The Reverend John Besley DCL
From Tiverton in Devon, the son of the local mayor, Besley was a talented and charismatic man, educated at Balliol College (Oxford University) and always destined for a successful career in the church. After working in a prestigious but rather poorly paid role as librarian at the world famous Bodleian Library in Oxford, he was ‘presented by his college’ to the living at Longbenton near Newcastle in the north of England and finally had a vicar’s salary that allowed him to marry Eliza Kennedy, Georgiana’s elder sister. Eliza died at the vicarage in March 1834 after less than five years of marriage. Besley married again two years later.
Elizabeth Margaret Kennedy, Georgiana’s elder sister
(With grateful thanks to Mrs Dorothy M Blaasch née Richardson-Bunbury)
Photograph © Mike Rumble
Besley’s second wife was Frances, the widow of Robert Bint of Mount Stone, an elegant house in the Stonehouse area of Plymouth in Devon. Now a listed building of historical interest, the house was built into the steep sides of a former quarry. Mr Bint had been the steward of the Earl of Edgcumbe and like Eliza he died in 1834. Bint left his widow the house, paintings, wine, silver and his pew in the local chapel as well as enough money to keep her very comfortable. She was wealthy enough to build eight ‘almshouses’ to provide housing for local widows, donating the finances for their clothes and weekly coal, candles and bread as well as Bibles and prayer books.
The new ‘Reverend and Mrs Besley’ must have been financially able to maintain both homes and their servants because in 1841 they were living at Besley’s vicarage in Longbenton. On the evening of the 1851 census Frances was at the house in Plymouth, with four servants. She died there in January 1861 at the age of 69.
Three years later, in 1864, Besley married for a third time, once again to a lady with considerable personal capital. Charlotte Peach was 43 and single. Besley was 62. They were married at All Souls Church in Langham Place, London where she was staying at the rectory. By a remarkable coincidence, this was the church where Georgiana Molloy attended a service while staying in London just before she boarded the ship that brought her to Western Australia.
Charlotte’s father was George Peach of Dorset. Since her father’s death she had been managing the family home at Milbrook, Child Okeford, living there with her younger sister and their five servants: a coachman, a dairymaid, a lady’s maid, a cook and a housemaid. George Peach was a military doctor who, like John Molloy, had fought in the Peninsular War and when he died twelve years before Charlotte married Besley, he was a wealthy man. Charlotte had inherited enough to give her a very comfortable life; in the 1861 census she is listed as the head of the household, a ‘landed proprietor’.
John Besley died on 17 April 1868 at the age of 68, after more than thirty years as vicar of the church in Longbenton, Northumberland. The 1881 census shows that his widow Charlotte was living in Sidbrooke House, West Monkton, Somerset near her childhood home, with Besley’s niece and, once again, she was a ‘landed proprietor’ with four servants. Charlotte died there in August 1895, leaving a considerable estate of nearly £18,000.