John Beale: letters from the grey sheep of the family

John Beale 1811-1873 Farmer of Biddenden and Beckley and my great great grandfather.   Rich Richard Beale, 18th century dog doodler and Twitter sensation, had eleven children.  The second youngest was my great great grandfather, John.  I have been lucky enough to receive some copies of letters once in the possession of my 3rd great … Continue reading John Beale: letters from the grey sheep of the family

Rich Richard and the Trousered Chicken

It appears that my great great great grandfather has gone viral, nearly 200 years after his death. The Museum of English Rural Life, in Reading, has acquired various bits of Beale memorabilia - mainly farming diaries and account books.  But one little book caught their eye more than others: the school maths book of 13 … Continue reading Rich Richard and the Trousered Chicken

Who Was Elizabeth Beale?

Elizabeth, wife of Richard Beale (1663-1757) Clothiers of Biddenden, Kent and my 6th great grandparents There's been quite a few posts on this blog about unidentified fathers, but this is my first unidentified mother! I was very pleased to get an email from my Beale cousin, Geoff West, the other day.  Geoff was one of … Continue reading Who Was Elizabeth Beale?

Thomas Sharp Hope: My Emigrant Ancestor

Last time I wrote about the Beales of  Biddenden.  My Beale ancestor was not a Richard, but John Beale, the ninth of Rich Richard's ten children.  Though not as wayward as his brother Crusty Richard, John also provided his share of headaches to the Beales.  John's mother's (Frances Beale, nee Witherden) letters are kept by the Biddenden History Society, and according to a Beale cousin who has seen them, she was in frequent dismay at John's behaviour, which included gambling and sending his washing back to River Hall.  Frances also expressed disapproval at John's choice of wife, Elizabeth Hope, so much so that she apparently forbade the marriage.  John seems to have paid lip service only to her wishes and had four children with Elizabeth out of wedlock, giving them the surname "Beale Hope", before finally marrying her in 1850, four years before his mother's death but long after his father's.  They went on to have another ten children after the wedding! Why did the Beales disapprove of Elizabeth so much?

The Beales of River Hall

Rich Richard came from a long line of successful Beales in Biddenden.  They owned a beautiful country house called River Hall, which is still in existence now.  Built in the 1400s and refurbished in the 1700s.  It is now a listed building, probably worth several million pounds.  River Hall was not only the Beales' home but the seat of their cloth-making business.  It had been passed down through nine generations of Beales before this story begins.  Said Beales had massive altar tombs in the churchyard at All Saints Church, Biddenden, and plaques in their memory within the church.  They were clearly very rich and highly respected. How did they come to end up with nothing?