On the 16th of June 1804, 26 year-old London-born Flowers Beckett was appointed as Master’s Mate on HMS Spartiate. The Navy List shows him as being a Lieutenant on Christmas Eve of the same year. HMS Spartiate participated in the Battle of Trafalgar and hers is the only flag to have survived. It was sold for £384000 in Oct 2009.
Flowers survived the conflict and in 1817 his son, James Flowers Beckett, was born in Hythe, Hampshire. James followed his father into the Royal Navy and became a Master on the 9th of November 1846. The following year his father, Flowers Beckett, is listed as being an Outpatient of Greenwich Hospital.
On the 31st October 1848 James Flowers Beckett married Edinburgh-born Margaret Laurie in the Parish of St Cuthbert’s Edinburgh and the census of 1851 shows James F Beckett, 34, Master Royal Navy On Halfpay, living at Joy Cottage, Laverock Bank, Trinity, North Leith, with Margaret and a couple of House Servants. His 76 year-old father meanwhile was in Ditton Marsh, Thames Ditton, England. Also living in Leith at this period were Lieutenant FWL Thomas and his wife Frances.
By 1861 the Becketts are at 15 Buckland Crescent in Hampstead, just off the Finchley Road at Swiss Cottage for those familiar with North London. With them are their nieces Laura MacNeil, 13, and Donna MacNeil, 11, from Scotland and three servants.
Flowers Beckett, now 86 and a Retired Lieut. Royal Navy is at 20 Anglesea Villas, Hammersmith and in June 1862 his death is registered at Kensington.
In 1871 we find James F Beckett, 54, Staff Commander RN Reserve List at 23 Stafford Terrace, Kensington, with Margaret, niece Laura Macenil, 23, a visitor Adele Bruce, 30, who had been born in France together with a Cook, a Housemaid and a Page. A decade later they had moved half-a-mile North to 3 St John’s Gardens, Kensington, remaining close to Holland Park. Laura Macneil is still with them at the age of 33 and living On Dividends and the staff now comprise a Cook, a Parlourmaid and a Housemaid.
The Becketts then move to East Susses and in June 1888 Margaret Beckett’s death at the age of 69 is registered at Battle. On the 2nd July 1890 widower James Flowers Beckett and widow Fanny Thomas are married at All Saints, Paddington. His address is given as Hollington Park, which is near St Leonards/Hastings in East Sussex and hers as 19 Talbot Sq, Hyde Park in London.
Fanny Thomas is, of course, the widow of Captain FWL Thomas and 40 years ago the couples had been Naval neighbours in Trinity, North Leith.
The Beckett residence is ‘Arondel’, a house in the Hollington Park area of the somewhat confusing triangle of Hollington, Hastings and St Leonards. Laura Macneil the 43 year-old niece from Campbelltown, remains with them in 1891 along with four Domestic Maids. In 1901 James Flowers and Frances remain with a Ladies Companion, a Cook, a Housemaid and a Parlourmaid but no Laura.
Finally, in 1902 Frances Sarah Beckett died in Edinburgh but I have been unable to discover with certainty when the twice-widowed James Flowers Beckett was reunited with his two wives.
And my reason for telling this tale? Well, we know that Frances had been trading tweeds in London whilst living in Leith and I wonder whether it was her ex-Edinburgh neighbours and fellow Royal Navy (and apparently childless) couple James Flowers Beckett and his Scottish wife Margaret who acted as her agents during their years in London? Laura Macneil may have played a part, too…
Note: Flowers Beckett’s participation at the Battle of Trafalgar can be seen here: