Henry Becher

Henry Becher & Alice Heron

                                                             Arms of Henry Becher & Alice Heron

Henry Becher was born in approximately 1511 in Kent, probably Penshurst. He is said by Burkes to be  the youngest son of John Becher of Roundrowan House, but so far proof of this is lacking. It was normal at this time to send boys away to be apprenticed. They could be as young as seven, especially if the family was poor, but the more normal age was 14. The apprenticeship was normally completed by the age of 21. Henry was sent to London to be apprenticed to William Gressant of the Haberdashers Company. He was admitted to the Freedom of the company on 30th August1532 [He had to be at least 21 for this, giving him an estimated birthdate of 1511]. In 1541 the Subsidy Roll for Walbroke Warde, parish of St Swithins lists Henry Becher, so presumably he lived in that area of London. It may be that some or all of his children were born there.  The Will of his brother William Becher of Winchelsea written on 30th August 1543 describes Henry as living in the Parish of St Swithins, London & he leaves Henry his tenement at Speldhurst, County Kent to him. [He also leaves 40/ to a maiden called Alice, dwelling with a physician at Lumberd St or thereabouts! Presumably that was sufficient description in the 1540's.]]On the 15th January 1559 Henry Becher, Citizen and Haberdassher [sic] of the Parish of St Christopher of London alias Merchant alias merchant Venturer alias of Redd Crosse in Southweld, Co Essex appears on a long list of Pardons issued by Queen Elizabeth. A fee was paid and it was probably a precautionary measure! The Vestry minutes  for St Christopher Le Stocks on the 25th Feb 1561 detail an arrangement to share the costs of maintaining a "certaine waterfall and course" which flowed between Henry Becher's yard & that of the Church, confirming that this parish is now his place of residence in London, and that his house was apparently directly next door to the church. His rank in the Haberdashers company is not known, but it is likely to have been high [probably a master], as he subsequently became an Alderman of the Broad St Ward, and was a Sheriff of London in 1569-70. Letters in the Loseley collection preserved in the Folger library detail the confinement of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton by Order of Queen Elizabeth at Henry Becher’s own house in London. Concerns about the approach of the plague cause requests for his removal to the country. The plague was in Cornhill and Lombard Streets, which was close to Henry's house. This would most likely have been the property known as "The Worm on The Hoop" since Medieval times. It was owned by Henry Becher from 1548 and situated next door to St Christopher Le Stocks in Broad Street . This house was sold by Henry's son Henry in 1580 to Peter Tryon a Deacon in the Dutch Church.. The house has been known by that very unusual name since before 1384 when it was owned by a lady called Margery De Nerford. "Worm" was the name of a medieval red paint pigment, so it seems likely that the house had some distinctive red paint.

A small section from the Tudor era "Agas" Map dating from 1561. St Christopher-le-Stocks can be seen in the centre as a castle-like tower. Henry Becher's house must be one of the adjoining buildings.

Henry was a Muscovy Merchant, a charter Assistant of the Russia Company and a Consul in 1569. There are accounts of him providing expensive fabrics to the court, including Cloth of Gold.

Records from the London ports show that he imported a variety of goods in the 1560’sincluding woad, madder, Genoan Fustian, Inkles, books, taffeta, cloves,  raisins and thousands and thousands of pins. The Haberdasher’s company had a monopoly on pins, and no Elizabethan woman [or man]  could dress without hundreds of them. They held all the pleats of the ubiquitous ruff in place, fastened the sleeves to the bodice, and the bodice to the skirt. Men had a handy codpiece to store their spares in, as it was thickly padded [contemporary accounts mention using it to store lunch, and advice against stowing live eels in your codpiece!]

Henry supplied fabrics to the Court of Queen Elizabeth I. There are surviving accounts from the year of her coronation for fabrics for her coronation and Revels. These fabrics include "Gowlde and Sylver sendells, Gowlde Sarsanette, Laune, hedpeces and gyrdells"

Henry had many manors and property. He lived in a “mansion house” in London, presumably in the Parish of Christopher-Le-Stocks where he was buried. He was a Merchant Venturer (as were many of his descendants). In his will he left money to the poor of the parishes of St Christopher, St Bartholomew the Less, St Swithin London Stone & St Mildred of Poultry. Henry had originally come from Kent, so he also remembered the poor in Penshurst, Chedington & Lye. As well, he left money for bread for 1 year for the poor in the prisons of Newgate, Ludgate, Marshalsea & King's Bench & the poor in the hospitals of St Bartholomew, Christchurch London & St Thomas Southwark,

An Inquisition Post Mortem was held at the Guildhall on the 18th April 1571 before Rowland Hayward, Knight, Mayor and escheator. His extensive property listed included his capital mansion house [Worm on the Hoop], divers messuage, houses & lands in the Parish of St Christopher & in St Bartholomew the Little, 4 messuage in Friday street in the parish of St. Margaret Moyses, messuage in the parish of St Nicholas Colde Abbey in London, the manor of Frome Egford, Co Somerset, 8 messuages in Mangotfelde in Co Gloucester, messuage called Calcot in the parish of Stuton in Co Wilts, the manor of Sutton Comborowe in Co Devon, the manor Palmers/Pasmere [also called Tylehost] in Croydon, Surrey, manor of Frome Egford, Breane, Huntspill Marey & Pensforde in Co Somerset  & manors of Bishops Morchard, Carswell & Credye, Rolston & Sutton in Devon, manor of Manby alias Nunbye Soke in Co Lincoln, & 2 messuages in East Greenwhich in Co Kent, messuage Goodales in the parish of Beauchampe Rotinge in Co Essex, manor of Lymister in Co Sussex & Chayem & Weights in Co Surrey. An inventory of Henry's property survives in the Bedfordshire Records Office. Among the listed belongings is a "painted cloth of the story of the prodigall child containing 32 yards", as well as a painting of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I [no doubt to be found in most wealthy households!]. Apparently one chamber is described as "my father's chamber", although it is difficult to be sure if this refers to Henry Becher senior or his father [as it depends who wrote the description]. A platetr with the engraved initials J.B. may have belonged to Henry's father, reputedly named John.

He married Alice Heron of Edgecombe, Croydon, Surrey, who was born in about 1520 the daughter of Thomas Heron and Elizabeth Bond. No record has been found for their marriage but it took place before 1544 as Thomas Heron refers to "Harry Becher" as his son in law in his will of that date. Henry and Alice had at least ten children of whom a remarkable 9 survived. Alice was buried at St Christopher-le-Stocks on the 31st March 1562, and Henry married again to Jane [nee Gittons], the widow of Oliver Lovibond of London on the 16th May 1566 [although the register fails to record her name!]. Jane remarried on the 9th August 1571 at St John at Hampstead, London to Sir Richard Pipe,a draper and Alderman of London soon after Henry's death. Pipe  had property in Wallingwells, Nottingham & it is here that Jane died in 1588. She lists several of her Becher stepchildren in her will;  Elizabeth Kelk [nee Becher], Henry & Edward.

Henry died “in his Mansion House” in London on 15th January 1570/71 and was buried with Alice at Christopher-Le-Stocks. This church was demolished by the Bank of Engalnd, and the burials re-interred at Nunhead Cemetery in 1867.. I do not know the whereabouts of his tombstone, but it reputedly read “Here lie the bodies of Henry Becher, Alderman and late Sheriff of London and of Alice his 1st wife, one of the daughters of Thomas Heron of Edgecombe in the county of Surrey, Esquire by whom he had ten children, after whose decease he married with Jane the widow of Oliver Lovibond of London with whom he lived for three years and died on the 15th day of January Anno Dom. 1570/71”. The vestry minutes of St Christopher Le Stocks for the 25th Feb 1571 state "It is agreed that Mr. Becher w'th the assent of Mr P'son and the churchewardens may set up a tomb ffor his father where he and they think yt meete for the same to stand in ye church". Among those present at the meeting were Mr Henry Becher [son] and Clement Kelk [son-in-law].

Henry Becher lived through an era of great change in England; 4 monarchs ruled; Henry VIII 1509-47, Edward VI 1547-53, Mary I 1553-58, Elizabeth I 1558-1603, with the break from the Catholic Church, Dissolution of the Monasteries, Divorce and beheading of Queens, the attempted return to Catholicism under Mary before a more tolerant approach under Elizabeth. The keeping of parish registers was begun by order of Thomas Cromwell on the 5th September 1538, although many churches did not comply. The order was re-issued in 1547 and by 1598 records were to be kept in books of good parchment and regular copies sent to the Bishop. He and his family also survived outbreaks of plague and the sweating sickness.

St Christopher Le Stocks in 1773, with the bank of England occupying the likely site of Henry Becher's house. St Christopher-le-Stocks was partially destroyed in the Great Fire of London & was rebuilt by Christopher Wren. The tower probably looked more like that of St Bartholomew's on the right in Henry Becher's time.

John Becher of Penshurst, Kent [reputed father of Henry Becher. No proof that I have seen & it is worth noting that none of Henry's sons were named John. On the other hand none were named Thomas after his father-in-law or Alice after his wife...]

Wife unknown, had issue including,

1. James Becher of Penshurst
d. 1567 buried 1.12.1567 [source Ffolliott]
Married Elizabeth and had issue; Richard, John, James, Edward & Henry

2. Edmund Becher

3. Richard Becher of Shorne, Kent
d.. 1563, buried 25.5.1563 at Shorne, Kent [source Ffolliott]
married and had issue; Rev James Becher born in 1546 & died in 1590, buried 6th July 1590 at Chadwell, Essex & married a Martha & Henry.

4. William Becher of Winchelsea
d. 1543, unmarried [source Ffolliott]. Will dated 30 Aug 1543 & proved 17 March 1543/4. He was of the Parish of St Thomas the Apostle, Winchelsea & asked to be buried there.

5. Joan Becher of Shoreham, Kent
d. before 1569
married John Campe, Baker
Had issue, mentioned but not named in the will of her brother Henry Becher

6. Henry Becher
b. Abt 1511, probably Kent.
d. 15th January 1570/71 London, England.
He married before 1544 to Alice Heron [ who was born about1520 at Croydon, Surrey & died March 1562, the daughter of Thomas Heron and Elizabeth Bond [herself the daughter of William Bond and Agnes Alphew]]
They had issue;
        1. Elizabeth Becher
b. 1540
        d. September 1612 and buried on the 10th September at St James, Finchampstead, Berkshire, England. Her will was proved at Berkshire in 1612. In her will she lists a number of Goddaughters, various servants, her sister Margaret D'abridgecourt, sister-in-law Susan Becher and Susan's son, her brother William Becher [who owes her 430 pounds], William's wife [Judith] & their daughter Elizabeth. The Executrix of her will is Olive Salmon [wife of John Salmon and the second youngest daughter of William Becher and Judith Quarles]

She married [1] Clement Kelke on the 6th October 1560 at St Christopher-Le-Stocks, London. Clement was a Haberdasher & Merchant Venturer. He was born in Bristol in 1523, the son of William Kelke & died 24th September 1593. He was buried at St Michaels, Maidenhead, Berkshire, where he has an MI & a Brass.

                    [ 2] Thomas Harrison on 7th January 1594 at St Helen, Bishopgate, London. Thomas was a Surveyor of the Staple for Queen Elizabeth I & he died 25 Feb 1601/2 and was buried at St James, Finchampstead, Berkshire, England. Elizabeth had no known children.

2. Henry Becher
b. 1542
d. May 1608 at Fotheringhay, England, buried 1st June 1608 at Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire.

He married on the 14th May 1571 at St Mary Woolchurch Haw, London to Judith Riche [b. 1547, The daughter of  John Riche [who died in 1593], said by Burkes to be Apothecary to Queen Elizabeth but I am yet to find any comtemporary evidence of this. Judging from the property he rented in the vicinity of St Mary Woolchuch he was a Citizen & Grocer of London] & Anne Kelke [who was buried at St Mary Woolchurch Haw 2nd Nov 1579]. Judith died in October 1615 & is buried at Fotheringhay.] Henry & Judith had 8 known children [Jane, Sir William, Edward, Elizabeth, Francis, George, Ursula & Dorothy] . Henry was a Haberdasher like his father. Henry is mentioned in the minutes of the vestry meetings at St Christopher Le Stocks between 1571 and 1591.

3. Edward Becher
b. 1544
d. after 1603 but by 1607.

He married on 5th October 1580 Frances Brooke, The daughter of William Brooke [Lord Cobham] and Dorothy Neville. Frances was born in 1549 [she has a younger sister born in 1561 also called Frances, with whom she is often confused] She had previously been married to Thomas Coppinger  in 1566[with whom she had two sons] & they had issue; Carew Becher, Francis Becher [born before 1586 as they are listed in Holinshed of that date] and Edward Becher. Carew Becher was buried at Strathfield Say, Hampshire 20th October 1597. Edward Becher wrote a letter on the 19th April 1603 to Sir Robert Cecil, asking him to take the bearer, Edward's son into his service. Unfortunately the Christian name of the son wasn't given.
Edward seems to have died by 1607 as letters of Administration for an Edward Becher of Finchampstead, Berkshire were granted to Francis Becher that year. Perhaps Edward had been living with his widowed sister Elizabeth.

4. Fane/Phane Becher
d. abt 28th September 1592 in London. His brief will was written of the Parish of St Olave, Silver St, London and dated 26th September 1592 [He was presumably dying at the time]. He was buried at St Olave Silver Street on the 29th September 1592.

He married on the 12 th May 1572 at The Parish Church Strathfieldsaye, Hampshire to Susan D'abridgecourt. She was born in 1549, the daughter of George D'abridgecourt and Isabella Norton. They had 10 issue. [Some records say they married at Hartley Wespall, but I have checked both registers and it was Strathfieldsaye]. Susan's death has not been found, although she was alive when Fane Becher wrote his will and is noted as declining to be the executrix when his will was probabted.

5. William Becher
b. 1548
d. October 1631 & was buried 21 October 1631 at St Martin in The Fields, London. The register calls him a Gentleman.

He married on 14th April 1578 at St Mary, Islington, Middlesex to Judith Quarles. She was born about 1561, the daughter of John Quarles and Dorothy Darrell. Judith died in April 1630 & was buried on the 16th April 1630 at St Martin in The Fields, London They had issue; Sir William Becher, Clerk of the Privy Council & Ambassador for the King , Elizabeth [still living unmarried in 1612], Judith, Mary, John, Margaret, Olive who married before 1612 to John Salmon & in 1631Austin Yardley, Alice who married Sir Francis Knollys on 14 June 1632 & after his death in 1640, married again to Sir Henry Hunkes, the Governor of Barbados.

6. Mary Becher
b. 1549
d. 19 September 1600 and is buried at St Nicholas, Chiswick.

She married on the 4th September 1569 at at St Christopher-Le-Stocks Chidiock Wardour and they had issue; Sir Edward Wardour/Warder, Joan, Elizabeth [married Sir Stephen Lesieur] & Ursula. Chidiock died on the 14th September 1611and is also buried at St Nicholas, Chiswick,London  as is their daughter Elizabeth.

7. Bartholomew Becher
b. 1550
d. after 1589, as he was called to the bar in that year.

Bartholomew is the least known son of Henry Becher. He matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1572 & was admitted to the Middle Temple on 12 June 1573. He was called to the bar on 17 Oct 1589. He  married the daughter of Mr Miller. A land deed at the Surrey records office for 1580 names her as Alice. A pedigree say he died in 1591 in Ireland, but gives no source. He had no known children, although he is sometimes said to have 5 sons, but I think this is a misreading of old pedigrees that call him 5th son.

8. Margaret Becher
b. 1551
d. 29th October 1621 & was buried on 30th October 1621 at Strathfieldsaye, Hampshire.

She married on the 23rd July 1571 at the Parish Church Strathfieldsaye Sir Thomas D'abridgecourt [He was born in 1545, the son of George D'abridgecourt and the brother of Susan who married Fane Becher. Thomas died on the 3rd November 1614. ] They had at least 5 children.

9. Mabell Becher
b. 1553
d. after 1594

Married on the 3rd February 1575 at East Tisted, Hampshire to Sir Richard Norton, Bt of Rotherfield and had at least 5 issue. He died in 1610/11.

10. Dorothy Becher
b. 1555
d. buried on 6th March 1557/8 at St Christopher Le Stocks, London. Her nurse Bradley is mentioned in Henry's will.



William Brooke, Lord Cobham in 1567 with his family. He was Edward Becher's father-in-law

This is a picture of William Brooke, Lord Cobham with his second wife and children in 1567. He was Edward Becher's Father-in-Law. Click on the picture for a larger image.

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