Rev Henry Becher and Mary Matthews

Rev Henry Becher and Mary Matthews

Henry Becher was the 6th child of John Becher and Hester Duddlestone & the third to survive. He was born on the 26th of April 1702 in Bristol and baptised the following day at St Michaels, Bristol. He died on the 17th December 1743 at Bristol & was buried alongside a number of his children in the Chancel of Stephens, Bristol, where he was Incumbent.

Henry Attended Merton & St John's College Oxford, where he matriculated in 1718 aged 15. He achieved his BA at St John's College in 1724 & his MA in 1728. In between these two degrees, Henry married Mary Matthews of Oxford on the 22nd August 1725 at St James, Dukes Place, Westminster. I have not been able to find a Baptism or father for Mary, but she does have a brother with the very distinctive name of Peaceable Robert Matthews so I hope to track her family down one day! Peaceable Robert Matthews [or Mathews] was a baker and married on the 19th January 1741 in Bristol to Frances Redwood, daughter of Christopher Redwood, a sailmaker. Peaceable later seems to have been running a guest house & at the time of his death, employed in the Customs House. He was at one point suspected [along with many others ] of murdering Mrs Frances Ruscombe and Mary Sweet in Bristol on 27th  September 1764, based I think solely on the fact that he had delivered bread to their premises in College Green on the fateful day. This crime was never solved and after the death of P R Roberts in August 1775, this allegation was once again circulated, only to be firmly rebutted in a booklet entitled " A Vindication of Peaceable Robert Matthews From the Charge of Mrs. Ruscombe's Murder, lately revived against him" by John Casberd, Vicar of St Augustine, Bristol and printed in 1781.

In 1725 The Rev Henry Becher is serving at St Mary The Virgin, Oxford as a Deacon, & at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford in 1726. His first son, also Henry Becher was baptised at Dorchester Cathedral, Oxford on the 9th August 1727. Also in 1727, Henry was a Curate at St Mary Magdalen, Upper Winchester.

Fortuitously, a Becher relative, Sir Edward Becher was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1727 & was in a position to show Patronage to Henry, calling him "nephew". On the 5th of October 1727, it was reported in The Evening Post that The new Lord Mayor elect had appointed the Rev Henry Becher, son of Alderman John Becher to be his Chaplain. On the 3rd of July 1728 the same paper informs us that Henry is to be given the Donative of St James, Dukes Place. In September 1730 he is also presented with St Stephens in Bristol.

Several pages from a sermon preached by Henry Becher before Sir Edward Becher at St Lawrence Jewry on October 23, 1728.
It seems a well expressed sense of obligation was required to be expressed in pretty strong terms.

On the 19th April 1731 he becomes a Bristol Burgess by the right of his father, Alderman John Becher. On the 21st of November 1738 Henry was asked to say Grace at the dinner held to honour Frederick, The Prince of Wales as he visited Bristol. His Highness asked Henry to become one of his Chaplains. Burke's Irish Family records makes the claim that Henry was a Chaplain to King George II. I cannot find any contemporary evidence to support this claim. George II was however his Patron when he was made the Minister of St Stephens, so there might be some truth to the claim.

Henry Becher was also appointed Rector of Temple at Bristol, instituted on the 6th March 1738-9. He had a dispensation to hold all three of his Churches.

Records at Bristol show Henry & Mary Becher renting in 1841 "2 Messuages & a little garden at Redcliffe Point, in the Parish of St Mary Redcliffe". Mary continues the Lease in her own name in 1752 and probably earlier as Rev Henry Becher died in 1743. Alderman John Becher also died in 1743 & Mary apparently needed to support herself. The following item featured in the Bristol Oracle in 1744.

1744 14 April Bristol Oracle
This is to acquaint the Publick, That Mrs Becher Widow of the Rev Mr Becher, of this City deceased, has taken a convenient house on the College Green; where she intends boarding young Ladies, and having them instructed in Reading, Writing, all forms of Needle Work, and likewise there will be proper Masters both for teaching French and Dancing if required.

N. B. The house is now furnished and ready to receive young Ladies as Boarders or Day Scholars, where all proper care will be taken of their Education, as well as of the other boarders; whom their parents will be pleased to commit to the Management of their Obedient

                                                                  Humble Servant,

                                                                                                  Mary Becher

I do not know if this school was a success or how long it ran for. Mary Matthews was still alive in 1773 when she witnessed the marriage of her daughter Ann to Captain Frampton. According to a Chancery Bill of 1811, a pension was paid to Mary by her son John until she died in 1787. I have not been able to locate her burial [yet].

Henry Becher and his wife Mary Matthews had at least 11 children but many of them died young. Some were probably born before the family returned to Bristol so I hope to locate these baptisms one day. The birth order may be incorrect.

1. Henry Becher
b. about 1727 in Oxford. He was baptised at Dorchester Abbey Church, Oxford on the 9th August 1727
d. about late April 1753. A letter written by Michael Becher on 9th May 1753 to Admiral Thomas Smith refers to the recent melancholy loss of one of the "best of brothers".
Henry is listed first in the will of his Grandfather John Becher, Mayor of Bristol. He attended Eton school & matriculating in 1745/6 & received his BA in 1749.
Michael Becher's will refers to "sister Ann Becher, widow". It seems probable that Ann was in fact the widow of Henry, rather than a sister.
Henry married on the 10th March 1750 at Culham, Oxfordshire, England to Ann Bradgate. She married by licence on the 18 April 1773 at St Augustine The Less to Robert Frampton of St James. The witnesses are  Mary Becher and her brother P R Matthews. Captain Robert Frampton is listed in Sketchley's Bristol Directory of 1775 at 36 Montague St, Bristol. Robert Frampton was buried at St James, Bristol on 26 September 1780, followed by Ann Frampton on 22nd October 1800.
2. Elizabeth Becher
b. Baptised 21st May 1732 at St Stephens, Bristol
d. Buried in the Chancel, St Stephens, Bristol 19th July 1734
3. John Becher
b. Baptised at St Stephens, Bristol 31 August 1733
d. Buried in the Chancel of St Stephens, Bristol 24 October 1734
4. Edward Becher
b. Not yet found
d. Buried in The Chancel of St Stephens at Bristol 15th April 1734
5. Captain Michael Becher
b. c 1734, possibly several years earlier, listed in the 1742 will of his grandfather John Becher
d. 26th December 1760 off the coast of Africa in the ship "Goree" [Whitehall Evening Post 24 Feb 1761]
Michael Becher
began his career on the Pearl on the 23rd May 1744 as a midshipman, not long after the death of his father. The Captain was Richard Haddock. Both Michael Becher & Captain Richard Haddock transferred to the Advice on the 16th March 1745/6.  to  In a letter written  on the "Centurion" in November 1751 in Algiers Bay under the command of Commander Keppel, Michael says he has been a Midshipman "almost 7 years". In the same letter he mentions the loss of his dear friend Captain [Richard] Haddock, so it is likely that he has been to sea on one of his ships.  He had his portrait painted in 1753 by Joseph Highmore at a cost of ten guineas. This painting was a present for Admiral Smith, his patron, although Michael notes in a letter that his mother would like to keep it. It is not known if this portrait still survives. Many of his letters mention his friends in the Navy, especially Alex Hood & George Hamilton.
Received his naval Commission in 1754, reported in the Whitehall Evening Post 26 Jan 1754 " A few days since, Mr Michael Becher was appointed by the Lords of the Admiralty, Lieutenant of the Jason Man of War, now lying at Chatham." Michael arranged with Admiral Smith for his younger brother Jack to sail with him on the Jason, so that he could look after him with an elder brother's affection. He was  reported in the London Evening Post 26th August 1755 " On Tuesday his Majesties ship The Swiftsure of 70 guns was put into commission & the commanding of her was given to the Hon Augustus Keppel. At the time, Mr Michael Becher was appointed as the Lieutenant of the said ship." He served under Keppel as 2nd Lieutenant on the Torbay in 1757-8. When Michael writes his will 2 July 1758 he describes himself as of the Torbay. By the time he dies off the coast of Africa in December 1760 he has become a Captain.
A collection of letters by Michael Becher between 1750 and 1754 survives in the William L. Clements library in Michigan. Michael writes with a lovely clear hand, and reveals himself to be a dutiful son and a very affectionate & loving brother to John & very grateful to the efforts of his Patron Admiral Thomas Smith. He is very desirous for a Commission, focused & respectful, but his letters still manage to be full of personality & humour [and some teenage behaviour! amusing & not fully explained incident involved his mother reading his mail & finding one by Alex Hood mentioning a pearl, a lady called Sally to whom Alex delivered a letter to her in bed & said he would introduce her to no-one else as desired by Michael led his mother to assume that Michael & Alex were "keeping" her. The Admiral kindly offers to soothe Mrs. Becher, but unfortunately nothing further was revealed! ]. Reading his letters made me very fond of him & sad for his early death. His mother & brother must have missed him very much.

Michael Becher, about 16, from a letter to Admiral Thomas Smith.
6. Elizabeth Becher
b. Baptised 30th April 1735 at St Stephens, Bristol
d. Buried 22 February 1738/1739 at St Stephens, Bristol.
7. John Becher
b. Baptised 23 September 1736 at St Stephens, Bristol
d. Buried 2nd October 1736 in the Chancel, St Stephens, Bristol
10. John Becher [
Commander RN]
b. Baptised 27 July 1737 at St Stephens, Bristol
d. On the 7th November 1783 after an accident at Stourton Mill, buried on the 11th November 1883 at Kingswinford.
John married on 26 September 1761 at Hagley, near Stourbridge to Ann Haysham. They had seven children & were the Great  Grandparents of the author William Makepeace Thackeray.

John Becher, a sketch from a portrait by William Makepeace Thackeray
2. Augusta Becher
b. Baptised 11 April 1739 at St Stephens, Bristol
d. buried 26th Nov 1739 at St Stephens, Bristol
9. Elizabeth Becher
b. Baptised 10 April 1741 at Temple, Bristol
d. buried 4 July 1741 in The Chancel, St Stephens, Bristol


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