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Guarlford History Group

St Mary's Churchyard

The Beckwith sisters and their family

Linked from page about the churchyard:-

Near the north gate (see photo below), in the shade of an apple tree, is a monument to three sisters, Elizabeth, Jessie Henrietta and Sophia Beckwith. All we know about them is that they were the daughters of Major General William Henry Beckwith, something which was obviously very important to the family, as it was recorded on their gravestone for posterity. 

Approaching the north gate

So we searched historical records to discover why, and this page tells the story of the sisters' family, which led us across the world and years to find their elder sister, father, uncles, a nephew, niece, cousins and grandfather.

Elizabeth Beckwith

The first death recorded on the monument is Elizabeth, second daughter of Major General Beckwith. She was born in Scotland about 1810, died at Malvern in 1869 aged 59. Possibly she was in poor health and came to Malvern seeking a cure from the 'water doctors' or perhaps she had simply chosen to live near her sister Jessie after their mother's death.

In the 1861 census Elizabeth was living with her sister Sophia and her mother in Dover, Kent. Mother's maiden name was Sophia Maria Johanna Ewing. She was born in Scotland about 1784 and died in 1867 in the parish of Great Boughton near Chester, where her husband Major General Beckwith had earlier died in 1844.

Jessie Henrietta Beckwith

Jessie Henrietta Beckwith, third daughter of Major General Beckwith, was born Tullamore Ireland 1812 and died at Malvern May 21st 1882 aged 70 years. Between 1861 and  1881 she was recorded as 'a fund holder' lodging with Mary Nott at Spring Bank in Graham Road, Great Malvern.

Sophia Beckwith

The youngest daughter, Sophia Beckwith, was born much later about 1823 in Scotland and died at Torquay in 1883. As stated earlier, in 1861 she was living with her mother and sister Elizabeth in Dover, Kent. In the 1881 census she was lodging at Brunswick House in Graham Road, Great Malvern, near her sister Jessie.


The photo below shows the monument to the three sisters in Guarlford churchyard. It looks as if the tops of the pedestals at the side, possibly had crosses which have been removed.

The monument was probably erected by the sisters' nephew and executor Ferdinand Beckwith Mainguy.

The Beckwith memorial

John Ferdinand Beckwith (brother)

The sisters had a brother, John Ferdinand Beckwith, born 1824, educated Cambridge. In 1841 he became a 2nd Lt in the Rifle Brigade 'by purchase', and then in 1844 he became a 1st Lt 'by purchase' (source: London Gazette). We could not find any record of him after that, though his Cambridge University record states he was last heard of living in York in 1871.

Charlotte Beckwith (eldest sister)

The probate record of Sophia Beckwith named Ferdinand Beckwith Mainguy, a nephew, as an executor, and that led us to discover that the three sisters had an eldest, married, sister named Charlotte who was born Ireland about 1808, and died Geneva, Switzerland 9th July 1890.

Charlotte married Reverend James Maingy (1804-1883) born Guernsey who later changed his surname to Mainguy. At the time of his death he was vicar of South Willingham, in Lincolnshire.

They had twelve children, some descendants of whom latterly lived in Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

Charlotte's son Ferdinand Beckwith Mainguy, who latterly attained the rank of Major General, Royal Engineers, was an executor of the wills of several members of the family including his mother's.

Ferdinand Beckwith Mainguy (nephew)

Ferdinand Beckwith Mainguy (1839-1918) was the seventh of Charlotte's twelve children. In 1871 he was a captain at the School of Military Engineering in Kent. Later that year he married Frances Matilda Davenport, and by 1881 he was in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Ferdinand and Frances had two sons, Roger Ferdinand Mainguy, who rose to the rank of major, and Sidney Beckwith Mainguy who became a commander in the Royal Navy and received the Royal Victorian Order (Member of the 4th Class) for service in WWI. Roger Ferdinand Mainguy married Theodora Margaret Aylmer, Ireland in 1915.

In addition to Ferdinand, the Beckwith Sisters had several other nephews and nieces, the children of their sister Charlotte. Several died before their 21st birthday, and the family line was chiefly carried on by Ferdinand's sister Sidney Mary Mainguy who married Edmond Philip Le Feuvre (one time Inspector General, HM Customs), and Ferdinand's brother Daniel Wishart Mainguy who emigrated to Canada where he married Mary Elizabeth Fry.

A connection with Malvern

It is of note, in relation to the Beckwith Sisters who are buried at Guarlford, that their niece Sidney Mary Mainguy (1832 - 1908) had married 1856 in the Upton upon Severn district, possibly at Great Malvern. Also that two of Sidney's sisters died prematurely at Great Malvern and are buried in the churchyard of Great Malvern Priory. They are,

Sophia Adelaide Mainguy died Great Malvern 1857 aged 21

Georgina Elizabeth Mainguy died Great Malvern 1858 aged 20

Perhaps they were ill and came for the water cure, or possibly their father was appointed to a church in the town.

Children of Sidney Mary Mainguy (niece)

Sidney Mary Mainguy and Edmond Le Feuvre had several children. Amongst them were William Philip Le Feuvre who emigrated to South Africa, Amelia Sophia Le Feuvre who was a prolific writer, and Frederick William Le Feuvre who emigrated to Ceylon and was a probably tea planter. Frederick had two daughters; Esmee Florence married George Stanley Baker of Ceylon, and another daughter married cricketer John Trench Turner who was born and worked in India.

John Beckwith senior (grandfather)

Grandfather of the three sisters in Guarlford churchyard was Major General John Beckwith (1712-1787), who was a British army officer hailing from Yorkshire. He fought at the battle of Minden in 1759, during the Seven Years War in which Britain and its allies fought against France and Spain, commanding the 20th Regiment of Foot.

In 1750 he married Janet Wishart, daughter of the Revd George Wishart, Dean of the Chapel Royal (Holyrood) Edinburgh and they had five sons, who all served as army officers at some time.

In 1759, he would have heard reports of Major General James Peter Wolfe's victory over the French at the Battle of Quebec.

He is thought to be buried at Bishop Middleham near Hardwick Hall, SE of Durham. He had owned land in the village of Stanford Rivers, Epping Forest, Essex which went to his sons on his death (source: National Archives).

John Beckwith junior (uncle) 

John Beckwith junior (1751 - 1820), uncle of the sisters, was an officer in the British army; Lt in the 15th Light Dragoons in 1776, a Lt in the 79th Liverpool Volunteers in 1780, and later a Captain in the 23rd Light Dragoons, but he resigned his commission and settled in Nova Scotia, Canada, where he served as adjutant-general and lieutenant-colonel in the provincial militia. He married Mary Halliburton of Nova Scotia who was the sister of judge and politician, Sir Brenton Halliburton.

Their son John Charles Beckwith (1782-1862) is listed in the Canadian Dictionary of National Biography. He was injured by a cannonball and lost a leg at the battle of Waterloo, and was an executor of the Will of the sisters' father, Major General William Henry Beckwith .

Sir George Beckwith (uncle)

It was very much a military family, because another uncle was General Sir George Beckwith KB (1752-1823), a soldier in the British army, during the time of the Napoleonic wars with France. The Peninsular War occurred during this period between France, and Britain, at that time allied with Spain and Portugal. Notably George Beckwith also fought for the British in the American War of Independence (1775-1782).

He was appointed in turn Governor of Bermuda, Governor of St Vincent and Governor of Barbados. Interred Marylebone, London.

Ferdinand Amelia Fairfax Beckwith (uncle)

Brigadier General Ferdinand Amelia Fairfax Beckwith (1764-1805) was also a soldier in the British army. He too is interred Marylebone, London, with other members of the family.

Sir Thomas Sidney Beckwith (uncle)

An account of the life of Sir Thomas Sydney Beckwith (1772-1831) can be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. He was a professional soldier in the British army like his father and brothers. In his time he was considered one of the finest leaders of light troops ever known. He served in India, Ceylon and Europe, in particular with 95th Rifles, an experimental unit of sharpshooters portrayed in Bernard Cornwell's novels by fictional hero Richard Sharpe (also the subject of a TV series).

In 1812 he was appointed Assistant Quartermaster General in Canada.

In 1829 he was appointed Commander in Chief at Bombay in India where he died of fever in 1831.

The Oxford DNB makes no mention of Sir Thomas's family life, but it would appear he first married Clementina Loughman by whom he had at least three children, Ann Clementina, Thomas Sydney (died Gibraltar 1828) and Jessie Philadelphia. After his first wife died, Montreal, Canada in 1816, he married, in 1817, Mary Douglas, the daughter of Sir William Douglas 4th Baronet of Kelhead, who outlived him.

William Henry Beckwith (father)

Finally, returning to the soldier recorded with pride on the sisters' monument, their father, Major General William Henry Beckwith. According to the 1841 census, when the family was living in the parish of Great Neston, Wirral, Cheshire, he was born about 1766 'in foreign parts'. Unlike his brothers, Sir George and Thomas Sydney, who obtained knighthoods, he does not appear in the Dictionary of National Biography. According to one Internet source, William entered service in 1778 as an Ensign (equivalent nowadays to a 2nd Lieutenant) with 28th Foot serving in the West Indies. He was promoted to Lieutenant 1782. Returned to West Indies 1793 - 1798 as Aide de Camp to Lieutenant General Prescott, and he was present at the siege of Fort Matilda and the capture of the island of Guadeloupe. Served in the campaign of 1799 in Holland as a Brigade Major. On return appointed Major in 52nd Foot, June 1799 on transfer from 56th Foot. Lieutenant Colonel in 1st Reserve Battalion 17th September 1803. Subsequently Assistant Adjutant General in Ireland; later Major General 4th June 1814.

William died in the district of Great Boughton in Cheshire in 1844 and a copy of his will is held by The National Archives at Kew. Click to view a transcription of William Henry Beckwith's Will by the Guarlford History Group.

William made his will, aged 72 years, in 1838; it confirms the names of his children (listed above) and indicates he had property in Abbey Square, Chester. He appointed his nephew John Charles Beckwith (see above) and Philip Graves as executors and also named another nephew, Henry Ferdinand Beckwith. John Charles and his brother Henry Ferdinand were also professional soldiers; John Charles rising to the rank of Major General; Henry Ferdinand who died Kingston, Canada, was a Captain in 1830, Major in 1840, rising to the rank of Lt Col in the Rifle Brigade. Their brother Sydney Beckwith, like many, died of Cholera during the Crimean War. He was a Captain in 1839, Major in 1848 and Lt Col of the Rifle Brigade in 1848.

So there we have it. An obscure monument in a small country churchyard, leading back to times of British Redcoats soldiering in the West Indies, India Ceylon, Canada, North America and Europe, fighting in the American War of Independence, fighting Napoleon and developing units of the newly formed Rifle Brigade.

References and sources

1. Beckwith monument in Guarlford churchyard

2. Guarlford St Mary burial register

3. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

4. England and Wales Census

5. Probate calendar

6. The Will of William Henry Beckwith died 1844, National Archives

7. Army lists

8. Beckwith memorial in churchyard of Great Malvern Priory

9. Various books on military officers and regiments, searched online with Google books. (Individual searches using ranks Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Major General, enabled a timeline to be built up).

10. Communication from Beckwith family descendant


Based on research by Angus and Rosemary McCulloch


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Last updated 4th April 2014