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Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg has strong working class roots

Our hidden histories. This week Nick Barratt reports on Simon Pegg

It's a fairly easy one to call this week. There are clear signs of middle-class activity in later generations, but obvious indications of working-class roots further back in Simon (Pegg) Beckingham's family tree on both sides - general labourers, fitters and riveters on the maternal line, and agricultural labourers on his father's side.

Simon Pegg - born Simon John Beckingham - is one of Britain's brightest comedy stars. After studying drama at Bristol University, he made his breakthrough in the BBC sketch show Big Train, before moving to Channel 4 to co-author the sitcom Spaced.

He rose to stardom with the film Shaun of the Dead, a "romantic comedy with zombies". On the back of this he was asked to play a cameo role in the latest of George Romero's zombie series, Land of the Living Dead. Pegg also appeared in the Tom Cruise blockbuster Mission Impossible: III and his latest film, Hot Fuzz, was released earlier this year.

Much of the material for which Pegg has become known has been of a decidedly quirky nature. Does his background give clues as to why this might be?

Who is he related to?

Simon John Beckingham was born in 1970, the son of John Henry Beckingham, who was described on the birth certificate as a "representative" selling musical instruments and who had a passion for jazz. Simon's parents married in 1968 in Gloucester, where his father worked in sales in the engineering sector.

He was probably encouraged to switch by his own father, Frederick John Beckingham, who was in music publishing. Yet the Beckingham line can be traced back very quickly into labourers, first in the gas works (George Beckingham, Simon's great-grandfather) and then on the land.

George's father, Thomas, worked as an agricultural labourer in Mildenhall, near Marlborough, as did the majority of his nine children. His son William, for example, aged nine, worked as a plough boy, helping his older brother Thomas, 13.

Indeed, this appears to have been a family trait, working the land from an early age to assist with the household income. For many people in the position of the Beckinghams, work was seasonal, so all hands were put to work during busy periods.

The alternative was to work in one of the main industries, as did Simon's paternal great grandfather Charles Henry Faulkner who was a fireman on the railways.

Simon's maternal line had a more varied background. His mother, Gillian Rosemary Smith, worked as a civil servant, as had her father, Albert Edward Smith.

At the time of her birth he was a storeman in the Air Ministry depot; but he had previously enjoyed a career in the nascent Royal Air Force as a leading aircraftman in the 1920s, which is noteworthy when one considers that the service was formed in 1918 by merging the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service.

He married Emma Turner in 1927, who at the time worked as a cashier in a Post Office in Gloucester. The fathers of both halves of the couple worked as general labourers, making them solidly working-class.

The Masters family, who married into the Turner line in 1890, were blacksmiths and tin workers. Edward, Pegg's maternal great-great-grandfather, came from Wales. He had six children by the age of 34, eight in total, and raised his large family in Gloucester.

  • Simon Pegg's family is fairly typical in terms of background. But if you suspect your ancestors might have been of aristocratic origin, keep an eye out for So You Think You're Royal on Sky One each Monday at 10pm, when I set out to prove - or disprove - the claims of families who have heard they may have blue blood flowing through their veins.
  • Next week, I'll examine the background of Martin Amis.

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