Henry Corry Rowley Becher, builder of Thornwood, was born in London, England in 1817, son of Alexander Becher, a Royal Navy officer, and Frances Scott, daughter of the Anglican rector of Kingston and Port Royal. His family had interesting naval and literary connections. Henry’s cousin was the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, and his brother Alexander was an admiral.

In 1835, Henry came to London and articled as a lawyer. His studies were interrupted by the 1837 Rebellion, and he took part in the destruction of the rebel ship “Caroline”, which was cut loose and sank in the Niagara River above the Falls. Becher was called to the Bar in 1841, was made a Queen’s Counsel, and later gained a reputation for court duels with Oliver Mowat and Edward Blake. He was well connected with the local elite and invested successfully in toll roads, banks, oil, real estate, and railroads. In 1882, he became a barrister of the Inner Temple in London, England.

Becher married Sarah Evanson Leonard, daughter of the Sheriff of Niagara, in 1841. The couple had seven children; their son, Henry Jr., was London’s mayor in 1885. Their original wooden house, Thornwood, was built in 1844 and burned in 1852. Becher replaced it with a brick design of his own which included Gothic and Tudor styles. The house is situated on high land overlooking the Thames River and its floodplain (now Gibbons Park). A verandah, added in 1856, contributes to its architectural and domestic charm. 50

Becher and his descendants entertained many dignitaries at Thornwood, including the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), the Duke of Connaught, Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Robert Borden, and the young Winston Churchill, who planted a birch tree in the yard.

329 St. George Street
London, ON
42° 59' 59.2584" N, 81° 15' 28.3824" W