History of the Estate
The name De Beauvoir first came to the area in 1640 when Richard De Beauvoir bought the Balmes Estate. The Balmes Estate was a farm, which is now De Beauvoir Town, and a large house which was situated near where the Kingsland Basin is today. The house was converted into a mental institution for some years before it was demolished and this is the origin of the word Balmy.
Richard De Beauvoir’s grandson, the Reverend Peter De Beauvoir, died in 1821 having had no children and so the Estate was left to his nearest relative who was his aunt’s great grandson, Richard Benyon.
Richard Benyon adopted the de Beauvoir name calling himself Richard Benyon De Beauvoir.
De Beauvoir Town was originally designed by William Rhodes, Cecil Rhodes’ grandfather, who was a large tenant farmer in the area and managed to persuade Peter de Beauvoir to grant him a 99 year building lease over 150 acres, now De Beauvoir town. When Richard Benyon inherited the Estate he challenged this building lease on the basis that Peter De Beauvoir was not of sound mind when he granted it. We will never know why Peter De Beauvoir granted this lease. It may be that he was not of sound mind because he was a somewhat miserly character and he granted it for relatively little money or it could have been because he did not like Richard Benyon very much. He much preferred Richard’s younger brothers Charles and Edward who would have inherited had they not both been killed in the Napoleonic wars.
The court case that ensued was long and expensive. Richard Benyon finally won but not before the case had gone all the way to the House of Lords.
William Rhodes’ design was much grander than Richard Benyon wanted. He had in the original design, for instance, five squares the same as De Beauvoir Square. Once Richard Benyon had finalised his design the construction of De Beauvoir Town as we know it today was started in earnest in the late 1830’s.
Richard Benyon also had Estates in Berkshire and Essex. These Estates spanned villages like Englefield, Mortimer, Ufton in Berkshire and Downham in Essex which is the origin of the road names:
Portrait of Richard Benyon De Beauvoir
St Peter De Beauvoir: This Anglican church has been at the heart of De Beauvoir since 1841.
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