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Dr John Beale

Who was John Beale?

The Reverend Dr John Beale, rector of Yeovil, Somerset, England was a writer on gardening and rural affairs. He was based in Hertfordshire, England, and was active in the 17th century.

He was born in Yarkhill, Herefordshire, the son of Thomas Beale, a lawyer and farmer, and Joanna Pye; he was a nephew of Robert Pye and Walter Pye.[2][3] He was educated at the King's School, Worcester by Henry Bright, who is thought to have nurtured his early study of Erasmus,[2] and then at Eton College, before going to King's College, Cambridge in 1629. In his own account he had a photographic memory, and had early read in Melanchthon, Johannes Magirus and Zacharias Ursinus; he read philosophy to the King's students for two years. Thomas Birch identifies this period as the time when Ramism and Calvinism fell out of fashion there. He graduated B.A. in 1633, M.A. in 1636, and was Fellow from 1632 to 1640. He travelled on the continent in the late 1630s, and was rector of Sock Dennis, Somerset from 1638.[4]

He became a Church of England clergyman and writer on agriculture science and natural philosophy, the sixth and youngest son of Thomas Beale (1575–1620), a lawyer and prominent gentleman farmer, and his wife, Joanna, nee Pye (1576–1660). His father was an early exponent of cider orchards, cultivating grafts of the famous Redstreak crab apple on his Yarkhill estate, while the Pyes, one of the wealthiest families in Herefordshire, who were related to the Scudamores of Holme Lacy, (who discovered the famous Hereford Redstreak apple) also helped to establish the county’s cider-making reputation.

Beale proposed an art of memory to Samuel Hartlib, in 1656.[5] Hartlib, writing to Robert Boyle in 1658, said of Beale: "There is not the like man in the whole island". He became rector of Yeovil, Somerset, in 1660.

In January, 1663 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[6]

Life & Work

He was the owner of an estate at Backbury, Herefordshire and was a noted correspondent of Samuel Hartlib, John Buckland and John Evelyn.

In 1657 Beale penned Herefordshire Orchards, a book based on two letters to Hartlib.

In 1663 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. It is thought that John Evelyn's"No Phantasticall Utopia, but a Reall Place", chosen as the site of his Elysium Britannicum, may have been Old Sufton Court, Mordiford, Hereford, on which subject Beale and Evelyn corresponded.


Stubbs, Mayling, 'John Beale, Philosophical Gardener of Herefordshire', Annals of Science, 46:4 (1989), pp. 323-363.

Associated Places