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Betham, William (1749-1839) (DNB00)

BETHAM, WILLIAM (1749–1839), antiquary, was born at Little Strickland, near Morland, Westmoreland, on 17 May 1749. His family seems to have been settled in the county from the twelfth century, and to have derived its name from the little village of Betham, near Milnthorpe. From the sixteenth century Betham's immediate ancestors resided at Little Strickland. He was educated at the public school of Bampton, was ordained in 1773, apparently without graduating at a university, and became chaplain to the earl of Ancaster. From 1784 to 1833 he was head master of the endowed school at Stonham Aspel, Suffolk; he resigned the post in 1833, on being presented to the rectory of Stoke Lacy, in the diocese of Hereford. He died six years later, aged 90. In 1774 he married Mary, daughter of William Damont, of Eye, Suffolk, and by her he had fifteen children. His eldest surviving son was Sir William Betham, Ulster king of arms [q. v.], and Matilda Betham, the authoress [q. v.], was his daughter. Betham was the author of two important antiquarian works. In 1795 he published by subscription, in London, ‘Genealogical Tables of the Sovereigns of the World, from the earliest to the present period,’ a folio volume giving pedigrees of royal families, beginning with the ‘Antediluvian Patriarchs,’ and concluding with the ‘House of Cromwell.’ It was dedicated to George III. At the period of this publication Betham announced a work on the baronetage of England. The first volume, however, did not appear till 1801, when it was published at Ipswich with the following title: ‘The Baronetage of England, or the History of the English Baronets, and such Baronets of Scotland as are of English Families, with Genealogical Tables and Engravings of their Armorial Bearings.’ The first volume was dedicated to James Cecil, marquis of Salisbury. The second volume, dedicated to Charles, marquis and earl Cornwallis, was published at London in 1802. The third, fourth, and fifth volumes appeared in 1803, 1804, and 1805. An unprinted collection of letters, addressed to the author by the subscribers and others interested in the work during its progress, is in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 21033). A portrait of Betham, engraved from a drawing by his daughter Matilda, is prefixed to this volume. Betham also made collections with a view to a ‘History of Suffolk,’ but his advanced age compelled him to relinquish the undertaking; his papers were advertised for sale in the ‘Suffolk Chronicle,’ 3 Feb. 1833, but nothing is known of their subsequent history.

[Gent. Mag. (new ser.), xii. 655–6; Davy's MS. Suffolk Collections in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 19118, pp. 189 et seq.; Nicholson and Burn's Hist. of Westmoreland, i. 223.]

J. T. G.