Joseph Beckwith Death
Shoe Lane 1860
As he moved into grand old age, past sins were probably forgiven and he may even have become an object of some veneration. His two women stayed with him for the long haul, in spite of the agonies of being either a betrayed wife, or the hidden, kept woman. Surely this says something about him. Although, his daughter Jane’s words about him are not as fulsome as those about her mother, they nevertheless show some respect and admiration: “He ... was through life a consistent and honest Radical.”
I like to think of him visited by his huge and ever expanding family - he was a great-grandfather by the time of his death, still interested in politics, and art. His youngest daughter was only eight when he died, and his youngest son just a year older. Let us hope that these two, after all of those tragic deaths, brought some serenity to his old age.
He died on 3rd December 1860 in Shoe Lane, of ‘decay of nature’, which apparently means debility, which means weakness - i.e. he was old. He was 84 years and one month old. He was buried in Highgate Cemetery with his sister-in-law Susanna Pittard. One could get carried away by this little piece of information. With his sister-in-law, not his wife! But the most likely explanation is that it was simply an available space in a graveyard. If not, then there is a whole other story about which we know absolutely nothing, just waiting to be told. You could certainly make one up couldn't you?
The death was registered by his daughter-in-law - Joseph’s wife who maybe lived with them. Certainly they seem to be living with Ann later in her life.
.And so died a consistent Radical who had lived through an age of radicalism. The Hanoverians had gone and Victoria was on the throne. It was a time of hope and confidence in England’s superiority, of growth and all the evils and advantages that that engendered. Parliamentary reforms of many different kinds were being made. Revolution in England had been avoided, or rather, revolution was being quietly achieved through the processes of law and of parliament. And a craftsman to boot. It would be nice to own something he had made some time.
What kind of man was he I wonder? Not easy I think, but a man with opinions and a lust for life. Vain perhaps - his age on his second marriage certificate is some ten years younger than his real age. An artist and a man who either inspired great love and loyalty or else was so dominant that no-one dared cross him. Whatever else, he must have been interesting, and at least he left a large number of talented descendants, and some work that is still considered beautiful. You could do much worse.
I think Jane’s children knew all about Ann, although it is possible they hid it from their mother. I think that Joseph junior is the Joseph B Beckwith who was a witness to John Mollett’s will, further proof, that at least the children were not punished for their illegitimacy. And then there is the presence of Robert William at Joseph and Ann’s wedding. Joseph would surely have maintained contact with his first family, even after his wife’s death, and no doubt the grandchildren were constant visitors, but then again, his own children by Ann, must, at times have seemed more like grandchildren to him. His own youngest daughter was a mere four years older than his first great-grandchild! It should be said, though, that there is no mention of the Bartholomew Beckwiths in the family bible (well the Book of Common Prayer that stands in as the Family Bible - now in the possession of Dawn Sorensen).
Joseph does not seem to have left a will, so it is a good thing that he did eventually marry Ann. Even so it took her four years to get an Administration - which means that she had access to his effects. Not that they amounted to much - around £300, which in today’s money is roughly £13,000 or $AU21,000. Still it would have helped. When he died she had two young children to care for and a business to run - although it is likely that she had been running the coffee shop for some time. She was forty seven when Joseph died, and probably could have married again, but she does not seem to have done so. Maybe they had been soul mates - unlikely though that seems. Maybe one ‘marriage’ was more than enough!