One of Colchester’s best known buildings has links to historically interesting people stretching back centuries.

Keen historian Neil Brinded has looked into the connections between famous artist Camille Pissarro’s family and the Minories Gallery and has now turned his attentions to that of the Becker family.

Medicine and art are two strong themes which run through the building’s history.

Prior to being associated with art, the building was a place linked to medicine having been the homed from 1821 of the town’s first female doctor - Dr Ruth Bensusan-Butt.

Neil explains this was a time when doctors practised mainly from their homes and Essex County Hospital, on Lexden Road, had only recently opened.

But she was not the only medical practitioner who lived and worked there.

Neil says : “Of all the medical families who lived and worked at the Minories, one of the most interesting must be that of Dr Charles Becker, who settled in Colchester in the 1850s.”

Charles had an extraordinary life, continues Neil, having been born in 1827 to an upper-class, political family.

His father, Philip, was Secret Councillor of State for the Province and as a teen Charles was an adventurer travelling to the USA to take part in the Mexican war.

Returning to Germany, Charles studied medicine at Giessen University, gaining practical experience serving with the French Army in North Africa and the German Army and caring for British troops in the Crimean War.

Cholera was rife among and Dr Becker worked in the cholera camp at Varna, Bulgaria.

After this, adds Neil, Dr Becker took up a post as principal medical officer in Colchester,

Neil says : “When the war ended in 1857 and the regiment was disbanded without seeing any action, Dr Becker decided to remain in the town.

“Presumably he had taken an oath of loyalty to the Queen, which might have caused him problems had he returned to live in Germany. “

Having had a civil ceremony in Germany Dr Becker and his wife Henrietta officially married at St Mary’s-at-the-walls in 1857.

Their son, Theodore, went on to attend the grammar school before becoming a career soldier in the British Army.

The family initially lived in Eld Lane and Dr Becker set up practice there, regularly working with the police.

By 1884 the Becker family had moved to what would later be known as the Minories.

“He spoke with a strong German accent which was long remembered by those who met him.

“By 1902 Dr Becker had retired from his practice, and he and his wife moved out of the Minories.

“The building underwent renovations which, among other things, blocked the side entrance.”

Dr Becker, who died in 1910, had a large family and another of his sons, Harry Otto Becker, born in 1865, went to the Royal Academy Schools in Antwerp, whose alumni included Vincent van Gogh, aged 14.

From 1886 until 1894, Harry Becker lived with his parents at the Minories, thus beginning the building’s connection to art, which would continue with the Pissarro and Bensusan families.