Beckford, William, 1744-1799

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Type of entity


Authorized form of name

Beckford, William, 1744-1799

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Description area

Dates of existence



BECKFORD, WILLIAM, illegitimate son of Richard Beckford (qv), and Elizabeth, dau. of Thomas Hay, Secretary for Jamaica; b. Jamaica 24 Sep 1744; at school under Markham (The Monthly Mirror, vii, 259); Balliol Coll. Oxford, matr. 17 Mar 1762; MA 6 Apr 1765; Grand Tour (Italy) 1770-1; of Somerley Hall, Suffolk; settled on his estates in Jamaica 1774; returned to England 1787; in Fleet Prison as a debtor 1790-2; author, A Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica, 1790, and other works; a contributor to literary magazines; a man of varied attainments; characterised as “Benevolus” in A Short Journey to the West Indies, 1790; m. 13 Apr 1773 his mother’s niece, Charlotte, dau. of Thomas Hay; d. 5 Feb 1799. DNB.


Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

Inherited 4 estates and the enslaved people on them. Strong opponent of abolition, writing 'If abolition ... shall take place, our interest in the West-India islands must be at an end, seventy millions of property will wear away with time, and be sunk at last: the revenue will suffer an annual diminution of three millions at least; the price of sugar, which is now become a necessary article of life, must be immediately enhanced; discontentment and dissatisfaction may dismember the empire.' (A descriptive account of the island of Jamaica)

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Relationships area

Related entity

Beckford, Richard, 1712-1756 (1712-1756)

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Type of relationship

Beckford, Richard, 1712-1756

is the parent of

Beckford, William, 1744-1799

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Description of relationship

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Authority record identifier


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GB 2014

Rules and/or conventions used

International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families - ISAAR(CPF) 2nd edition



Level of detail


Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Prepared for import into AtoM by Westminster School Archive staff, 2019-2020
Revised by Bethany Duck, Archive Assistant, September 2020




Supplementary information drawn from UCL's Legacies of British Slave-ownership database. Entry URL:

Users should note that the information recorded here that is not to be found in the first two volumes of the Record of Old Westminsters and its first Supplement has been assembled from various published and manuscript sources by Hugh Edmund Pagan MA FSA, and all new resulting text is his copyright, © 2014.

The Record of Old Westminsters: A biographical list of all those who are known to have been educated at Westminster School from the earliest times to 1927, Volumes 1 & 2, compiled by G. F. Russell Barker and Alan H. Stenning, London, 1928.

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