Thomas Beach (1737-1806)
Helyar was evidently a great patron of Beach, as between 1768-9 he commissioned fourteen portraits of immediate family members…
The Helyar’s family roots in Somerset can be traced back to 1616 when the Reverend William Helyar (1559-1645), chaplain to Elizabeth I, purchased the family residence Coker Court in East Coker, Somerset. William held a number of ecclesiastic positions in and around nearby Devon and initiated the construction of the Helyar Almshouses, which were later completed by his grandson, also called William, a politician who represented Ilchester (1689) and Somerset (1715-22) at Parliament. The sitter in the present work was the grandson of the Somerset politician, and in 1766 commissioned architect Joseph Dixon to design a new wing to Coker Court, the plan for which he is shown holding in his left hand. William Helyar was evidently a great patron of Beach, as between 1768 and 1769 he commissioned fourteen portraits of immediate family members.
Although a painter of national importance, Beach, who was born and died in Dorset, maintained a practice rooted in the South West of England. He trained at the St Martin’s