BEECHER, Sir William (1628-94), of Howbury, Renhold, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Apr. 1628, 1st s. of Oliver Beecher of Fotheringhay, Northants. and Howbury by Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Tate† of Delapré Abbey, Northants. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1645. m. (1) 15 Feb. 1656, his cos. Frances (bur. 17 Sept. 1658), da. and coh. of Oliver St. John†, Baron St. John of Bletso, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) 24 Dec. 1660, Elizabeth (bur. 20 Jan. 1705), da. of John Huxley of Edmonton, Mdx., wid. of Thomas Hillersden of Elstow, Beds., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. by 1659; kntd. 16 Nov. 1660.1
Commr. for assessment, Beds. 1657, Aug. 1660-80, 1689-90, Bedford 1661-3, 1673-4, militia, Beds. Mar. 1660; j.p. Beds. Mar. 1660-80, ?1689-d., Bedford Sept. 1660, 1661, 1663, 1670, 1672; capt.-lt. of militia horse, Beds. Apr. 1660; dep. lt. Beds. c. Aug. 1660-bef. 1679, Feb.-June 1688, 1689-?d.; freeman, Bedford 1661; commr. for recusants, Beds. 1675.2
Beecher was descended from a London alderman of Devonshire origin who died in 1571. His grandfather married the sister of the 1st Earl of Bolingbroke, sat for Huntingdon in 1601, and acquired Howbury from the Gostwicks in about 1624. His father’s career is obscure, and no activity can be ascribed to him during the Civil War. Beecher himself presumably supported the Restoration, for he was nominated a knight of the Royal Oak with an estate worth £1,600 p.a., and was knighted soon after.3
Beecher was returned for Bedford, four miles from his home, on the death of Richard Taylor, probably unopposed but not without cost. An inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, he served on only 15 committees and made no recorded speeches. As Taylor’s principal trustee, he was appointed to the committee for his estate bill, and on 4 Mar. 1670, carried a Gostwick estate bill to the Lords. In the same session he helped to consider both the conventicles bill and the bill to prevent the growth of Popery. In 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman noted that Beecher, like his wife’s cousin, Paulet St. John, had recently been voting with the Opposition. He had ‘formerly voted well, and I hope to be able to give such an account of him as may be trusted to as to the grounding a judgment upon his vote, which way it is like to go. In the meantime I hope the best.’ But Wiseman’s hope was unfulfilled, and Shaftesbury marked Beecher ‘thrice worthy’ in 1677. His last committee was during the Popish Plot when he was among those ordered to search Langhorne’s papers. He was omitted from the list of deputy lieutenants, and in the autumn of 1679 he signed the letter inviting the leader of the Opposition, the Hon. William Russell, to stand for Bedfordshire. He himself is not known to have stood again. When removed from the commission of the peace in 1680, he was said to have ‘great estates in the county’, but this seems to be an exaggeration. Regarded as a possible Whig collaborator, he was reappointed to the lieutenancy in February 1688, but omitted in June. He died on 5 Dec. 1694 and was buried at Renhold, the last of his family to sit in Parliament.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Beds. RO, DD/PO 13, f. 57; Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 81-82; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. v. 150-4; Beds. N. and Q. iii. 283.
- 2. Merc. Pub. 12 Apr. 1660; Min. Bk. Bedford Corp. (Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxvi), 154.
- 3. Vis. Beds. xix. 81; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. v. 133-40; VCH Beds; iii. 215.
- 4. Beds. RO, PO3, f. 42; CJ, ix. 78; J. Russell, Lord William Russell (1820), ii. 243; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 141, 209; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. v. 153.