John Becher of Bristol

John Becher of Co Cork, then Bristol

John Becher was the seventh son of Thomas Becher and Elizabeth Turner, both originally of Bandon. John's birth is recorded as 1st September 1677, most probably at "Achadoon" which is the recorded birthplace for most of his older siblings shown in the Dublin Alumni list. I presume this is Aughadown, or perhaps "Affadown" the name of the Becher house outside Skibbereen in County Cork, Ireland.

John Becher, Mayor of Bristol [From R. Becher]          John Becher painted by L.Vaslet of Bath in 1790
                                                                                            Presumably copied from another painting or sketch as John Becher died in 1743.
                                                                                            Thanks to Andrew Wallis.

John Becher's funeral Hatchment from St Mark's Chapel, Bristol. The left
side of azure & gold a fess nebuly & three estoiles is presumably the arms of his wife Mary Cranfield. Photo by D. Lidbury [thank you]

War broke out in Ireland, and Thomas Becher left County Cork with his wife and seven children. He declared an income of
897, so the family was very wealthy. I do not yet know for sure how long the family spent in Bristol, but it may have been as long as 5 years. Thomas is recorded as returning to Ireland with King William in 1690, to fight by his side in the battle of the Boyne. John's older brothers all attended Trinity College, Dublin, but presumably the war disrupted this pattern. Instead John was apprenticed to John Duddlestone, a bodice maker and merchant. I had presumed that John as a young boy of 13 or 14 had travelled all the way to a strange and unfamiliar place to begin his apprenticeship, but it seems that he was most likely living in Bristol already!

He must have impressed his master, not to mention his daughter, as there is a marriage bond dated 16th October 1695, for John Becher and Hester Duddlestone. The marriage was to take place at St Werburgh, Bristol. Hester was christened on the 27th June 1674 at All Saints, Bristol. She was the daughter of John Duddlestone [knighted in 1691/2] and Susannah Lewes [or Lewis]. John was made a Bristol Burgess in 1697 by right of his apprenticeship.

Sadly Hester died in 1704/5, shortly after childbirth. She had eight children, 4 of who predeceased her. They are all buried together at All Saints Bristol, where there is a memorial tablet in their memory. It is a rounded shield shape, with two cherubs at the top, and one at the bottom. The wording is " To the Dear Memory of Hester the wife of John Becher of this Citty. Mercht. and Daughter of Sr. John Duddlestone, Barrtt. whose remaines be inter'd under this place & who departed this life ye 10th day of January 1704. Aged 28 yeares. Allsoe 4 of her children".

Photo from Liz [many thanks!]

I haven't yet found any information about John Becher's activities during his marriage to Hester

John Becher and Hester Duddlestone had eight children, four of whom survived.

1. Thomas
b. Christened 6 February 1696-97
d. February 1697-98, buried at All Saints Bristol 23 February 1697-98
2. Elizabeth Becher
b. Christened 10 March 1697-98
d. ? Before 1742 as not mentioned in her father's will.
Married in 1723 at Bristol [Boyde's marriage Index] to Robert Travers, a merchant of Cork City. Robert Travers was still alive in 1746 [Land deeds connected to John Becher's will]
Had issue Hester Travers who is mentioned in Grandfather John Becher's will.
3. Thomas Becher
b. Christened 12.3.1698-99
d. buried 15 April 1699 at All Saints, Bristol
4. John Becher
b. Christened 6.4.1700 at St Michaels, Bristol
d. 29 March 1737at his house at Aughadown in County Cork, Ireland.
John became a Bristol Burgess on the 10th of September 1725 as a Gentleman.
Married 19.8.1727 Mary Townsend. She was born in 1710, the daughter of Rev. Philip Townsend of Christchurch, Cork, & Helena Galwey [ sometimes Galway. ] Mary married again in 1739 to Colonel Luke Mercer.
They had 5 Issue
5. Susanna Becher
b. 13 March 1700-01
Christened 25 March 1700-01
d. July 1701, Buried at All Saints 7 July 1701
6. Rev Henry Becher
b. 26 April 1702
Christened 27 April 1702 at St Michaels, Bristol
d. 7  December 1743, buried in the Chancel at St Stephens, Bristol.
Henry became a Bristol Burgess on the 6th May 1731.
He married on 22 August 1725 at St James, Dukes Place London Mary Matthews of Oxford.
They had 10 children, although only three lived past infancy and only two married. Their granddaughter Anne Becher was the mother of the famous author William Makepeace Thackeray.
Rev Henry Becher
was the Chaplain to The Lord Mayor of London Edward Becher in 1727/8. He preached in St Paul's Cathedral in London & was given the Church of St James Dukes Place, followed by St Stephens, Bristol & Temple [Holy Cross] Bristol. In November 1728 The Prince of Wales visited Bristol & The Rev Henry Becher was chosen to say Grace at the official dinner. The Prince responded by appointing Henry one of his Chaplains.
7. William Becher
b. 16 August 1703
Christened 27 August 1703 at St Michael, Bristol
d. September 1703. Buried 18 September 1703 at All Saints, Bristol
8. Michael Becher
b. Jan 1704
Christened 9 Jan 1704/1705 at St Michaels, Bristol
d. Dec 1758, Buried in The Gaunts Chapel, December 21, 1758. [Recorded in St Augustine The Less Register] In his will he requested to be buried with his father in his vault in the Lord Mayors Chapel [Aka Gaunts Chapel & St Marks.]
Michael became a Bristol Burgess on the 13th October 1727.
Michael donated to the city library in Kings St a beautiful Grinling Gibbons overmantle in 1739. It can be seen in the Bristol room and is said to be the equal of any in Hampton Palace. He was master of the Merchant Venturers in 1739-40 and had been a warden in 1736. He was a sheriff of Bristol in 1739. A portrait of a young man is framed by this chimney piece and is presumed to be Michael Becher, but that identification is not proven.

Painting presumed to be of Michael Becher. Painting is at the Bristol Reference Library.

Thomas Becher died on the 10th October 1709, leaving his Creagh Estate to John & he in turn would give them to his eldest surviving John as part of his marriage settlement . John Becher then married by 1710/1711 Mary Cranfield. I have not yet found this marriage, but the license was dated 26th October 1710 & stated that Mary Cranfield was of Bath & that the marriage would take place at Bitton. Unfortunately, the parish register at Bitton has a gap for this period, so it is not possible to be sure whether or not the marriage took place there [however it must have taken place late 1710].  In 1713 he was a Sheriff of Bristol. John died "of a lingering illness" at his seat near Stapleton, Bristol on the 9th July 1743. He was buried in his vault in St Marks/ The Lord Mayors Chapel, College Green, Bristol.
John Becher and Mary Cranfield had seven known children

1. Edward Becher
b. 18 September 1711 & baptised 1st October 1711 at St Stephens, Bristol
d. Buried 18th October 1747 Kingston, Jamaica
Edward was apprenticed to his father John Becher in Bristol on the 10th April 1727.
Married in 1736 to Hannah Sharpe in Jamaica.
They had nine children, born in Kingston, Jamaica [Mary 7 April 1737, she married General George Morrison 18 October 1756 at Bengeworth, Worcester , Eleanor 30 May 1738, John 15 September 1739 & buried 21 September 1739,Ann 11 September 1741, she married Peter Brown on 4th June 1771 at St Margaret's, Westminster, Middlesex, Edward 31March 1743, Bassilia 16 May 1744, Hannah 20 May 1745 & buried 11 August 1745, Michael 17 September 1747 & buried on 20th September 1747 & Catherine although no baptism could be found. It is difficult to work out where to slot her in. Catherine's headstone describes her as the youngest daughter of Edward Becher. Edward died just a month after Michael's birth and Hannah later married William Jenkyns (Jenkins) on the 13th May 1756 at St James, Westminster, London.
2. Cranfield Becher
b. 13 June 1713 in Bristol & baptised 6 July 1713 at St Stephens, Bristol.
d. 10th May 1799 & was buried in the Vault in the Lord Mayors Chapel with his father.
Cranfield was apprenticed to his father John Becher in Bristol on 2nd October 1729. He became a Bristol Burgess on the 22nd October 1736.
Married on 5th Jan 1741 Bridget Swymmer. She was born on 25th Jan 1719, the daughter of  Henry Swymmer and Ann Holworthy. Bridget died 21st March 1820 at College Green Bristol in her 102nd Year! She was also buried in the Lord Mayors Chapel in Bristol on 28th March 1820. They had no issue.
Cranfield was Master of the Merchant Venturers in 1756. In 1766 he was a warden. The 1794 Matthews Directory of Bristol lists Cranfield as living at 12 College Green, Bristol.

Cranfield Becher [From R. Becher]          Bridget [Swymmer] Becher [From R. Becher]

3. George Becher
b. 26 June 1715, baptised 11 Jul 1715 at St Stephens Bristol.
d. 1754, buried 29th April 1754 in the Gaunt's chapel, in the register of St Augustine the Less.
He was apprenticed to his father John Becher on 3rd April 1732 and became a Bristol Burgess on the 19th of September 1739. George was admitted to the Merchant Venturers in 1736 and was a warden in 1747.
Married [1] Elizabeth Williams, daughter of John Williams, Mariner on 10 Feb 1742 at Temple, Bristol. George's elder brother Henry was Minister at Temple.
They had only one daughter Mary Cranfield Becher baptised at St Augustine The Less on 28th May 1744. I have not found Elizabeth's death, but it must have been between 1744 & 1751.
Married [2] Ann Gibb on 8th October 1751 at Bedminster.
They also had a daughter baptised Mary Cranfield Becher on 3rd August 1753 at St Augustine the Less.
She married her cousin  Thomas Hungerford  20 May 1777 at St Augustine The Less Bristol. They had eight issue.
George's wife Ann Becher is presumably one of two Ann Bechers buried at St Augustine The Less; either on 14th October 1762 or 16 March 1766. The identity of the other Ann Becher is a mystery.
4. Mary Cranfield Becher
b. 6 Dec 1716, baptised 3 Jan 1716/1717 St Stephens, Bristol
d. about 1750
Mary married Richard Hungerford on the 12 th February 1738 in Dublin, Ireland.. He was the son of Susanna Becher [John Becher's sister] and Thomas Hungerford. They lived at Brade in Co Cork Ireland. Mary either married without the consent of her father, or displeased him in some other way. In contrast to her siblings who were left very generous amounts of money and property by John Becher, Mary was cut of with only 5 shillings as a token of her disobedience! She was the mother of Thomas Hungerford [above] John Becher relented slightly and left her daughter, his granddaughter, yet another Mary Cranfield [Hungerford] a legacy. However, the marriage was announced in the newspapers, where she was described as a lady of the highest Accomplishment and 7000pounds Fortune. I wonder if she received some or all of this money as her marriage portion.
5. William Becher
b. 21 Feb 1717/1718
d. before 1722/23
6. Ann Becher
b. 14 May 1721, baptised 5th June 1721 at St Stephens, Bristol. Married  Charles Porter on 26th March 1747 at Bath Abbey, Bath, Somerset.
d. 3 April 1748 and was buried in the vault with her father in the Mayor's Chapel [St Marks]
7. William Becher
b. 3 Feb 1722/1723
b. 8 Feb 1722/3 at St Augustine The Less, Bristol

Bristol had long been an import trade centre, but up until 1698 was not allowed to trade in slaves. This trade up to this point had been controlled by the Royal African Company. As repugnant as the trade now seems to us, it was at the time considered respectable, and many of Bristol's citizens became wealthy on the proceeds. Trading ventures were often organised by a group of merchants to spread the risk. The Society of Merchant Venturers controlled the trade to ensure the profits were restricted to citizens of Bristol. John was Master of the Merchant Venturers in 1722.

The crest of the Merchant Venturers in the 1600's.

John Becher and his sons Michael, George, Cranfield and Edward were heavily involved in trading and slaving. The family had a plantation in Kingston, Jamaica, where Edward lived with his wife Hannah. He belonged to a company called Ducommen, Becher & Co. They owned or part owned Galleys named Jason, Southwell, Peniel, Excellence & Anson, among others. John and Michael were both agents, co-ordinating voyages. The trade was a triangular one, with goods being taken to Africa to trade for slaves, slaves then taken to the Caribbean etc and finally returning to Bristol loaded up with sugar, rum, tobacco, molasses and cocoa.

The Southwell by Nicholas Pocock

John Becher owned property in Orchard St [Where he seems to have been living in 1734], Queen Square, and with fellow merchant Henry Combe, a row of Terraces in Prince St built in 1726. One of these still survives as the Shakespeare Tavern.

This Tavern is part of a row of Terrace houses built in 1726 for John Becher and Henry Combe in Prince St Bristol.

 In 1721 the Corporation of Bristol had a falling out with Bristol Cathedral. At John Becher's urging they established the Lord Mayor's chapel at St Marks, College Green for their own use. It is also known as Gaunt's chapel. The hatchments of the Lord Mayors are present on the Walls, starting with John Becher, who was Lord Mayor in 1721. He was buried there after his death in 1743, along with his wife, his son's Michael and George & George's wife Ann. These burials are recorded in the Register of St Augustine The Less as it was their Parish Church.
John Becher also had extensive property in Ireland, inherited from his father Thomas Becher. This land was left to his eldest son John Becher. John Becher also became a Freeman of Youghal in 1727.

Mystery Bristol Bechers

A Michael Becher was apprenticed to James Day in Bristol on the 1st July 1732. I was puzzled until apprentice records revealed that he was the son of Edward Becher of Southwell, Notts [a brother of John Becher of Bristol]. He became a Bristol Burgess on the 26th July 1736 as a Merchant. I have not found a death for him.

While pouring over microfilms for the many churches in Bristol that my Ancestors attended, I was surprised to see an unexpected but very familiar name. A mysterious Fane Becher of Bristol. He is probably a cousin of some sort to my John Becher of Bristol.
Fane/Phane/Phayne Becher became a Bristol Burgess in 1723 by right of his marriage to Sarah England, daughter of Philip England, a Cooper, deceased. Sarah was buried on 15th May 1764 at St Nicholas, Bristol & Fane on the 26th June 1774 also at St Nicholas. Fane [Phane] was a Mariner & a Customs Officer. They attended  St Stephens Bristol [where the Rev Henry Becher was Minister] & later St Nicholas Bristol. They had the following known issue;
1. Sarah Becher who married on the 26th June 1740 at Holy Trinity, Stapleton, Bristol, to William Lewis
2. Anne Becher Baptised 13 October 1723 at St Stephens, Bristol. She was buried on the 9th June 1786 at St Nicholas, Cork.
3. Mary Becher was baptised 7 Feb 1724/25 at St Stephens, Bristol. She married 4th March 1754 at St Nicholas, Bristol to James Baker. They had at least one child; James Becher Baker b. 1757 & died 1759.
4. Elizabeth Becher was baptised 26 July 1726 at St Stephens, Bristol. She was buried 20 January 1796 at St Nicholas, Bristol.
5. Edward Harrison Becher was baptised 15th October 1727 at St Stephens, Bristol.
6. Martha Becher was baptised 22 November 1728 at St Stephens, Bristol & buried 10 July 1729 at St Stephens, Bristol
6. Lionel Becher was baptised 1 March 1729/30 at St Stephens, Bristol.
7. Francis Phane Becher was baptised 28 Nov 1731 at St Stephens, Bristol. He was buried 5th Feb 1731/32 at St Stephen, Bristol
8. Susanna Becher was baptised 1 Feb 1732/33 at St Stephens, Bristol.
9. John Becher, no baptism has been found, so it may have been performed privately. He was buried at St Stephens, Bristol on 2 Dec 1734.
10. Phane Becher, no baptism was found, but he was buried on the 1st September 1735 at St Stephen.

A bankruptcy case on the 30 December 1746, a Richard Becher of Castle St, Parish of St Philip in the city of Bristol states that he has lived at that address for ten years. I have no idea who this man could be. On 27 October 1740 Richard Becher Esq and Merchant of Bristol takes on John Page as an apprentice. At St James, Bristol on the 7th Feb 1733/4, Martha Becher aged 20 years old was baptised. Her parents are names as Richard and Mary Becher.

John Becher was buried in 1743 in "The Gaunts Chapel" [at St Marks/Lord Mayor's Chapel] in Bristol in the family vault, along with his daughter Anne Porter 1748, wife Mary [nee Cranfield] 1753, sons George in 1754, Michael in 1758 and Cranfield 1799 and Cranfield's wife Bridget in 1820. However there is another Ann Becher buried there on the 14th October 1762. She must be a member of this family somehow! Unfortunately a notice in the Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette on the 21st October 1762 doesn't help much; " Bristol Oct 19 Saturday last died Mrs Beecher, a maiden Gentlewoman in the Lower Green."


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