Several sources, including Surtees, state that Beamish was purchased by Timothy Davison, the husband of Elizabeth Blackett, in 1683, but it is not clear from when, or indeed whether, they lived at the house. An IGI entry shows the June 1683 baptism of Timothy’s son John as of Beamish, but this is a member submission and appears to be incorrect in view of the dates shown below. (The baptism took place at St. Nicholas’s Church, Newcastle, as did those of John’s siblings). However, Beamish was definitely occupied later by William Davison, the eldest surviving son of Timothy and Elizabeth, who was shown as Lord of the manor of Beamish in a lease dated 7 July 1719, and is referred to as “of Beamish” in various documents from 1721 to 1734, the year in which he died there. In 1770 William’s son, Morton Davison, left in his Will a life interest in the house and park at Beamish to his widow, Dorothy. The acquisition of the property by Timothy, however, appears to be rather less simple than sometimes stated, and its occupation by the Davisons to have taken place somewhat later than 1683.
On 13 May 1684 William Blackett, Esq., (who became Sir William Blackett the following January), Benjamin Davison (probably Timothy’s brother) and Robert Pease, merchants, all of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, entered into an agreement with Major William Christian “of Beamish in the county of Durham” concerning the conveyance of the manor of Beamish by Major Christian to William Blackett while a mortgage by Major Christian to John Howland of Hatton Garden, gentleman, was in force. (Major Christian, of Unerigg, Cumberland, had bought Beamish from the Wray family some twelve years earlier.)
The agreement confirmed that:
(i) £2,500 had been paid by William Blackett to Major Christian as part of the £4,200 purchase price for the manor of Beamish, and that the balance of £1,700 remained unpaid, secured by a 99 year lease of Beamish dated 1 September 1683 from William Blackett to Major Christian. (£200 of the balance owing was subsequently paid by William Blackett – who had by then become Sir William – to William Christian “of Beamish” on 18 October 1687 and £51 was paid “by the hand of Timothy Davison" by Sir William to Major Christian on 1 November 1687, “this being the sum mentioned in a pair of Indentures” dated 1 September 1683.)
(ii) £2,200 which had been paid on 17 November 1683 (the assignment actually stated £2,240) by Benjamin Davison and Robert Pease to John Howland (the mortgagee mentioned above) was the purchase price of the mortgage and was the money of William Blackett. The mortgage had been assigned to Messrs. Davison and Pease at the request of William Blackett, “only in order to preserve the inheritance of the said premises from subsequent incumbrances”.
On 26 March 1684 William Blackett had executed a lease for one year of “the manor or lordship of Beemish or Beemish Park” to Timothy Davison for a consideration of five shillings. It is not clear how that lease sat in relation to the earlier 99 year lease to Major Christian mentioned above, but the 1687 reference to William Christian “of Beamish” suggests that it was Major Christian and not Timothy Davison who was living at the property in that year.
All this presents a confused picture of the purchase, and to complicate matters further, on 24 October 1691 Timothy Davison entered into an agreement confirming that a 1666 judgement against George Wray, a former owner of Beamish, “shall not be extended on the manor of Beamish since purchased by [Timothy]”.
British History Online states that Beamish was bought by Sir William Blackett in trust for Timothy Davison, and that could explain the joining of Benjamin Davison and Robert Pease in the 1684 agreement and the assignment of the mortgage to them the previous year, if they were the trustees. However it is not clear why Sir William decided to purchase Beamish in trust for his brother-in-law. Timothy Davison was aged over 40 and was already a wealthy merchant at the time of the transaction. Why then did William Blackett agree to pay £4,200 for an estate for his eldest sister and her wealthy husband?
The answer may be that he felt (perhaps with some encouragement) under a moral obligation to pass on more of his father’s fortune to his eldest sister, Elizabeth Davison and her husband, than his father had done so himself. On Elizabeth’s marriage to Timothy Davison in January 1663/4 her father would no doubt have settled a reasonable sum on the couple, but his wealth had grown considerably since then and the bulk of his fortune passed to his three sons, with William receiving the largest share on the death of his father in 1680. In addition, in 1683, the year of the purchase of Beamish, William and his brother Edward inherited a share in the valuable Winlaton estate when their brother Michael died without issue. The purchase of Beamish in trust for Timothy would presumably have been to ensure that it passed down to the descendants of Timothy and Elizabeth.
This explanation can of course be no more than conjecture, but such evidence as exists points to William’s purchase of Beamish as being an act of generosity rather than a commercial transaction. He may have been encouraged in this by the fact that in 1681 Timothy Davison had loaned £450 to William’s brother Michael. However, William’s generosity did not stop Timothy from suing Michael’s widow, Dorothy, in 1685 for fraudulently maintaining that her late husband’s estate comprised insufficient assets to repay the loan.
Images by Thomas Longbottom with permission from Beamish Hall.