Martin Becher

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Martin William Becher (1797 – 12 October 1864) was a former soldier and steeplechase jockey in whose memory the Becher's Brook obstacle at Aintree Racecourse is named.[1]

Military career[edit]

Becher first served in the military during the Napoleonic Wars and was stationed in Belgium at the time of the Battle of Waterloo, though historical claims that he saw active service in the battle are thought to be without foundation.

Racing career[edit]

Upon being released from service, Becher took a commission as a captain in the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, but the few demands placed upon him within this role allowed him a great deal of time to pursue his passion of cross-country riding.

During his riding career, Becher won almost every race of note during the 1820s and 1830s including the Aylesbury Chase, Cheltenham Steeplechase, Leamington Chase and Great St Albans. It was the last of these races that inspired him to put the idea of a great cross-country chase to racecourse owner and friend William Lynn. Becher was a regular visitor to Liverpool and Lynn's racecourse at Aintree, famously winning there with the horse with which the public most readily associated him, Vivian.

On one occasion the pair discussed a 'Great Chase of the North' with the result that Lynn staged the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase in 1836. Fittingly, Becher not only took part but won the race upon a local horse, The Duke, in the lilac and white colours of Mr. Sirdefield.

The event would go on to become known as the Grand National, although Becher's victory in 1836 was disregarded by future generations as merely a precursor to the first official running in 1839.

Becher was already considering retirement from race riding at the age of forty before lining up for this event on Conrad, and setting off at the head of the field. Upon reaching the first major obstacle on the course, the first of two brooks, Conrad dug his heels in, hurling Becher over his head and into the brook beyond. Becher lay in the water until his rivals had all thundered over the brook, before climbing out thoroughly soaked and cursing how he hadn't realised how filthy water tasted without the benefits of whisky.[2] He remounted and set off in pursuit, only to be parted from his mount again at the second brook. Becher never again took part in the event but his name was given to the first brook (the sixth and twenty-second fence in the modern National) and has ensured his eternal fame.

Personal life[edit]

Becher was the son of William Becher and Harriet Martina Thompson. He married Susan Dobree on 14 August 1825 at St. Marylebone, London, and they had two sons, Martin John King Becher and Dr. George Tobin Dashwood Becher.

Becher was a very popular conversationalist and story-teller and was famed for his party trick of leaping onto a mantelpiece from a standing jump.


  1. ^ [1] 2000 Grand national course guide
  2. ^ [2] 2000 Grand national course guide
  • Captain Martin Becher obituary published in Norfolk Mercury dated 19 October 1864
  • Race results taken from the Steeplechase calendars published annually.