The Beer Pages

The Early Story

The surname Beer originates in South Western England. It cannot be tied down to a particular locality, as there are forty or fifty places called Beer, Beere or Bere in the region. It appears to be derived from the Old English "bearu", meaning a wood.

Our earliest Beer records come from an area of South Devon near Plymouth.
The map below shows many of the places referred to in the early part of our story.

Years ago, I started researching the history of "our" Beer family. I do not know exactly when that was but I do know that some of the information came from members of the family and some from works of reference in the library.

I don't remember doing this, as much of my memory of that period has been lost. One thing I do know - this was at a time when "on line" probably referred to washing flapping in the breeze.

My recent researches have confirmed most of the previous information, although there are one or two happenings for which we don't have appropriate evidence.

Map of Plymouth and South Hams

Our story, or what we have discovered of it, began in Brixton. Not the South London one, but a village of that name just to the East of Plymouth. Lesley Harrison, who shares our early ancestry, has kindly provided some additional information. The earliest I had found was a record of the baptism of Nicholas Beer in Brixton in 1688.

View of Brixton A view of Brixton, from the Brixton Village Website

Baptism record,
			Nicholas Beer

Lesley's ancestor was Nicholas's older sister Mary, baptised in 1684. She has identified what appear to be the marriages of their parents and their grandparents. We don't have a record of the birth of their great grandfather (probably around 1585) but we appear to have a record of his burial, in 1659. We also have a copy of his will, dated 16516 . In the absence of a marriage record, we cannot be certain of this but it appears that his wife was Susan, who was buried at Wembury on 22 October, 1642.

Will of Samuel Beer 1651

The evidence indicates that the Beers were a family of yeoman farmers, and the early information we have discovered all comes from the rich farmland of Brixton and the adjacent parishes.

Nicholas married Jane Kingcomb in Wembury on 7 April 1710.2
Their eldest son Samuel was baptised in Wembury on 6 January 1710.1 No, it was not before his parents' marriage. In the Julian calendar the year started on 25th March, so he was actually born nine months after the wedding!

Baptism record, Samuel Beer

Next came Gabriell, 4 March 1713.1 He married Prothesa Denbow in Modbury on 2 August 1741.2 The Denbows had been a prominent family in South Devon since the twelfth century, and this marriage brought the name Prothesa into the Beer family where it named ships as well as daughters!

The schooner Prothesa
Prothesa, 174 tons, Registered Salcombe,No.4403
Painting, oil on canvas, by an unknown artist, Salcombe Maritime Museum

Finally there were the twins, Nicholas and John. They were baptised on 8 September 1716, and were buried the following day. Their mother was buried less than three weeks later.1

Baptism and burial, Nicholas and John Beer

Seven years after the death of Jane, Nicholas married Mary Helliot. All we know about her is that she died the following year. We have found no record of any children of that marriage.

Nicholas married again, in 1726. His bride this time was Mary Shimbles. They had two children, Susanna (1727) - who died at the age of five - and Nicholas(1741).

Gabriel's son John, born 1751, married Elizabeth Ferris (born Plymouth, 17561) in South Brent on 13 July 1773. 3 They had eight children (of whom we are aware), six sons and two daughters, all born in Kingsbridge.

Prothesa married John Lidstone, an iron founder, blacksmith and cutler, on 31 October 1795.3 The Lidstones were a leading family in the commercial life of Kingsbridge and the surrounding area. The Beer family is referred to in their published family history.

John (Lidstone, b. 1738) became a prominent businessman in the town and worked closely with the Beer family, who were merchants and had arrived in Kingsbridge about the same time...
John (b. 1771, son of the above) married Prothesa Beer...which increased even further the close business co-operation of the two families.

He (John Lidstone, b. 1801) was...a ship owner through his association with the Beer family, who established a flourishing business as merchants trading round the European coasts and to the West Indies.

Extract from
"Lidstone of the South Hams of Devon"
by Hugh R.G. Lidstone,
published by the Lidstone Family History Society, 1989.
ISBN 0 9515332 1 5

The family remains active to the present day in the commercial life of Kingsbridge and a wide area of South Devon. However, Prothesa's brother Benjamin based himself in Plymouth. He married Christian Reep in St Andrew's Church, Plymouth, on 16th May, 1808.

Prothesa, their first born, appears to have been baptised in Kingsbridge two days before her parents' marriage in South Brent 4. This might be historical fact, or it may be the result of a transcription error in one of the records.

Marriage, Christian Reep

A few years later, the baptismal records become a little more informative, and we discover that Benjamin was a silversmith. (The extract illustrated is of the baptism of his daughter Prothesa on 21st August 1813.)

Baptism, 1813, prothesa

Benjamin and Christian's first child was Elizabeth Reep Beer, baptised 18 September 1809 at St Andrew's, Plymouth. Next was Joseph Reep Beer, born 5 April 1811 in Plymouth. He and his descendants provide the rest of our story. He was followed by Prothesa (mentioned above) in 1813. Benjamin died at the young age of 27, in 1815. We have no information as to how or why he died; the record is simply of his burial. So Joseph was four when his father died and his young brother Benjamin was born after their father's death.

We cannot be absolutely certain what happened to Christian and the children after Benjamin's death but the evidence seems to indicate that they became part of the household of their uncle Gabriel Beer, ironmonger, in Charles Place, Plymouth. Prothesa and Benjamin can be found there in the 1841 census. Their mother, Christian, died in 1830.

How did Joseph come to marry a miller's daughter in St Dominick, Cornwall? When he married Betsey Jefford on 30 May 18325, the parish register described him as "of this parish". What attracted them to move forty miles east to Exeter? The move was fairly immediate - their eldest son Joseph was baptised in Exeter just one year later. In the 1841 census, Joseph is shown as a coal merchant - perhaps a connection with the Beer shipping interests?

They were the start of "our" separate line of Beers.

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  1. Baptism Register Transcripts, Plymouth & West Devon Record Office.
  2. Boyd's Marriage Index 1538-1840. Transcribed by Society of Genealogists.
  3. Devon Marriages - Transcripts, Devon Family History Society.
  4. Kingsbridge Baptisms, IGI Batch No. P001881.
  5. Cornwall Marriages, Cornwall Family History Society.
  6. The National Archives: Public Record Office Catalogue No. Prob/11/300

© 2005 - 2019 Thelma and Peter Jones
12 November 2019