparently born in 1764, before May, there seems to be no-other conclusion! In his will, John refers to Michael as his "eldest" brother, but that to me doesn't imply that he was older than John, only that he was the eldest of John's four brothers! John may in fact be the eldest, as he seems to have been given the family Shakespeare from their father, leaving it to Michael Thomas in his turn. However, John Marshall in his "Royal Naval Biography" published in 1825 in his chapter on Alexander Becher, calls Michael Thomas the eldest brother.
John Harman Becher as a Boy. Picture from Gordon N Rays biography of Thackeray. He looks a serious and rather pretty young man, holding a book studiously in his lace cuffed left hand & wearing a coat with ornamental buttons and a lace cravat. His Great Granddaughter Annie [Thackeray] Ritchie adds that the painting was most likely by Coates & that the coat was red. The painting was left to his daughter Anne, then to her only son William Thackeray. Annie Ritchie writes that it hung in her parlour & that she was very fond of it! I hope the painting is still safe with the Ritchie family & would one day love to see a colour photograph! [or better still the original]
He went on to begin a very promising career with the East India Company, being appointed on the 12th November 1779 & rising to the rank of Collector of the 24 Pergunnahs in 1795, a position he held for several years & which commanded a salary of several thousand pounds. Unfortunately, he died aged only 36 at Calcutta in October 1800. His most enduring Legacy is being the Grandfather of the famous author William Makepeace Thackeray.
3. Henry Hopson Becher
b. 31 March 1765 at Kidderminster, Worcester, baptised on the 11th April at the local Parish Church.
d. After 1784, apparently at sea, near Africa.
Henry was in the Caribbean in 1782, transferring onto the Alfred. A Becher Chancery case in 1811 about Commander John Becher's will mentions that his fare of £200 to the East Indies was paid from the Estate in 1784. It is stated that he died "several years previously" [to 1811] intestate, unmarried and without issue.
4. Anna Maria Becher
b. 14 January 1767 at Shutt End House, Staffordshire & Baptised at Kingswinford, Staffordshire
d. 1848 at Fareham, Hants. Her will was proved 12 July 1849.
Thackeray describes "Aunt Becher" as the mother of his mother's [Anne Becher] youth. By his descriptions, it appears that His grandmother Ann was rather stern &
5. Elizabeth Cort Becher
b. 22 August 1768, Baptised 26 August 1768 at Kingswinford, Staffordshire
d. 1841 in London.
Elizabeth was left £200 by Frederick Cort, in gratitude to her deceased brother Rev Michael Thomas Becher. It is not known what he was grateful for! She married on the 9th November 1792 at St George's Hanover Square to The Rev John Turner. They had issue.
6. Captain Alexander Becher
b. 6 April 1770 & Baptised 17 April 1770 at Kingswinford, Staffordshire
d. 10 October 1827
He married in May 1793 at Port Royal, Jamaica to Frances Scott daughter of Rev John Scott. Frances died on the 23rd August 1859 at Turnham Green.
Alexander & Frances had at least 7 & probably 8 children; Admiral Alexander Bridport Becher 1796 [Married Ann Harriet Thorne in 1824], Frances Mary Sophia Becher 1798 [Married Thomas Townsend in 1823] , Elizabeth Emma Maria Becher 1801 [married Captain Adam Alexander Wood in 1819], Ann Becher in 1803 [married Charles Wedekind Nepean in 1818], Mary Becher in 1804 [Apparently married a Mr Gill], Frances Julia Percy Becher in 1806 [married Robert Heriot Whitelocke in 1825], Gambier Charles Becher in 1809 [married Louisa Seller in 1834] & Probably Sarah Cranfield Becher in 1811.
Alexander's naval career got off to a very early start, as he is listed in the logbooks of various ships from 1777 as his father's servant when he was aged only 7!
7. Robert Charles Becher
b. 7 March 1772 at Shutt End House & Baptised 23 October at Kingswinford, Staffordshire.
d. He was buried on the 5th June 1792 at Fareham, Hampshire aged only 20.
Little is known of Robert. Like Alexander, he is listed in logbooks aged only 5 as his father's servant, yet the 1811 Becher V Becher Chancery case refers to him as "a cripple". It may be that he was injured in an accident.
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