The Twickenham Museum
People : Actors and Actresses

John Beard
Actor and singer
?1716 - 1791

Tenor singer and shareholder at Covent Garden
John Beard, celebrated actor and contemporary of David Garrick came, like Garrick, to live in Hampton in the second half of the 18th century. He was mainly known as a singer and his reputation was chiefly gained at Covent Garden for his singing of tenor parts specially written for him by Handel.

Of him, Charles Dibdin said, in his Complete History of the Stage that "his voice was sound, male, powerful, and extensive. His tones were natural, and he had flexibility enough to execute any passages however difficult."

His first appearance as an actor took place at Drury Lane in 1737. Shortly afterwards he married his first wife Lady Henrietta Herbert, only daughter of the first Earl Waldegrave, who died in 1753. In 1759 he married Charlotte, daughter of the famous theatre manager John Rich. After the death of his father-in-law in 1761 Beard, through his wife, became a shareholder in Covent Garden and undertook its management.

In 1746 he played Macheath in The Beggar's Opera by John Gay, at the Twickenham Playhouse, An new enterprise with which he may have been connected for a number of years.

Hospitable retirement in HamptonHe retired from the stage in 1767 after the loss of his hearing and came to live in Hampton, in the property called Rose Hill (now Hampton Library)which he built for himself in 1774. In that year Beard, along with other local riparian property owners, including David Garrick and Lancelot (Capability) Brown, became a trustee of the Hampton Staines Turnpike.

He lived in affluent circumstances in his retirement, in a hospitable manner with his circle of friends. He died at Hampton in 1791 and is buried in the vault of Hampton Church. His memorial tablet in the Church is one of those to have been transferred, from the old church, to the new building when it opened in 1831.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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