Beecroft family, of Reading

Joseph John Beecroft (1838-1906) was born in Lowestoft into a staunch Methodist family. He was apprenticed to a printer and moved to Reading in 1859, where he eventually established his own business in the Market Place. As a leading member of the Church Street chapel and then of Wesley Church, Queen's Road, he served as Sunday School Superintendent and trustee, and also as a local preacher.

His son, Lawrence Herbert Beecroft (1864-1951), born in Reading on 15 December 1864, studied at the Reading School of Art and Reading University Extension College. He became a versatile and prolific artist, known particularly for his lectures illustrated by lightning sketches. Growing up in Wesley WM church, he became a local preacher and in 1891 a trustee. His wife, Dulcie Julia, née Pearson, had been a deaconess with the West London Mission and shared his artistic gifts.

Painting of Christ   Click to enlarge
The Beecrofts emigrated to Australia in 1904, arriving in Sydney in February 1905. He quickly established himself for his caricatures, his portraits of Aboriginal people at the La Perouse settlement and his landscapes. He is remembered mainly for his painting 'And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter', which according to one account he painted in 1927 after experiencing a vision of the face of Christ. This was reproduced and became internationally known. The location of the original was for some years unknown, after it had been lent to the British and Foreign Bible Society. It is now known to have passed down to Beecroft's niece, who bequeathed it to Wesley's Chapel, London.

Beecroft and his wife were particularly associated with the Presbyterian Church of St. Columba, Woollahra a suburb of Sydney.He took a special interest in the aboriginal people and a collection of his paintings of them belongs to the Randwick and District Historical Society. Other collections of his work are found at the Pioneers Club of Australia, Vaucluse House and the State Library, Sydney, Sydney Town Hall and Reading Art Gallery. He died at Woollahra of a heart attack, on 5 May 1951.

  • Mabel F. Jordan (ed.), The Story of Wesley Methodist Church 1873-1973 (1973), pp.56-8
  • Ellen M. Waugh, Herbert Beecroft: An Entertaining Artist (Randwick & District Historical Society, Sydney, 1997)
  • Newsletter of the Randwick and District Historical Society, December 2001