Manuscripts and Special Collections

Rev. John Thomas Becher (1770-1848; justice of the peace and clergyman)

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The son of Michael Becher of Cork, Ireland, Becher entered Westminster School in 1784, and Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1788. He received his B.A. in 1792 and his M.A. in 1795. He was presented by Trinity College, Cambridge, as perpetual curate of Thurgarton and Hoveringham in 1799, was inducted as vicar of Rampton in Nottinghamshire and Midsomer Norton in Somerset in 1801, prebendary and vicar-general of Southwell in 1818, and rector of Barnborough, Yorkshire, in 1830. He died at Hill House, Southwell, in 1848.

Besides his clerical duties, Becher was chairman of the Quarter Sessions for the Northern division of Nottingham for 30 years until his resignation in April 1836. He had a particular interest in social economics. He designed the parish workhouse at Southwell in 1808, and in 1824 he promoted a union of 49 parishes called the Thurgarton Hundred Incorporation, and worked on the plans for its workhouse at Upton.

He supported strictness, segregation and economy in workhouses, and explained that they should be operated 'with tenderness towards the Infirm and the Guiltless Poor, but opposing by every legal effort the overwhelming Advances of idle, profligate and sturdy pauperism.' His view that workhouses should be unpleasant enough to deter all but the most needy, was the basis of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which set up Poor Law Unions across the country.

He was the author of A Report Concerning the House of Correction, at Southwell, in the county of Nottingham (1806); and The Anti-Pauper System; exemplifying the positive and practical good achieved under the ... administration of the poor laws, at Southwell, etc. (1828).

He also wrote on Friendly Societies, publishing The Constitution of Friendly Societies upon legal and scientific principles... in 1824, and Observations on the report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the laws respecting Friendly Societies, etc. in 1826.




Manuscripts and Special Collections

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