Peter Beckford (junior)

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Posthumous portrait of Peter Beckford by Benjamin West

Peter Beckford (junior), (1672/3 – 1735), was the son of Peter Beckford, founder of one of the most powerful families in colonial Jamaica.

Peter joined the Jamaican House of Assembly and became the Speaker. In 1710, during a debate at the Assembly, things became extremely heated and some members drew their swords and threatened Peter, the Speaker. The Governor responded to shouts for assistance and the doors of the chamber were forced open. The Assembly was dissolved in the name of the Queen. The aged Peter Beckford senior was amongst those who had come to his rescue. In the general confusion, he slipped and fell down the long staircase. Suffering a mortal injury, he died soon after.

Like his father, Beckford suffered a severe temper. As a young man, he was accused of killing the Deputy Judge Advocate of Jamaica in a fit of temper. He was finally acquitted after a lengthy court case.

In 1720, he was one of the prominent people in Jamaica about whom the governor Sir Nicholas Lawes complained had "anarchical principles".

Peter married Bathshua Herring and they had thirteen children. He died in 1735. His will included a legacy of £2,000 to found a school in Spanish Town, which was started there in 1744. This school merged with another school started with £3,000 donated by Francis Smith forming the Beckford and Smith School in 1869.

His son, William was born in 1709. William emigrated to England and had a prominent career in politics, defending the West Indian interest as a Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor of London.


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography