The Shipping Interests of the Beckwith Family of Colchester, 1816–1919

By Ian Beckwith withh John Collins, published August 2023


This article endeavours to construct the history of the Beckwith family and their various partners in a shipping business which, in various forms, operated out of the port of Colchester from 1816 to 1919. The family’s interests began with Joseph Beckwith, a master mariner on the coastal trade. Through his connections with shipowners, his sons also entered the trade. Benjamin Beckwith was a master mariner and in the 1840s began to take shares in ships. In turn his son, Joseph Hawkins Beckwith, invested heavily in the shipping business and through a network of business associates established the firm of Mills and Beckwith around 1860. This evolved into Beckwith and Marriage in 1880, and then from 1882, Beckwith & Co. The business was primarily focussed on the coastal trade, operating sailing barges and, from 1880, small steamers. The business contracted in the 1910s and did not survive the First World War. The history of Beckwith & Co. sheds light on the coastal trade, which has been poorly treated by historians. It was a small but crucial part of the maritime and commercial infrastructure of Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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Filed under: English Channel | North Sea | Other (Twentieth C) | Other (Nineteenth C)
Subjects include: Biography | Merchant Marines

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