John Beauchamp 1592 - 1655

There are references to men surnamed Beauchamp in the Cosgrove area from the 14th century. We know that the noble Beauchamp family arrived at the time of the Conquest in the counties of Worcester and Warwickshire, and their descendants were, according to Philip Riden, holders of the manor of Cosgrove in medieval times and that “By 1397 the manor itself was in the hands of the Beauchamps.”

Thomas Beauchamp, holding hands with his wife, lies in the chapel of the church he rebuilt at Warwick in the 14th century.

The noble sector of the Beauchamp family was responsible for the Beauchamp Cartulary [A cartulary is a collection of documents, and the Beauchamp family kept a library of manuscripts, mainly property agreements, marriage settlements and records of public office held by family members, from 1100 to 1268.] and for witnessing other important documents, and various of their members held significant offices in Royal favour. Many claims have been made linking the “noble” Beauchamp family line to that of John Beauchamp, described in this document. If there was a link in ancient times John himself was not aware of it – had he known of one he would surely have used it in 1633 in claiming his place in the Visitation of London. He did not.

Spellings of “Beauchamp” vary wildly across documents from Cosgrove and Furtho – the Arnold documents recording this family’s propensity for witnessing legal agreements. We assume that these Beauchamps (Beachams) are a yeoman branch at some early stage having split from the noble family which resided at Warwick Castle.

In addition, some internet sources refer to “Sir John Beauchamp and “Lady” Alice – these titles are erroneous, as John was never knighted.

Our first reference to a yeoman Beauchamp in Cosgrove is of William Bechamp of Couesgrave and Alice his wife, who lived in the parish in the first half of the 14th century. William received a grant of land on 6th November 1364, and presumably he and Alice farmed it.

The following notes pertain only to those Beacham(p)s in the direct line of John Beauchamp, the Merchant Adventurer.

Thomas Becham 1504

From Cosgrove wills available to us we can identify Thomas Becham of Cosgrave, born there around 1504. His wife Agnes was born in London around 1507, and Thomas made his will in 1545 in favour of Agnes and his son John, with various bequests to the Parish Church and the Mother Church of Peterborough. The things he left to them confirm that this family were indeed yeoman farmers, inheriting a mare, pots and platters, crops and carts.

In the Lay Subsidy Assessment for the Cleley Hundred of 1524 – 25 the following list shows three “Becham” payers. They represent a considerable proportion of the great and the good in the area at that time. We believe that this John Becham died in 1532, leaving his wife Margaret and son William, but we do not know yet of his relationship with other Cosgrove Bechams at the time.

Cuthbert Haversham


3s. 6d.

John Becham


2s. 6d.

Henry Reve



Richard Rowhead


2s. 6d.

John Watson



James Rigby



Richard Becham



Thomas Becham


2s. 6d.

Robert Mayhowe



Henry Ryvers


6s. 8d.

William Coke


2s. 6d.

John Pay


9s. 6d.

It is possible that our Thomas is in the list above. Thomas died at some point after he had written his will in March 1545, a yeoman leaving pots and platters to his children.

John Beacham c1539

We believe that Thomas’ son John was born in Cosgrove around 1539. His wife may have been Margaret Whalesborough, born around 1532 in Buckinghamshire.

By 1572 this John Beacham was amongst the leaders of Cosgrove in negotiating “The Release of a highway leading through the Mannor of ffurtho from Covesgrave”, the list of those involved being “Willm ffurthoo cytyzen and grocer of London Hughe Emerson Robt Emerson Henry Rygby John Beacham John Mayhoo and Thomas Spencer of Cosgrave.”

This John’s land clearly ran alongside the Furtho parish boundary, as he was bonded thus:


29 Sept. 14 Eliz. I. (1572)


John Beacham of Cosgrave husbandman bound in £10 to Thos. Furthoo Esq.,

Condition: Beacham is not to use his passage from Cosgrave to Furtho.

There is also a Conveyance from Henry Pedder of Broughton, Bucks. yeoman, son and heir of Thomas Pedder, of the same, deceased, and Elizabeth his wife, daughter and co-heir of Henry Addington and Ann his wife, daughter of Thomas Browne, deceased, to John Becham of Cosgrave, Northants, yeoman; of 19 acres of land in Cosgrave, Potterspury and Furtho, Northants. This is dated 2nd Mar. 1579.

We believe that this John died around 1619 in Cosgrove.

Thomas Beacham 1550

John’s son Thomas was born in Cosgrove in 1550, and was a yeoman farmer. There is good evidence that he married Dorothy Clarke of Roade (barely 7 miles north of Cosgrove) around 1587.

Thomas’ will, written 15th December 1613, desired his “body to be buried in the parish church of churchyard of Cosgrave”, which it was following his death on 27th December the same year. Thomas left a considerable amount of money at his death to various children, as well as parcels of land both nearby and in distant counties.

John Beauchamp 1592

The will of Thomas Beacham names five of his children, although their dates are uncertain in three cases. It is certain that his son John, born in 1592, in Cosgrove, was a younger son.

In his father’s will John is mentioned thus:

“Item : I give and bequeath to my son John Beacham my estate, right title and interest in my house in Sisaw(?) with the pertenance or else four score pounds of good and lawful money of England.”

We believe that this property may have been in Syresham, about 15 miles west of Cosgrove. Having left Cosgrove as a young man to make his life in London, John was apprenticed as a Salter. He evidently valued his membership of the Salter’s Company all his life, as will be seen later. He did not stay within his own trade, however, and began dealing in cloth and other goods as an “interloper”.

We know that John was already a man of property and a little wealth at the time of his marriage in December 1615 to Alice Freeman daughter of Edmund I Freeman and Alice Coles of Pulborough in Sussex. John was 23 and Alice was possibly, born in 1601, only 14 years old.

Their first child, a son, was born in the year 1615/16, so it is also possible that Alice was already expecting this child at their marriage. Over the next eight years another four children were born to the young couple, who were based in Pulborough, probably with Alice’s family. These were Thomas, born 1616, Thomas, born 1617, Alice, baptised 22 June 1617 and Mary, born 1623. It was whilst the family were at Pulborough that the Mayflower voyage took place.

Nick Bunker, in “Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and their World – A New History” (published by Pimlico 2011), says that one of John’s brothers was a London Haberdasher. John’s uncle was another John Beauchamp, merchant of Amsterdam, who left John 2000 guilders at his death in 1615, as well as some London house contents and the management of a further 5100 guilders “of the severall Institucion and substitucion” for two years.

John was therefore very well placed to trade in haberdashers’ items from Holland. Nick Bunker describes how “Within less than a decade, Beauchamp rose to become by far the largest importer of the sort of goods carried by a travelling salesman. With his roots in the countryside, Beauchamp began by sending rural commodities to Amsterdam: fleeces, horsehair, and black rabbit skins.  Using Dutch ships, he exported stockings, of the kind farming families knit by the fireside as a way to earn a little extra money.  Then back from Holland he brought merchandise to feed the peddlers of the kingdom as they built their networks of consumption, selling lightweight articles to housewives and provincial shopkeepers.

In 1621, we find Beauchamp importing from Holland an assortment of tennis balls, pins, needles for securing bundles on a horse’s back, and six thousand thimbles. Ship after ship sailed into the Thames carrying items for John Beauchamp.  Among them were hundreds of the “inkles” and “caddisses” found among the wares sold: an inkle was linen tape used by seamstresses, and a caddis was woollen tape for stocking garters.  We find, for example, the Cornelius of Amsterdam unloading for Beauchamp a cargo of caddis ribbons, inkles, hairy goat skins, plates, sewing needles, nearly seventeen thousand thimbles, and more than 200,000 tacks.”

For many years, during John Beauchamp’s merchant enterprises, tracts had been published, telling investors about the wonderful opportunities in the Virginia Plantations. “Good News from Virginia” was published by Whittaker in 1613, and “True Discourse of the Present Estate of Virginia”, by Hamor in 1615. A group of Merchant Adventurers gathered in London to sponsor and finance an expedition to send Separatist farmers across the Atlantic. Their agent in London was Thomas Weston, a successful, wealthy iron merchant.

The Pilgrims respected and trusted Weston, who formed a joint-stock company to handle the financial matters. When Weston and the Adventurers agreed to finance the trip, they purchased shares so that they could remain in England while the would-be Colonists agreed to contribute their services at a certain flat fee. They would work as traders or fisherman for seven years, sending back furs, lumber, and other resources so that Weston and the others could profit from it. All of their profits would be placed in a common stock fund and no land would be assigned to anyone.

The Merchant Adventurers of London were able to take complete advantage of the Pilgrims and they weren’t able to profit from their hard work. Yet, the chance to live in a new land had been too tempting for most, so they signed the agreement and the trip to America was financed.

The Mayflower sailed in 1620, and the winter of 1621 / 22 Thomas Weston managed to send another small craft, the Sparrow, across the Atlantic with financial help from Beauchamp. The next few years were hard indeed for the first Plymouth Colonists.

In 1624 four Adventurers sent a statement of affairs to the Plymouth colony explaining why most of the backers had given up on them through losses at sea and failed profits. These four, including John Beauchamp, asked that after the colonist's needs were filled that "you gather together such commodities as ye cuntrie yields and send them over to pay debts and ingagements which are not less than £1400."By 1626 the Plymouth colony was in deep financial trouble.

A Mayflower passenger, Isaac Allerton, was sent to sign a new deal with the 41 investors who remained.  All the original capital from 1620 was written off.  It was agreed that the debt owed by the Pilgrims would now be £1800, to be repaid in nine instalments every September up to 1636 to five men led by Pocock and Beauchamp, acting for the rest of the London investors. Since the Adventurers had already laid out some £7,000, this was a considerable loss to them.

The four Merchant Adventurers who retained their interest in the affairs of Plymouth Colony were James Sherley, Richard Andrews, Timothy Hamerly and John Beauchamp, and were later known as the English Partners of the Purchasers.  In return the investors at home gave up all claims to all “the said stocks, shares, lands, marchandise and chatles” in the Plymouth plantation.

In July 1627 a small group known as “Undertakers”, led by Bradford, Standish and Allerton, and with others including John Howland, agreed to pay the sums required in London and became personally liable in the event of the default.  In return the undertakers would get the profits of the trade in beaver fur for six years for the whole colony, as well as profits from corn and tobacco.  After 1633, the agreement would be reassessed by the whole colony.  In the meantime additional loans at high interest came from Beauchamp, Sherley, Pocock and others.

James Sherley, Goldsmith, and John Beauchamp, then known as a Salter of London, were named as agents of the Plymouth colony to receive all goods and merchandise sent to England, and to sell or barter their wares. These agents were also to purchase supplies for New England.

John Beauchamp’s family continued to grow. On 16th December 1625 a son, Edmund, is believed to have been born, but his place of birth is uncertain. By 1630 John’s family appear to have moved to London, to an area near the Salter’s Hall. A stillborn daughter was registered that year at St Swithin’s London Stone, directly behind the Salter’s Hall, which had a room above let out for Dissenters’ meetings. It is not clear whether John Beauchamp had non-conformist leanings – all his children were baptised by the Church of England. Six more children were recorded as baptised at St Swithin’s during the next nine years.

In 1633 John Beauchamp and James Sherley took a lease together on a house in a group of properties on an estate in Clapham called Brick Place. This area was dominated by a group of “radical Puritan merchants” and is described in detail by Timothy Walker in his book “The Clapham Saints” published in 2016. This arrangement seems to have been an attempt by Beauchamp and Sherley to conduct business amongst a group of like-minded investors, indicating their social standing at the time. In the same year Beauchamp was recorded in the Visitation of London as serving in local government in Walbroke Ward, but we know that Alice, his daughter did live with her father at Clapham, and married John Doggett, who had moved into the Clapham area, some years later. Timothy Walker’s book gives a fascinating insight into their Clapham home, later renamed Clapham Place. Shown below:

Clapham Place

In the same year that Beauchamp and Sherley leased property at Brick House in Clapham, 1633, land transactions were in discussion in the Plymouth Colony, and the Undertakers were waiting on the four Adventurers Andrews, Beauchamp, Hatherley and Sherley to declare their preferences for land before allocating tracts in the Scituate area, promised to them in 1627. Timothy Hatherley did become a resident of Scituate, and bought out the shares of Beauchamp and Andrews, evidenced by a document of 1646.

The working relationship between Beauchamp and Sherley disintegrated in 1636, when the Colonists claimed that their repayments had all been made, but John Beauchamp and Richard Andrews had received no money since 1631 when each had lost £1100. The settlers sent beaver pelts to London from which Beauchamp was able to recoup £400. Beauchamp and Andrews took Sherley to court to accuse him of keeping £12000 for furs which he had no accounts for – but Sherley won the case.

By 1641 all parties in the Plymouth affair wanted their freedom. The remaining joint stock, consisting of housing, boats, implements and commodities was valued at £1400. This was shared by the London partners. The Plymouth leaders agreed to pay the London partners £1200 to be paid £400 down and £200 per year to settle the whole debt.

John Beauchamp’s daughter Alice married John Doggett on 10th August 1643, at Wandsworth St Mary, Battersea, London. This family were to become significant antecedents of citizens of the New World.

In 1645 John received the equivalent of £210 in the form of houses and lands in Plymouth from Bradford, Prence, Standish and Winslow, recorded in the Plymouth Colony Deeds. Most people might have written off their association with the venture at this point, but it seems that John Beauchamp persisted in his connection with the Colony.

At home, in the same year, John’s son Thomas married Sarah Felps in Reigate – recorded in Boyd's Marriage Index. 3d Series. This may have been the beginning of the Beauchamp family moving to this town.

Only two years later in 1647 Thomas died in Reigate. Back in London, John apprenticed his son Edmund with John Doggett as a Mercer for 8 years from 19th March, using his membership of the Salters to confirm the contract.

Of all the Mayflower expedition’s investors, John Beauchamp seems to have had the longest involvement. In 1649 he wrote a letter:


Mr Stuckey procured me to lend your Brother my money bond therefore I used him as much as I could to get my Interest & Principall when I needed, but at last he fayled in both and for what I did for himself. But I remember nothing that might make me conceive him or Mr Perkins to be engaged to your Brother except as Taylors for his Custom. But if I can by my best enquiry discover any such things I shall be as diligent to informe you, as I desire by your just & speedy supplying me with pay due, Debts to be continued,

Little Brittaine

Aprill 3 1649                                                       Your serviceable freind

                                                                               John Beauchamp

At this time he was evidently conducting business in another small area of London near to St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

John’s family were by this time well established in Reigate, and, during the next eight years, significant family events are recorded in the town. In 1650 John’s daughter Mary married Walter Wolsey in Reigate. John’s wife Alice’s father had died, and by 1651 Alice’s widowed mother Alice Cole Freeman was living in Reigate with them. Alice herself died the same year at the age of 50, leaving John widowed after a marriage of 36 years – a great length for the period.

John was evidently well thought of in Reigate, and in 1653 was recorded as a magistrate. During the next two years his health failed him, and he wrote his will in “the frailtie of my own health and the certaintie of Death and uncertaintie of the time of my departure”, before his death at the age of 63, still at Reigate, in 1655. It is assumed that he was buried in St Mary’s Church in that town.

John’s will remembers his home village – supremely significant in those days, and he left “to the poor of the parish of Cosgrave in Northamptonshire where I was born the sum of four pounds of the lawfull money of England to be paid within one month after my death And to be distributed equally among the poor of the said parish by my (good?) Cozen Beauchamp now living or the survivor of them or in Case both of them shall be dead at the tyme of my decease then to be distributed by the Overseer for the poor of the said parish for the time being.” The poor of Reigate received five pounds from John, indicating his commitment to his new town.

All John’s children received substantial sums of money, although some more than others, and the will was constructed on the understanding that “Coppiehold Lands Tenements and hereditiments” would be sold to achieve this. John Beauchamp appeared to be a man to whom property was relatively unimportant.

After John’s death his son George was apprenticed on 17th June 1656 to Thomas Wickes as a Mercer for 7 years, at Paternoster Row in London. It is not known who sponsored him, but in the same year his brother Edmund was made a Freeman of London, so the family must have been trusted and highly regarded.

Seven years later George married Sarah Higham in Rempleton, Nottinghamshire on 7th December 1663 – recorded in Boyd's Marriage Index, 3d Series. The couple settled in Nottinghamshire and it is thought that George never did receive the full legacy of his father’s will.

In 1665 John’s son Edmund travelled to America, shortly before the Fire of London in 1666. This catastrophe destroyed the Church of St Swithin’s at London Stone, which must have devastated the family, for whom it was a spiritual focus.

We know that Edmund married Sarah Dixon in Somerset County Maryland in 1668, and from thence the Beauchamp story is well documented by their American descendants, as is that of the descendants of Alice Beauchamp and John Doggett.