Leeds MPs

BECKETT, William (1784–1863) Conservative. Banker.

From early in his life he played a very active part in the family business, Beckett’s Bank or the Old Bank as it was known in Leeds. Under his guidance the bank grew from strength to strength and offered great stability during the banking crisis of 1825–1826. In 1841 he stood for Leeds in the general election and after a difficult campaign came top of the poll ahead of the Liberal William Aldam. When Robert Peel formed his administration, he asked Beckett to act as seconder in the address to the House of Commons in reply to the Queen’s Speech. Beckett did so resplendent in the full military dress of a Lt.Col. of the Yorkshire Hussars, in which he had served for many years. He was again elected in 1847. However, Beckett shared many of Robert Peel’s views in particular those regarding Free Trade. The Conservatives in Leeds were divided over Protectionism and Beckett chose to stand for Ripon in the 1852 election. However, he generously supported many institutions in Leeds including schools, charities, the Philosophical Hall, the newly built Infirmary and the Mechanics’ Hall. For further reading see Leeds Intelligencer, 31 January 1863.