BESTALL : Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire

The surname is variously recorded as Bestall, Bestell, Beastall and Beastale; and in its earlier variant of Bairstow, Bestowe

My direct forebear, Maria Bestall, was mother of two children born at Grantham in Lincolnshire. The elder, William, was born 8 January 1803 and died in September the same year. His sister, from whom I am descended, was Elizabeth, born 1 November 1808 and baptised at St Wulfram’s three days later.  Both were illegitimate.

Elizabeth married John Fitch at Grantham on 1 February 1830 – see FITCH family. She had previously been a witness to two marriages at St Wulfram’s: that of William Burnett to Elizabeth Shaw (19 Jan 1829) and William Woods to Mary Cant (2 Mar 1829), signing her name both times Bestall, though on her own marriage certificate it is Bestell.

Elizabeth Bestall Fitch died aged 48 on 29 March 1851 at Birmingham.   The mother of  Elizabeth, given as Maria Bestall in St Wulfram’s parish register, Grantham, was born in 1777, a member of the Bestall family recorded at Screveton and neighbouring Syerston, Nottinghamshire, about twelve miles north-west of Grantham.

The family line can be traced directly back as far as Robert Bestall of Darley Dale, Derbyshire, who died in 1611, but the family had been in Darley since as least 1381, when a Radulphus de Baystow was recorded here on the Poll Tax for that year (The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names) using an earlier variant of the surname.

The son of Robert Bestall and his wife Joane was Rowland Bestall, baptised at Darley on 12 October 1587, who married Alice Typpinge there on 1 October 1611.   Rowland, a yeoman, died in 1674 and left a detailed Will. George Bestall, son of Rowland and Alice, was baptised at Darley on 22 March 1617, and married Anne Frost there on 18 October 1641.  Anne died in 1684.  George remarried in 1688, aged 71, and had more four sons before dying  in 1701, aged 84.

Itinerary of Rowland Bestall’s household contents 1674, valued at £65-10-0 (approx. £7,452. 50)

Roger Bestall, son of George and Anne his first wife, was baptised at Darley on 3 December 1648 and buried there on 24 October 1684.  His early death in a family noted for its longevity may have been due to one of the periodic outbreaks of “sweating sickness” which affected Darley Dale in the 16th and 17th centuries and caused a high mortality.

Ezra Bestall, son of Roger, was baptised at Darley on 6 March 1674, marrying Elizabeth Moor at Holy Cross, Morton, in 1700.  He lived until he was over 90, being buried at Darley on 8 July 1766. 

Joseph Bestall and Elizabeth Dalby marriage licence 1733

Joseph Bestall, son of Ezra and Elizabeth, was baptised on 1 November 1704. He seems to have moved away from Darley Dale, because the licence for him to marry Elizabeth Dalby in 1733 gives his residence as Firbeck, some thirty or so miles from Darley, on the Yorkshire border.  Elizabeth, aged 30, was several years older than her bridegroom, and a native of Hoby, near Melton Mowbray. She had been baptised there in 1702, daughter of William Dalby, a miller (see end note and following article); and was buried at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, on 10 December 1763, aged 60 years.  Joseph Bestall was churchwarden at Syerston, and lived until he was 75, being buried at Syerston on 11 October 1780 in the same grave as his wife (their headstone is a finely carved slate near the church porch).  The parish register helpfully records his age and parentage and gives abode as nearby Screveton.   In 1743 the curate of Syerston had responded to an query from his Archbishop: “There are 15 families in ye Town of Syreston of wch. yre is but one Dissenter named Joseph Bestall they say an Independant, he never received the Sacrament wth Us, of three Years yt he hath lived in ye Town till ye last Whitsuntide, since he was made Ch:Warden & we know not that he has gone to any Meeting for Religious Worsp. in all ye time aforesd.”

Grave of Joseph and Elizabeth Bestall at Syerston, Nottinghamshire
Detail of Elzabeth Bestall’s grave, Syerston

One of the sons of Joseph and Elizabeth was William Bestall, baptised at Syerston on 18 June 1742. William married Mary Fisher by licence at neighbouring Thoroton on 13 August 1771 and their children included Joseph (13 Nov 1774), Elizabeth (4 Feb 1776, died 25 May 1790), Maria (9 Nov 1777), William (6 June 1779), Robert (6 July 1781), Mary (22 June 1783) and Ann (3 June 1787), and two sons named Richard who both died in infancy. Mary Fisher Bestall was buried at Screveton on 17 Sept 1792.  Her grave is beside her daughter Elizabeth’s, both with carved slate headstones.  Her husband William subsequently remarried, to Mary Hawkins at Screveton on 7 July 1794.  He was buried there on 24 July 1816, aged 74.

Graves of Mary Bestall and her daughter Elizabeth at Screveton, Nottinghamshire

William and Mary’s daughter Mary married widower Charles Willcock at Grantham on 2 Dec 1805; and another daughter, Ann, married widower William Clay in the same church seventeen days later.

Their sister, my forebear Maria Bestall, moved away from Grantham to live at Scarborough, Yorkshire, where she is recorded on the 1841 census as an independent aged 60, living at Town Hall Yard and born outside the county. Ten years later on the 1851 census her details are shown as Maria Bestall, aged 73, living at 3 Henrietta Court, off St Thomas Street, Scarborough. Her occupation is given as nurse, and her place of birth as Screveton, Nottinghamshire.

She was buried at St Mary’s, Scarborough, on 15 May 1855.  Her obituary notice in the York Herald four days later reads simply “on 12th inst aged 77, Miss Maria Bestall, of Falsgrove Near Scarborough”.

In 1828 the banns were published in the parish of Seamer, Scarborough, for the marriage of Maria Bestall of Scarborough, and James Walker of East Ayton, Seamer. The wedding does not appear to have gone ahead, because the same James Walker married someone else at the same church in 1832, and in 1841 Maria Bestall, still single, was sharing her abode with a John Walker, an Oxford-born carrier. 

miller of Hoby in Leicestershire

William Dalby was baptised on 26 September 1669 at Ab Kettleby, Leicestershire, the son of John Dalby of Frisby-on-the-Wreake and his spouse Margaret. William married Elizabeth Seagrave of Frisby on 27 July 1700 at Hoby – the parish register describes him as miller, an occupation he kept until the end of his life. (Alas, very little trace now remains of his watermill at Hoby, on the bank of the river Wreake, though its site can still be identified.) His bride Elizabeth, born in 1675 at Frisby to John and Alice Seagrave, came from an illustrious local family which could trace its lineage back to the Norman Conquest.  (It is through this line, via the Duports and Montagues, that I am descended from King Edward I and Eleanor of Castille.)

William and Elizabeth Dalby’s children were baptised at Hoby (all these villages are within a few miles of Melton Mowbray) – Elizabeth 17 Mar 1702, Alice 23 Nov 1704, and Ann 20 Sept 1709. I am descended from the oldest, Elizabeth, who married Joseph Bestall in 1733 (see article below).

William Dalby was buried at Hoby on 7 May 1714, aged 44. His Will, dated a few days earlier, is brief but interesting: “In the name of God amen  I William Dalby of Hoby in the county of Lester miller do make this my last will and testament as followeth beining in parfect memry    Item I give and bequeathe to my eldest daughter Elizabeth Dalby the sum of fifteene pounds    I give to my daughter Alice Dalby the sum of fifteene pound   I give to my daughter Ann Dalby the sum of fifteene pound to be payd to every one at the age of one and twenty and if any dy (die) her prshon (portion) is to be divided amongst the rest and if my wife marre again I give to every one of them five pounds more      I chouse William Healy and John Seagrave Trusts (trustees)

witnessed James Quick (his mark) William Healy, Darrity Benit (her mark)
signed William Dalby (his mark)

The two trustees were William Healey of Stapleford, who had married William Dalby’s sister Elizabeth in 1687; and John Seagrave, his wife’s younger brother.

William Dalby shares a grave in Hoby churchyard with his wife Elizabeth, who died on 23 May 1729. Their headstone reads: “Our faithful loving Parents dear Their Souls to God in peace resign’d Hoping in Glory to appear Before the Judge of all Mankind.”

As an interesting and rather curious footnote, Elizabeth Dalby remarried just five months after her husband William’s death. This second marriage took place at St Margaret’s church in Leicester on 9 October 1714 – the licence records the groom Thomas March (or Marsh) as about 30 years of age and a native of Newarke, and bride as Elizabeth Dalby of Hoby, a widow (she was eight or nine years older). They had two children baptised at Hoby – Mary 1716 and Thomas 1718 – and it seems Thomas March had taken over the mill from his predecessor, because he is described as miller in the baptismal register. When Elizabeth died in 1729 her burial entry records her simply as Elizabeth March, and the headstone she shares with William Dalby describes her tactfully as his ‘relict’ (no mention of Thomas March!)

Grave of John Dolby, 1700, Ab Kettleby, Leicestershire

I wrote the following brief biography in October 2020 for the parish magazine of St Giles church, Medbourne, Leicestershire –

Rector of Medbourne, Leicestershire

John Duport, rector of Medbourne, died in this parish some time after Christmas in the closing days of the year 1617. He had enjoyed a notable career, the highlight of which was being appointed Director of the Second Cambridge Company, a group of learned scholars employed by James I in translating parts of the Apocrypha for the King’s new bible, which we know as the King James Version.

Dr Duport came from an illustrious family. His father, lawyer Thomas Duport of Shepshed, Leicestershire, rose to become trustee or attorney of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, father of Lady Jane Grey, the nine-days queen. And he was executor of the Will of Jane’s sister, Lady Mary Grey, in whose personal household Thomas’s daughter Katherine had served.
In one of his sermons, his son John later tells us his father so disliked inactivity that “he would rather unloop his old doublet and sew it up again” than be found idle.

John was born at Shepshed around 1550. He was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he became a Fellow in 1574 and Master in 1590, and was four times elected Vice-Chancellor of the university. Other ecclesiastical offices included Precentor of St Paul’s Cathedral 1575, and Prebendary of Ely in 1609. He was regarded as a moderate Puritan. He married Rachel, daughter of Richard Cox, Bishop of Ely (who had ordained him), and one of their sons, James Duport, was to become Dean of Peterborough, and Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

In the course of his Church career Dr John Duport received the benefices of a number of parishes (such frequent change of parish for a clergyman of the Anglican Church was a sign of growing prosperity: they were always changes from a poorer benefice to a better one and were considered as “preferments”).

However, the one which concerns us here is his appointment as rector of Medbourne with Holt in October 1601. Unfortunately there are no surviving details of his incumbency, although several of his seven surviving children were baptised at St Giles’s during the 1590s, suggesting an association with the parish predating that appointment.

His wife Rachel was buried here in July 1618, some six months or so after his own death; and though we know that he had made a Will in October 1617 and died that Christmastime, there is no actual record of John Duport’s burial in the Medbourne parish register, so it may be that he was interred elsewhere.

My own line of descent from the Duports is through his niece Cornelia (c1583-1620), who married Ralph Seagrave at Shepshed in 1604.  Through them was descended Elizabeth Seagrave, whose daughter Elizabeth Dalby married Joseph Bestell in 1733.

BEASTALL connections in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire

I include this section because it may be useful to others researching these branches of the surname
William Beastall, married Sarah Taylor at Grantham on 25 June 1821. Their firstborn child was Matilda, baptised at St Wulfram’s on 17 March 1822. The parish register gives father’s occupation as fruiterer.

Edward Beastall, born at Eaton, Leicestershire, married Mary Anne Healey at Grantham on 3 September 1822. Their witnesses were William Beastall and Amelia Hare. On the 1841 census they were living at Eaton (not far from Melton Mowbray): Edward Beastale, 45, farmer, and Mary Beastale, 40. On the 1851 census the surname is more correctly recorded as Beastall.
There were no children from the marriage, although Edward had an illegitimate child, Jane Swain, born at Eaton before his marriage. 

Edward died on 13 Feb 1860, aged 67. His Will names his siblings as William, Francis, Matthew and Clarissa (Gibbs). 

On the 1861 census Edward’s widow was shown as aged 63, farmer’s widow, born at Burton Coggles, Lincolnshire, living as boarder at Eaton with Thomas Matthew Beastall, unmarried, aged 28, farmer of 138 acres employing 5 men and a boy. This Thomas Beastall, who had clearly inherited the farm from his uncle, the late Edward Beastall, had been born at Muckton, Lincolnshire (see below). Thomas Matthew Beastall married Mary Beastall at Eaton on 9 December 1865. The marriage certificate names his father as Francis Beastall, farmer, and his bride’s father (somewhat confusingly) as Francis Beastall, hosier. Mary Beastall had been baptised at St Mary’s Nottingham on 31 August 1820, daughter of Francis and Anne. On the marriage certificate she gives her place of residence as Theddlethorpe, Lincolnshire. 

At Eaton on the 1871 census: Thomas Matthew Beastale, aged 41, farmer of 158 acres, born Muckton, Lincs Mary, wife, aged 48, born Nottingham Mary Ann, aunt, aged 74, farmer’s widow, born Burton, Lincs Sarah Goddard, visitor, u., aged 53, born Kingston, Hants Ann Jesson, w., aged 68, assistant (on farm), born Leicester Catherine Darby, servant, aged 16, born Eaton.
Mary Ann Beastall died 5 December 1873 aged 77.

On the 1881 census Thomas Matthew was recorded still at Eaton: Thomas Matthew Beastale, aged 51, born Muckton, farmer of 165 acres  Mary, wife, aged 58, born Nottingham

Thomas Matthew Beastale, nephew, aged 15, born Theddlethorpe, Lincs (see 1871 census below).

Mary Beastall died in October 1895 aged 75. Thomas Matthew Beastall died in April 1907 aged 76. On the 1871 census Thomas Matthew jnr had been living at South Reston, Lincs, with his parents: William Beastall, aged 35, farmer & coal merchant, born Reston Catherine, wife, aged 30, born Melton Mowbray (nee Gibbs) Clara, daughter, aged 8, born Theddlethorpe, Lincs Thomas, son, aged 5 ditto Catherine Mary, daughter, aged 3 ditto Katie, daughter, aged 1 ditto.

In 1841 13-year-old William Beastall had been living at Sherrard Street, Melton Mowbray, in the home of Richard Gibbs, a saddler. Richard Gibbs had married Clarissa Beastall (sister of Edward) at St Nicholas, Nottingham, on 3 July 1823. The youngest of the Gibbs children in 1841 was Catherine, aged 8 months. This William appears to have been the uncle of William Samuel Beastall who married Catherine Gibbs at Melton Mowbray in 1861.

William Samuel had been baptised at South Reston on 29 Sept 1834, son of Francis & Dorothy Beastall, and was brother to Thomas Matthew, born c.1831.

William Samuel Beastall died at Reston in 1874, aged 39. He had been recorded aged 6 on the 1841 census at South Reston with his father Francis, a farmer, (40), mother Dorothy (35) and brother Thomas (11). Their neighbours were William Beastall, also a farmer, (40), his wife Martha (30) and daughter Ann (14). This appears to have been the William who married Azubah Ann Farrow at Muckton in 1824 – their daughter Ann was baptised at South Reston on 10 Dec 1826 – so presumably Martha was his second wife. Martha died in 1849.

BURIALS IN EATON CHURCHYARD, LEICESTERSHIRE: John Beastall, died 10 Jan 1815, aged 56 years; also five of his children who died in their infancy.  Mary, relict of John Beastall, died 23 Apr 1829, aged 61 years. Thomas, of Nottingham, son of John and Mary, buried 22 July 1826, aged 27. Francis Beastall (son of John, of Nottingham), died 19 July 1826, aged 27; Edmund his son, died 15 Dec 1821, aged two years. Lucy, wife of John Denner of Nottingham, daughter of the late John and Mary Beastall ‘of this place’, died 5 Oct 1833, aged 37 years. Edward Beastall, died 13 Feb 1860, aged 67 years; Mary Ann, relict of the above, died 5 Dec 1873, aged 77 years.

Matthew Beastal, late of London, died 20 May 1882, aged 80 years (Matthew had worked as an upholsterer in St James’s London for most of his life and never married).