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Home and School

In the second half of the nineteenth century Stanhope Road would have been a quiet, unassuming, residential area of Darlington.† It was here on 1 May 1886 that Frances Elizabeth Beetham gave birth to her second son.† He was given his motherís maiden name of Bentley.† His father, James Weighell Beetham, was retired having been Manager and Director of the Darlington and District Bank.† He was not to know his two sons and see them grow to adulthood as he died in 1890 at the age of 59 when John was six years old and Bentley four.† John went on to follow in his fatherís footsteps in banking.† Bentley, however, was more of a free spirit and had wider ambitions which did not include a career in the financial world.

Until the age of ten John received private tuition and then attended the nearby Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.† Meanwhile, Bentley attended Mr. Bowmanís Preparatory School until he was eight and then in 1894 he joined his brother at the Grammar School.† When he was thirteen he became a boarder at the North Eastern County School at Barnard Castle.† The time he spent there was to have a strong influence on him, not least because of its setting in an unspoiled natural environment and the opportunities it gave for exploration, but also through the School Natural History Society which provided opportunities for the study of archaeology, botany, entomology, geology and photography.† Beetham developed an interest in photography which in time led to his being regarded as one of the leading bird photographers of his day.† When he left School in 1903 he took with him a passion for the natural world which is shown by the dedication of his book Among our Banished Birds (1927).

"To my old School at Barnard Castle where I learnt to love the open country and all wild life"

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