The list which follows is in two principal parts: firstly there are lists of William Beamont's own diaries, letters, transcripts, and personal papers, together with lists of original records deposited by him or connected with him or his family; secondly there is a list of the mainly medieval deeds in the Warrington Collection, many of which were deposited by him.
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William Beamont (1797-1889) was, in his day, undoubtedly the most notable figure in the town of Warrington. A solicitor by profession, he was the first Mayor of the town, and actively involved in public affairs all his life. He was a great benefactor, sponsoring and endowing many local institutions and charities. He was also a keen antiquarian and historian.
He was born in Warrington, his father being an established linen draper in the town. His early education was at a dame school kept by a Mrs Birch, then at a boarding school in Chester conducted by a Mr Stolterforth. His chosen profession was the law: he was articled to a Mr Strethill Wright in Knutsford, completed his training in London, then came back to practise in the Market Place in Warrington, in premises subsequently occupied by Messrs Robert Davies & co.
He devoted a large part of his time to public affairs. He was instrumental in bringing about the incorporation of the town. In "Some remarks as to the Necessity for a Corporation, in a Letter addressed to the Inhabitants of Warrington" (1846) he set out arguments in support of this. A petition for a charter of incorporation went before the Privy Council and was granted in 1847. He was elected Mayor at the council's inaugural meeting. He sat on several committees, and in days when private money found its way into public concerns he spent a large sum of his own money to complete and connect sewers in the town. He was chairman of the Savings Bank, attended metings of the Gas Board, worked hard for the Infirmary, to mention but a few other of his concerns. He also held the offices of High Constable and clerk to the magistrates.
He was the first chairman of the Museum and Library Committee in 1848. A circulating Library had been established in the town in 1760, maintained largely by private subscription. It became fully rate supported in 1848 - the first of its kind in the country - uniting with the museum of the local Natural History Society, which had been founded in 1835. This had been achieved through his efforts together with the first Town Clerk, John Fitchett Marsh. It was at first housed in rented premises in Friars Green. He laid the foundation stone of the present building in Museum Street in 1855. This was enlargd in 1876 by the addition of the Art Gallery. Although he resigned as an alderman in 1854, he remained (co-opted) as Chairman of the Museum and Library Committee until his death.
A devout C of E churchman, he was renowned for his charitable deeds and unstinting financial generosity. His name is, in this context, linked with various educational establishments, including the Mechanics Institute, the School of Art, the Grammar School, Heathside Schools, St Ann's School and Orford Schools. He built and endowed St Ann's church, and endowed the parish of Orford. Here at Orford, in the combined school and church (used Monday to Saturday as a school and Sundays as a church and Sunday School) he attended services, read lessons and taught at the Sunday School until he was 90 years old. He campaigned to build a hospital to replace the Warrington Dispensary (opened in 1810) which had become inadequate for the needs of the town, setting up a fund and initiating a group to work to this end. The Infirmary was opened in 1872, with "Beamont Ward" a monument to his interest in the project.
He held a lifelong interest in antiquarian and historical research, especially after retirement from his professional work c1865. He had many works published, numbering some sixty or more books and pamphlets. These include histories of Warrington and the surrounnding parishes and townships, books based on his foreign tours, and transcripts or abstracts of historical documents. His own copies of several of these, with notes, additions and pasted in newscuttings etc, are preserved in the Library Reference Section. He left a large quantity of unpublished material, which forms the basis of the Beamont Collection. He was also a member and officer of various Lancashire and Cheshire learned societies, and a voluminous contributor to newspapers, especially the "Warrington Guardian".
His first wife was Ann Gaskell, the daughter of John Gaskell, a Warrington merchant. The authoress, Mrs Gaskell, was a distant relative. Ann Beamont was so active in charitable and church work herself that he claimed that in some parts of the town he was known as Mrs Beamont's husband. She died in 1859. They had lived in the town in Bewsey Street, but after her death he moved to Rock Villas, Latchford.
His second wife was Laetitia Naegeli, who was of Swiss parentage. She too distinguished herself in the community by charitable deeds, and continued to do so after his death. She herself died in 1902, and the residue of her estate went to the "Beamont Charity" for "well conducted persons who have known better days". They had lived for most of their married life at Orford Hall, which they rented from the Ireland-Blackburne family.
Two children were born of the first marriage. One son, John, died in infancy in 1829. The other son, William John (1828-1868), was a clergyman and author. He was educated at the Warrington Grammar School, Eton, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He toured Egypt and Palestine as a young man, was ordained in 1854 and spent some time in Jerusalem where he was engaged in educating intending missionaries to Abyssinia, Sunday School work and in preaching both in English and Arabic. He was a chaplain to the camp hospitals of the British army before Sebastopol. He returned to England in 1855, became curate of St John's, Broad Street, Drury Lane, London, then in 1858 accepted the vicarage of St Michael's, Cambridge. He died, aged 40, in 1868, his death hastened by a fever caught in the east. He had many works published, was the founder of the Cambridge School of Art (1858) and Church Defence Association (1859). He was also the orginator of the Church Congress (1861).
William Beamont has been criticised, in his lifetime and after his death, over certain inaccuracies and shortcomings, but it needs to be remembered that as a local historian of his time he was in many ways a pioneer. No-one can doubt his industry and application. It has been questioned how a man who was so actively engaged in his own profession and in public life found time to write so many books. Albeit by then retired from the law, he once partly disclosed the secret when he said "I spend several hours before breakfast every morning on the work". He was then 80 years of age.