Michael Henry Becher and Philippa Jennings

Michael Henry Becher and Philippa Jennings

Michael was born on Monday 2nd March 1819 at Patrick St, Cork. He was Christened 26th of March 1819 at ChristChurch, Cork. He was the eldest son of Rev Michael Henry Becher and Susan Vowell.
He lived at Clyda House, near Mallow, where his father was the Rector at Kilshannig, with his his brothers John Thomas, Richard Savage French Fane and sister Anne Catherine. 

Rev Michael Henry Becher

According to “Irish Families in Australia” By Coffey and Morgan pub 1983, he had a private tutor in Bath when he was 16. The entry added that he graduated from Cambridge University with Mathematical Honours. Their source was manuscript 173, Becher family History 1700-1831 at the General Office in Dublin. 

He was admitted pens. At St John’s College, Cambridge on 6.7.1837. His address was given as 11 Merrick Square, Southwark, London, SE. He matriculated Michs 1839. He migrated to Jesus College 10.4.1840 and obtained his BA 1843.  

He was ordained a Deacon by the Bishop of Cork on 5th May 1844, and was ordained a priest by the Bishop of Killaloe the same year.  

In 1841 Census he was in Southwell, staying at Hill House, the home of his well known Uncle, John Thomas Becher. He became the Rector at nearby Barnoldby-Le-Beck in 1846, presumably with the support of his Uncle (until he died in 1848). His mother Susan [Vowell] Becher and two of her sisters Ann & Catharine seem to have lived there with him at least some of the time. Susan died at the Rectory of Barnoldby-Le-Beck on the 27th December 1853, followed by both her remaining sisters in January 1854. He remained the Rector there until 1861, although he had a lengthy break while he was in Australia in 1854/6. The rectory is a beautiful elegant building with spacious grounds situated very close to St Helens. I was very excited when a member of one of my mailing lists very kindly offered to visit Barnoldby-Le-Beck & see if the Rectory and grave yard still existed. She & her husband had a very fortunate visit, as the church was unlocked for a rare wedding & the minister present to let them in. The marriage register with the Rev Michaels signature was even out, ready for use!

The Rectory at Barnoldby-Le-Beck kindly photographed for me in 2007 by Pat Cook.

The Rectory & St Helens at Barnoldby-Le-Beck, photographed in 2007 by Pat Cook.

The front of the Rectory at Barnoldby-Le-Beck, photographed by Pat Cook 2007

Extracted from "Whites 1856 Lincolnshire" Cleethorpes library Feb 1995
1208 Acres, Population 269 BRADLEY HAVERSTOE WAPENTAKE

Barnoldby-le Beck is a pleasant village and parish, 5 miles S.S.W. of
Grimsby, containing 269 souls and 1208 acres Wm. Phillipson Esq., is
Lord of the Manor, but most of the soil belongs to F.Iles Esq.,
R.Nainby, Esq., C.Hewson, Misses Swan and a few smaller owners. The
Church (St.Helen) is a neat fabric, with a tower and three bells and
was newly roofed in 1839. The rectory valued in K.B. at ś14.3.4d., and
now at ś250, is in the patronage of  the Chapter of Southwell
Collegiate Church, and incumbency of the Rev. M.H.Becher M.A., who has a
good rectory house.

The Church at Barnoldby-Le-Beck

He left Liverpool in October 1854 to come to Australia for the British and Foreign Bible Society. Fortunately his letters and Journal from this trip are held by Cambridge University in their Manuscripts Collection.
The Bible presented to Rev M H Becher for his deputation to Australia. Now in possession of Geoff Becher, Australia. Photos by Geoff Becher

 He travelled to Australia on the Maiden voyage of the super Clipper “Champion of the Seas”, arriving after a journey of 73 ˝ days (His figure, the official version says 75). His journal details his journey around Australia by horseback or horse and gig, giving a fascinating view of daily life in Australia at this early date. He didn’t return to England until November 1856, arriving with his new wife Philippa Jennings who was expecting their first baby & her sister Blanche [who returned to Australia in 1857]. Sadly the baby, John Thomas Becher was born prematurely on 28th November 1856 at Euston Place London, and died the following day. 

Philippa Catherine (nee Jennings) Becher

Rev Michael Becher married Philippa Catherine Jennings at the School House, St Kilda, Melbourne on April 9th 1856.  She was born on 21st August 1835 in Launceston, Tasmania, the 3rd daughter of Henry Jennings and Alicia Legge. They returned together to London, and then back to Michael's church at Barnoldby Le Beck, St Helens, where they lived at the Parsonage [Rectory]. Their second son Robert was born there on the 21st November 1857, and sadly died there on 9th April 1859. His death was reported in the Gentleman's Magazine. Their third and fourth sons, Henry Valentine & Albert Rowland were also born at Barnoldby-Le-Beck, with Henry dying on the "Queen of the Mersey" on the way back to Australia on the 20th April, 1861, and Albert dying aged six and a half in 1867 at the Parsonage in Melbourne. Sadly, none of their four English born sons were to survive.

St James Cathedral, with the Parsonage visible on the right.

St James and the Vicarage/Parsonage (between the church & the tree)

The family was returning to Australia because Rev Michael Becher was to become the Rector of St James Cathedral in Melbourne, a position he held from 1861 to 1883 when he died of Tuberculosis. Like his father before him, there is a memorial tablet erected by his parishioners in the church.
After his death Philippa moves with her family to 14 Surrey Rd, South Yarra. By 1891 she is living at 9 Kensington Rd, South Yarra. She died on 27th October 1905 at " Fernleigh", York Street, Sale, where she had been living with her married daughter Blanch Maria Irving.
Philippa Becher was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery on the 28th October after a funeral service at St James.
Michael and Philippa Becher had 16 children.

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