BECKFORD, Richard (d.1796), of Nicholas Lane, Lombard Street, London.
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Family and Education
1st illegit. s. of William Beckford† of Fonthill, Wilts. unm.
Beckford was one of seven known illegitimate children of Alderman Beckford1 and the only one who entered public life. He was a West India merchant, a partner in the firm of Beckford and James of Nicholas Lane, London from about 1774 until his death. He was at loggerheads with his half-brother William Beckford*, with whom he had contested their father’s will in 1783, and was not able to avail himself of the family patronage to get into Parliament, relying on other patrons. The 11th Duke of Norfolk to whom he was indebted for his seat for Arundel, moved him to Leominster, where he was bidding to establish an interest, in 1790. He was defeated, but petitioned successfully against the return of John Sawyer and came in instead of him, as an opponent of administration.2
Beckford’s speech impediment probably prevented him from speaking in the House. A founder member of the Whig Club, he continued to act with opposition on Pitt’s Russian policy, 12 Apr. 1791 (by pair) and 1 Mar. 1792, as well as being listed favourable to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in the former month. No further minority vote of his is known. He was invited to join Windham’s ‘third party’ meeting on 17 Feb. 1793, but did not attend. His affairs were ‘much deranged’, as he informed William Beckford in thanking him for an ‘additional and spontaneous benevolence’, 5 Dec. 1791:
I am in the disagreeable predicament of owing a considerable sum of money to private friends and other persons ... with this sum of ready money, I have been enabled to stop the mouths in some degree of the most clamorous of my creditors, to my great comfort and satisfaction.
He seems to have been assisted by the Prince of Wales through Thurlow.3 Thereafter he was frequently absent from the House, not being in good health.4 The Treasury listed him ‘pro’ in 1795, when he signed the London merchants’ declaration of loyalty to Pitt’s government. He did not seek re-election in 1796.
He died 12 Aug. 1796, leaving his personal estate to Amy Ashton who had lived with him ‘for many years’ and his real estate to his nephews and nieces.5