Early life of John Becher
John Becher comes from Bristol, where his grandfather was mayor. His father, Rev Henry Becher, has followed a distinguished career in the church: chaplain to London Alderman Sir Edward Becher, a distant relation (although described as his uncle in one newspaper report); rector of St James, Duke Place (London) and of Temple and St Stephen (Bristol); chaplain to Frederick Prince of Wales (George III’s father). Sir Edward’s nephew Richard Becher will have a role in the story of John’s family.
Many of John’s siblings appear to die young, but there is a mystery about a “sister Ann Becher widow” named in his brother Michael’s will. Eighteenth-century widows do not normally revert to their maiden names, so it appears that her first husband was also a Becher. Or could Michael’s “sister” actually be a sister-in-law, widow of his eldest brother Henry?
There is a further record of interest concerning this Ann Becher.
18th April 1773 At St Augustine The Less, Robert Frampton Of St James in this County of Gloucester and Ann Becher of this Parish. Married in this Church by licence. Witnessed by Mary Becher and P.R. Matthews.
From St Augustine’s parish record, Bristol.
P.R.Matthews is the brother of John’s mother Mary. Is it likely he would be so close to Ann if she were merely his nephew’s widow?
There may, however, be significance in the bridegroom’s surname, Frampton.
John and his elder brother Michael join the navy, where they come under the wing of Thomas Smith, who becomes an admiral.
A visitor to Smith's Worcestershire home in 1753 records meeting three naval officers there: Michael Becher, George Hamilton and Alexander Hood.
Hood is destined to become another admiral and Viscount Bridport to boot.
Hamilton's career will be less distinguished. But in 1756 he marries widow Susanna Wood, one of the Attwick family of Gosport. He sails off to Canada, is involved in the fighting around Quebec, and dies in March 1760.
Michael Becher participates in the 1758 expedition which captures the island of Goree, off the west coast of Africa, from the French. There he is appointed captain of a sloop also called Goree, and dies on board in December 1760.
One can imagine a memorial event for both officers being held in Gosport, attended by Becher's brother John and Susanna Hamilton's relations.
The wedding takes place on 26 September 1761 at Hagley, near Stourbridge. Thomas Smith is one of the witnesses.