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Notes about the Beckwith Family and the Trees
The starting point of all this was an innocent request in the early 1980's from a young cousin about his forebears. The tree compiled for me by my father, Arthur Surl, gave valuable information about three generations of the immediate family but I wanted not only to have a broader picture but also produce an end-product which added far more interest & 'colour' to the basic birth and death details by including mini-biographies or 'pen pictures' of each person.
In that era, personal computers and the Internet were still many years away so all the research had to be achieved by leg work, hand-written letters and snail mail. Many happy (extended) lunch hours were therefore spent pouring over birth, marriage and death records at St Catherine's House in the Aldwych.
Valuable help from Roger Beckwith and Goldsmiths Company records obtained some years earlier by Eric Thomas Beckwith plus old family papers and diaries inherited via Nancy Beckwith enabled me to circulate a draft set of trees within the family during 1985/6. These were accompanied by a few sketchy notes plus a request for the blanks to be filled and 'pen pictures' of people to be provided. Sincere thanks are due to all those who subsequently responded so helpfully. Special mention must be made here of Roger Beckwith who, in the late 1980's and early 1990's also spent many hours in London pouring over B, M & D registers as well as censuses. This valuable work enabled many questions to be answered and gaps to be filled. Thanks to old address books and slices of good luck, contact was also established in 1986/7 with several more distant family branches. Thanks to all these for all their help, particularly Phillip Beckwith of Winchester.
Unfortunately, my move away from London in late 1986 and change of occupation prevented much further progress being made - lack of spare time to assimilate all the amended information that had been gathered while life away from an office photo-copier inhibited its printed publication.
The Internet has proved to be a hugely useful and economical publication medium so this set of trees & accompanying notes is an attempt to rectify the situation. The 'pen pictures' have been incorporated where available (fully attributed in the first instance thence by initials) otherwise they are my own attempts. However, not all the material has been updated since 1987 ... so updates will be gratefully received ! In this era of computers, e-mail and on-line data resources, it is hoped that gaps will be able to be filled more easily and the results published much quicker.
Back in the 1980s, reproduction of photographs was difficult and prohibitively expensive but scanners and photo manipulation software are now commonplace while viewing the results is easy with current Internet browsers so work has started on compiling a comprehensive photo gallery to compliment the 'pen pictures'. I am particularly indebted to Michael Butler, Saira Holmes and Thelma Miller for kindly supplying so many of the original photos.
When first put up on the Net in early 2007 I wrote "Another reason for Internet publishing is that, thanks to search engines like Google, I am hoping that more distantly related Beckwiths will find this site and so enable an even broader picture to emerge." This came true far quicker and far more productively than I could ever have imagined. I am indebted to Priscilla Henderson and Rosemary Dearman (both in Australia) as well as Dawn Sorensen in the USA, Katie de Haan in Holland and Gillian 'somewhere in Europe' for all their valuable contributions to both the trees and Notes. More recently still, several descendents of James & Joseph who emigrated to Australia (Trees 8 & 9) have made contact and provided invaluable info.
So thank you to all who have kindly contributed ..... but there is still a long way to go though so please forgive the blanks and the age of some of the data as well as any incorrect links and mis-typings.
The following has been extracted from Burkes' Landed Gentry:
"This very ancient family bore, originally, the name of MALBIE or MALBYSSE being lineally descended from the marriage of Hercules de Malbie (reign of Henry III), grandson of Sir Simon de Malbie, Lord of Cawton, in Craven with Beckwith, one of the daughters of Sir William Bruce, Lord of Uglebarby, derived from Sir Robert Brus, Lord of Skelton Castle in Cleveland, a noble Norman knight, ancestor of the Bruces of Scotland.....
....The Baronetage became extinct in Sir Roger Beckwith Bart. who married Elizabeth Buck, daughter of Sir John Buck of Filey (died 1679)......
....William Beckwith, born 22nd November 1664, inherited the property of his uncle, William Beckwith Esq of Thurcroft and became of that place. He married Mary, daughter of Sir Edward Chaloner of Guiseborough (d1702) by whom he left at his decease, in 1713, with other issue, a son and successor....
....William Beckwith of Thurcroft & Sleningford married in April 1715 Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Woodifield of Fishburn & Trimdon (Durham) and had issue:
- Woodifield, his heir
- William of Carey St, London, barrister at law, who married and had one son, William (d unmarried) and two daughters.
- John, a lieut.-col in Abercrombie's regiment.
- Elizabeth ..... "
The lineage then continues through to the 20th century, primarily in Yorkshire and Co Durham.
Burke's continues "....
Seat Trimdon House, near Sedgefield, Durham
Arms Arg. a chevron between three hinds' heads, erased, gu. (?)
Crest An antelope, ppr, in the mouth a branch, vert
Motto 'Joir en bien'.."
'Our' family tree starts with Jonah Beckwith, an 'upholder' (undertaker) living and working in the parish of St Andrew in the Holborn area of London in the 1750's. Although mention is made above of a William in London, this is not only too late for any direct connection with 'our' family but also his only son William is reported as having died unmarried. Equally, no earlier connection is obvious so, sorry, it does seem that there are no grand estates for us to inherit.
However, the mention of John being a lieut-colonel in the army is interesting. My father (Arthur Surl) had in his possession "fair hand copies" of the following letters :
- From Lt. Col. Sydney Beckwith, 1st Battalion 95th Regiment, dated 1/11/1810,
Heights of Aruda, Portugal to Lt. Gen. Sir Brent Spencer K.B.
- From Lt. Gen. Sir George Beckwith K.B., commander of forces in Barbados,
dated 11/2/1811 to Lt. Col. Torrens.
- As above but dated 12/3/1811 to Gen. the Rt. Hon. Sir David Dundas K.B.
In some brief notes accompanying them he reports that Nancy Beckwith once told him that an ancestor was in the burial party attending the funeral of Sir John Moore after the Battle of Corruna (N.W.Spain) in 1809.
Research reveals that Sir George (1753-1823) and Sir Thomas Sydney KCB (1772-1831) were respectively the first and third of the four military sons of Major Gen John Beckwith (c1722-1787), who was in turn, according to Joseph Foster (pedigrees of County families of Yorkshire), the only surviving son of Lieut-col John Beckwith and Sarah nee Crook. At first sight, this Liet-Col John appears to be the same as the one mentioned in Burke's as the third child of William and Elizabeth but as those two only married (according to Burke) in 1715, the dates don't fit.
Sir George was pre-occupied at that time as Governor of Barbados with commanding
the capture from the French of Martinique (Feb 1809, for which he was knighted
in May 1809) thence Guadaloupe (Feb 1810). Sydney, on the other hand, was
trained by Sir John Moore (at Shorncliffe, Folkestone) and served under him in Portugal
& Spain as a Lieut. Colonel; "The 95th and Beckwith crowned their
services at Corunna, when they were the last troops to leave the city...".
Also at Corunna in 1809 was Sydney's nephew John Charles who served as a Captain
so the former at least would have been present at the subsequent burial of their
commander Sir John Moore, the occasion commemorated in Charles Wolfe's famous
To be brutally honest, I think it more likely that the Beckwith name on the papers attracted a family member in the mid 20th century when they came up for sale or auction than them having been passed down through the generations. If there is a relationship, it must be very distant ... and how this is will remain a mystery ... unless you know better !
Freedom of the Goldsmiths' Company was conferred on several members of the family. This was normally either by -
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original material is © 1985-2020 strictly copyright Malcolm Surl, all rights
Last updated 5th July 2020