Peter Beckford junior

1673 - 1735


Biography

Born in 1673, Peter Beckford junior was the son of Colonel Peter Beckford senior (c.1643-1710) and his second wife, Anne Ballard. His father was a member of the house of assembly and of Jamaica's privy council, following that he was then appointed lieutenant-governor.

Beckford junior married Bathshua Herring, the daughter of Colonel Julines Herring, a planter of Jamaica. The couple had twelve children; Peter (1705-37), Anne (1706-45), William (1709-70), Richard (1712-56), Thomas (1712-15), Nathaniel (1713-39), George (1715-25), Bathshua (1720-37), Julines (?-1765), Francis (1724-68), Elizabeth (1726-91) and Ellis. Beckford junior's son William carried on the family dynasty and became thrice Lord Mayor of London and one of the wealthiest planters on the island. Sons William, Richard and Julines all became Members of Parliament. His daughter Elizabeth later married Thomas Howard, second earl of Effingham, and was the mother of Thomas Howard, third earl, who was governor of Jamaica in 1791.

Beckford junior was educated in London from age eight to ten and attended the Merchant Taylors' school between 1681-83. He later attended New College, Oxford between 1688-89. He had legal training and was called to the bar in 1695.

He returned to Jamaica and became a very powerful and influential planter and politician. He was a member of the Jamaica house of assembly most of the years from 1701 to 1731, He was speaker between 1707-13 and again in 1716. He was also comptroller of the customs in Jamaica. He was renowned for having a violent temper and received censure for having killed a sixty-year-old judge. He then used his influence to escape prosecution. Beckford junior was again involved in an altercation when on 3 April 1710 the house of assembly attempted to unseat him. The commotion that followed caused his father Beckford senior to rush to the scene, however, en route he collapsed and died.

Beckford junior extended the family landholdings greatly. He acquired seventeen sugar plantations and five livestock pens. The properties were concentrated in Clarendon and Westmoreland. He lent vast sums of money and also dispensed legal advice, he acted as attorney to a number of leading planters. The family also owned a ship bearing their name by the 1720s.

Beckford junior's inventory revealed the extent of his wealth. He was sole owner of nine sugar plantations and part owner of seven. His personal property equity was £69,486 Jamaica currency. Nine cattle pens, together with a provision farm and storehouse, amounted to another £13,098. In Spanish Town his personal property was valued at £5686. He was sole owner of 1737 enslaved Africans and half owner of 577 others. Alongside this Peter junior was a financier and lent vast sums of money, he also owned property in England. Historian Richard Pares has estimated that Beckford's ‘whole fortune must have amounted to £300,000 or so’. According to Trevor Burnard, he 'died in 1737 with land and personal property that probably exceeded £500,000.'

Beckford junior left his English properties to his eldest son Peter and his Jamaican properties were split between William, Richard, Nathaniel, Julines and Francis.

Peter Beckford of Clarendon, Esquire. Estate probated in Jamaica in 1739. Slave-ownership at probate: 1669 of whom 837 were listed as male and 832 as female. 339 were listed as boys, girls or children. Total value of estate at probate: £204049.05 Jamaican currency of which £46913.6 currency was the value of enslaved people. Estate valuation included £1234.06 currency cash, £135043.56 currency debts and £1094.63 currency plate.

His son Peter Beckford (1705-1737) attended Leyden University, age 20, in 1725. Another son Alderman William Beckford (1709-1790) studied medicine at Leyden, BA 1729, MA 1732.

Sources

Richard B. Sheridan, ‘Beckford, Peter (1672/3–1735)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/50423, accessed 25 March 2015]

Perry Gauci, William Beckford First Prime Minister of the London Empire (Yale University Press, 2013), especially pp.21-3.

Matthew Parker, The Sugar Barons (London: Random House, 2011), especially pp.219-234.

Trevor Burnard, Database of Jamaican inventories, 1674-1784; Trevor Burnard, Planters, merchants and slaves p. 158.

Email from Stanley R. Criens, 25/07/2017 sourced to: Album Studiosorum Academiae Lugduno Batavae MDLXXV-MDCCCLXXV, kol. 898, 933; Edward Peacock, Index to English speaking students who have graduated at Leyden university (London, 1883) p. 8, 933; R.W. Innes Smith, English-speaking students of medicine at the University of Leyden (Edinburgh/London, 1932) p. 18.

We are grateful to Stanley R. Criens for his assistance with compiling this entry.


Further Information

Spouse
Bathshua Herring d.1750
Children
Peter, William, Richard, Julines, Francis, Elizabeth, Thomas, Nathaniel, George, Bathshua. Anne, Ellis
Will

Will proved on 6 October 1735. Beckford gave and bequeathed to his wife £1000 sterling per annum and her choice of Dirty Pitt Pen or Dry Sugar Works. To his eldest son Peter he added to what he had already given him all of his property in Great Britain. He gave and bequeathed to his ‘five sons now in England, vizt. William, Richard, Nathaniel, Julines & Francis all my Estates in Jamaica both real & personal to hold to them their Heirs & Assigns for ever’ (will). He gave and bequeathed to his daughter Ellis £2000 Jamaica money and £500 to each of her two children. To his two youngest daughters, Bathshua and Elizabeth, he bequeathed £5000 Jamaica money. He gave and bequeathed to the poor of Jamaica £2000 Jamaica money, of which £1000 was to be given to the poor of St Catherine, and the other thousand to be applied towards the building of a free school or hospital for the poor. Other clauses in his will provided an annual salary for his white bookkeeper, and instructions to set free his ‘Negro man Slave Named Diego’ and allow him £10 per annum and the use of 10 acres of land.

Wealth at death
£300,000
School
Merchant Taylors' school [1681-1683 ]
University
New College, Oxford [1688-1689 ]
Legal Education
Yes [1695 ]
Occupation
Plantation owner
Religion
Anglican
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Estates (19)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1740 [EA] - → Previous owner
- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci has taken the information from the inventories of Peter Beckford's estate in which he was named as a co-owner.

- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci used the information from the inventories of Peter Beckford's estate.

- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci takes the information from Peter Beckford's estate inventory.

- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci used the inventories of Peter Beckford's estate.

1740 [EA] - 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Given as 'Peter Beckford senior' presumably to distinguish him from his son Peter Beckford who died in 1737, shortly after Peter Beckford senior in 1735.

1715 [SY] - → Other

Peter Beckford purchased 1,000 acres of land from the Drax Hall Estate from Charles Drax. This began the interest of the Beckford family in the estate.

- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci used Peter Beckford's estate inventories.

- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci used information from Peter Beckford's estate inventory. Beckford died in 1735.

- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci has taken this information from Peter Beckford's estate inventories.

1740 [EA] - → Previous owner

Peter Beckford was a co-owner of this property. Gauci took the information from the inventories of Beckord's estate.

- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci used Peter Beckford's estate inventories.

1740 [EA] - 1740 [LA] → Previous owner
- 1740 [EY] → Previous owner

Gauci has taken this information from Peter Beckford's estate inventories.

1740 [EA] - 1740 [LA] → Previous owner
- 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Gauci used information from the inventories of Peter Beckford's estates. The inventories noted the property was co-owned by Beckford.

1740 [EA] - 1740 [LA] → Previous owner
1740 [EA] - 1740 [LA] → Previous owner

Given in the Accounts Produce as Peter Beckford senior (presumably to distinguish him from his son Peter Beckford 1705-1737) but appearing as Peter Beckford jun. in the database to distinguish him from his father Col. Peter Beckford senior.

1740 [EA] - 1742 [LA] → Previous owner

Legacies Summary

Cultural (1)

Paintings
Portraits of Peter Beckford and Bathshua Beckford painted by Benjamin West c. 1797, after the deaths of the sitters. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.... 
notes →
John Caldwell et al. American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Vol. I pp....

Relationships (8)

Father → Son
Grandfather → Grandson
Father → Son
Father → Son
Father → Son
Husband → Wife
Brother-in-laws
Son-in-law → Father-in-law