William Thomas Beckford (1760-1844) was a novelist, artist, architect, traveller, politician and positive heartthrob.
Most remembered for his folly, Fonthill Abbey, he was described by Byron as “England’s wealthiest son”. An apparent endless supply of funds enabled him to explore many interests in the age of ultimate gentleman’s leisure.
In fact, his wealth came at the age of ten, inherited from his father who was former Lord Mayor of the City of London. The million pounds cash, land, and Jamaican plantations allowed him to indulge his interest in art and architecture and even try his hand at music (under the tutelage of Mozart) and writing gothic horror including Vathek and Portugal.
After matriculating University, he travelled in Europe returning in 1778 to later marry. Reportedly bi-sexual, Beckford, his wife, and daughter were later forced by vicious gossip into exile in 1785. Soon after his wife died in childbirth.
He returned around 1796 to construct the Fonthill Abbey, which eventually forced him to sell his estate in 1822.
Town’s once most eligible bachelor retired to Bath where he died in 1844 at the ripe old age of 84.