Peter Beckford (junior)

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Posthumous portrait of Peter Beckford by Benjamin West

Peter Beckford (junior) (1672/3 – 1735) was a politician and businessman in early colonial Jamaica.

He was the son of Peter Beckford, founder of one of the most powerful families on the island, and briefly acting governor of the colony. Like his father, Beckford junior suffered a severe temper. As a young man, he was accused of killing the Deputy Judge Advocate of Jamaica in a fit of temper, but was acquitted after a lengthy court case.

Peter junior joined the House of Assembly of Jamaica and became the Speaker. During a debate in 1710, things became extremely heated and some members drew their swords and threatened him. 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.

In 1720, Peter junior was one of the prominent people in Jamaica about whom the governor Sir Nicholas Lawes complained had "anarchical principles". He went into business with Alexander Grant, leasing a storehouse from which the partners sold supplies to other plantation owners.[1]

Peter married Bathshua Herring and they had thirteen children, including William, who was twice Lord Mayor of London, and Elizabeth, who became Countess of Effingham. 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 India Interest, i.e. lobbying against the abolition of slavery, first as a Member of Parliament and then as Lord Mayor of London.


  1. ^ "Sir Alexander Grant, 5th Bart". Legacies of British Slave-ownership. University College London. Retrieved 6 April 2016. 
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography