BECKINGHAM, John (by 1510-66), of Salisbury, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. by 1510. m. by 1536, Agnes, 1s.1
Member of the Forty-Eight Salisbury 1531.2
John Beckingham does not seem to have been connected with the family of that name which held land in north-west Berkshire and whose last direct male representative, also called John, died in 1527. A John Beckingham, taking wages of 20s., was assessed for subsidy at Salisbury in 1523 and the name, once with the suffix ‘senior’, occurs twice in a further assessment, on both occasions on 20s., two years later. If any of these entries refers to the future Member he must have risen rapidly to become the John Beckingham who gained admission to the council of Forty-Eight on 20 Oct. 1531, and who leased the rectory of St. Edmund from the provost of the adjoining college in 1536. Despite what were probably humble origins, Beckingham certainly made a successful career for himself; when he was pardoned on 15 Jan. 1559 it was recorded that he had formerly lived in London and had been a fishmonger and merchant, although he now ranked as a gentleman and a resident of Salisbury. He does not appear to have belonged to the Fishmongers’ Company (a list of whose members in 1537 does not include his name or that of any of his family) but an earlier connexion with that trade seems to find reflection in the mention in his will of a house in Thames Street, London, ‘at the sign of the Peppercorn’, which he had let to a fishmonger, and in the fact that his son Henry was to exercise that trade in Salisbury. By December 1553, when John Abyn had Beckingham’s property surveyed for a debt of £200 outstanding for several years, Beckingham was styled merchant; the only item then recorded which might indicate the nature of his trade was two-and-a-half hundredweight of lead, whereas his bequest of ‘one piece of kersey of six yards’ hints at involvement in the cloth trade.3
Beckingham appears to have taken only a limited part in civic affairs. The sole office with which his name is connected is the constableship and then only when he was discharged from it; the date of this decision, 18 Mar. 1551, could mean either that he quitted the post in mid-term or that he secured exemption from it in advance. Of his role in the city’s struggle with Bishop Shaxton we know only that in November 1537 he witnessed a deposition against John Goodale, the bishop’s unpopular under bailiff, and of his service on the council only that in March 1557 he was one of five members fined 12d. for arriving late. In 1549 the churchwardens of St. Edmund’s paid 20s. to their attorney in a suit against Beckingham over the felling of trees in the churchyard. Beckingham’s vested interest in the Reformation was underlined in 1555, when the bishop presented the new incumbent of St. Edmund’s, and by his recovery of the advowson under Elizabeth, which enabled him to exercise his right in 1562 and his son to do so in 1584. The brief experience of the House of Commons which Beckingham gained in March 1553 he owed, not to the city fathers, but to the 1st Earl of Pembroke, to whom the city had granted the nomination of both its Members on this occasion. Pembroke’s choice of George Penruddock as one of them is easy to understand, but Beckingham is not known to have been a client of the earl’s and, unlike Penruddock, he was not to enjoy similar, or similarly effective, patronage again.4
Beckingham’s last illness was swift, for he died in London on 28 Nov. 1566, the day on which he made his will. A very brief document, it contains no expression of his religious beliefs and no directions as to his burial. His wife Agnes was to have £10 a year and, with their son Henry, to be chief beneficiary, provided she did not dispute the lease which had already been made of the house in London. The will was proved on 13 Jan. 1567.