©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 02, 2019
Webpage updated: January 01, 2020




The Bewes family were originally from Launceston in Cornwall, where they were successful merchants.  Over the years they had purchased land in east Cornwall and at some point added the manor of Sutton Vautort or Valletort, in Plymouth, to their estates.

By 1736 Mr Thomas Bewes had a house in Hoegate Street and in 1755 and again in 1764 he was Mayor of the Plymouth.  His son, Harry, married Miss Jane Tonkin, daughter of Mr Peter Tonkin, who had the naval Victualling Office contract to transport supplies out to ships in the Sound. Their son, Thomas, in turn married Miss Frances Culme, daughter of Mr John Culme of Tothill House.

Thomas Bewes stood for Parliament in 1806, in replacement of his father-in-law, Mr John Culme, who had died two years before.  However, in spite of spending a lot of money on his campaign, he was unsuccessful.  This may have been rather fortunate because in 1809 his wife died, leaving him with a young family to look after.  He moved the family into Tothill House, where his sister-in-law could look after them.

In 1813 Thomas married again and moved into Friary House, which he purchased from Sir Michael Seymour, a captain in the Royal Navy.  Near them was an even larger property, Beaumont House, which was approximately twenty years old, and in 1820 Thomas bought it for £750 from the Manor of Sutton Pill, who were at the time leasing it to a member of the Julian family.  It is said that it was Thomas who gave the name to the house and to have added the east wing.

At the time of the first parliamentary election following the passing of the Municipal Reform Act of 1832, Mr Thomas Bewes was returned unopposed, along with Mr John Collier, the wine merchant.  Thomas retired from Parliament in 1841.  He died at Beaumont House in 1857 but was buried in the Bewes' family vault in Duloe Church, in Cornwall.

Thomas Archer Bewes and his brothers, 1885.

The Bewes brothers, pictured in 1885.
Seated: Colonel C E Bewes; Reverend T A Bewes; Mr C T Bewes.
Standing: Captain F D Bewes and Colonel W E Bewes.
(Reproduced courtesy of Mr Colin Bewes)

The heir to the Bewes estate was Thomas Archer Bewes, who was born in 1803 to Thomasís first wife.  He was ordained in 1826 and became the curate at Duloe, where he stayed for eight years before moving to Toland, near Taunton, in Somerset.  He settled at Beaumont House, probably upon the death of his father, where he became a generous benefactor to Charles Church and to the new Saint Judeís Church, opposite the House.

In the 1881 Census, the Reverend Bewes, then 77-years-old, had his niece, Agnes, 47, living with him at Beaumont House, along with no less than a butler, 52-years-old Charles Pound, a domestic servant, 51-years-old Grace Prest (Priest?), two housemaids and 18-years-old kitchen maid, Emily Roberts, from Liskeard.

Thomas was the eldest of five brothers, pictured above:   Cecil Edward Bewes, 1816-1903; Charles Theodore Bewes, 1818-1894; Wyndham Edmund Bewes, 1822-1884; and Frederick Duffy Bewes, 1825-1883. 

Around 1882, when Tothill Road was being constructed, he bought a strip of land to the west of the road from the Culme-Seymour family, and used it to extend his land.  The wall around the Park probably dates from that time.  Interestingly, when he bought that piece of land he inserted in the deeds a stipulation that it was to be held until taken over by the Borough of Plymouth, along with the remainder of the original Park.  This was apparently because he was aware that new laws were about to be introduced enabling local authorities to create public recreation areas and presumably intended that his land should be put to that purpose.

During his lifetime, he had been President of the Plymouth Public Dispensary and he donated a stained-glass window to the new Guildhall in 1873.

The Reverend T A Bewes pictured at Beaumont House in 1888

The Reverend Thomas Archer Bewes pictured
at Beaumont House in 1888, the year before he died.
Reproduced courtesy of Mr Colin Bewes.

The Reverend Thomas Archer Bewes died on June 23rd 1889 at Beaumont House and the following year his Trustees sold the land to Plymouth Corporation for £26,000.  It was opened in 1892 as Plymouthís first public park and in August 1898 the House was opened as Plymouthís first Museum.


  With acknowledgements to Mr Colin Bewes, of Hastings, the Great Great Grandson of Mr C T Bewes, for additional information and permission to reproduce his excellent family photographs; and to Mr David Bewes, for sending corrections to the original article in 2006.