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The Peel Family

The following account was written almost 150-years ago, and gives a contemporary picture of the Peel Family, as published in Hoggs’ Instructor in the Autumn of 1852, within two years of the death of Prime Minister Peel.

It also shows the huge numbers of Peels even at that time, an indication of how difficult it is now to trace ancestry back to Sir Robert Peel, a request often put to us, and one which the Peel Society, unfortunately, are not in a position to do.

However, read on, Mr. Hoggs’ exact words of 1852, viz:

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From The Instructor, 1852:

The principle of spinning by rollers, usually called Arkwright’s invention, was not introduced until about four years after the invention of the jenny.  Whether it was original to Arkwright, cannot now be told; but Mr. Baines of Leeds, and other diligent inquirers, have established the fact that an ingenious man, named Wyatt, erected a machine at Birmingham, and afterwards at Sutton Coldfield, in Warwickshire, twenty years before Arkwright evolved his idea, which was in principle the same, namely, that a pair of rollers, with slow motion, drew in a roving of cotton, and a second pair, with an accelerated motion, drew the roving from the other.  All the varieties of cotton-spinning machinery have sprung from those two – the rollers of Wyatt (or Arkwright) and the jenny of Hargreaves.  A farmer, named Samuel Crompton, living at Hall-i’-th’-wood, near Bolton, was the first to combine them in one machine; this was called the `mule’.

Returning to the Peel family, we see Robert, the son, following the printing of calico with enthusiasm.  He obtains lessons at Bamber Bridge.  We see his father engaged in constructing a machine for carding cotton into rovings, preparatory for spinning.  Instead of two flat cards set full of small wiry teeth, the one card to work over the other, this machine of Robert Peel the elder is a cylinder, covered with such wiry teeth.  It revolves, and a flat card with a vertical motion works upon it.  The carding by cylinders obtains to this day; and there is no reason to doubt that it was invented at Peel Fold.  It was, however, first erected for use at Brookside, a mile distant, for the convenience of water power.  You look down upon the place called Brookside from Stanehill Moor, your face turned to the south-west.  There, also, Mr. Peel and his sons erected the first of Hargreaves’ spinning-jennies, which was set in motion by water power, they being previously moved by hand.

It was now, 1766, that the murmurs of the spinning-women ripened to acts of violence.  At first the men were pleased with the jenny, which gave eight threads of weft instead of one; but, when it threatened to supersede hand-spinning altogether, they joined with the women in resisting its use. They marched out of Blackburn in mobs,and broke all the jennies, reduced the works at Brookside to absolute wreck, and levelled the house of James Hargreaves at Stanehill Moor into the ground.  Hargreaves, his wife and child, fled for their lives, first to Manchester, and then to Nottingham.  After many difficulties, he obtained the assistance of a person named Strutt, and the jenny was brought into use at Nottingham (1766-67), also at Derby.  Mr. Strutt made a fortune out of it, which, with his sagacity, integrity, and business habits, has descended to the eminent family who still bear that name at Derby.  It has been said that James Hargreaves died a pauper at Nottingham.  This was repeated in books for many years, but more recent investigation has proved that, though neither so rich as Strutts, Peels, or Arkwrights, he was not a pauper.  In his will he bequeathed £4000 to relatives.

When the buildings and machinery were demolished at Brookside, the mob proceeded to Altham, six miles distant, and destroyed the works which William Peel, the eldest son, had erected there.  Everywhere the Peels were hunted for the next twelve months.  At last the father turned his back on Lancashire, and took up his abode at Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, where he established both spinning and printing.

Meanwhile Robert, the third son, was diligently fulfilling an apprenticeship with the Bamber Bridge printers already named.  When at liberty to enter upon business for himself, he selected a green, sunny spot, with abundance of water, close to the town of Bury, in Lancashire.  His brothers did the same, at the hamlet of Church, near to which has since risen the thriving and populous town of Accrington.

The wonderful success of the whole family of the Peels as merchants, manufacturers, and calico printers, is a part of the industrial history of Britain.  Nothing more can be done here than to name it.  Robert, from the magnitude of his works at Bury, and from his political tendencies, became the best known.  He married the daughter of Mr. Yates, one of his partners in business, and by her had a large family.

He extended his works to other places than Bury.  Near Tamworth, in Staffordshire, he acquired property (where there was an abundance of water), and built the town of Fazeley, besides giving employment to the population of Tamworth.  In 1790 he became member of parliament for the latter place.  In 1797, when the government was distressed for money, he subscribed £10,000 to the voluntary contribution.  Next year, when invasion was first seriously feared, he raised six companies of volunteers, chiefly among his own workpeople at Bury, and became their lieutenant-colonel.  He published several political pamphlets.

He was the first to claim legislative protection to young persons employed in factories.  He had ben careful to regulate his own establishment more in accordance with humanity than most of his neighbours, and founded his bill of 1802:

‘to ameliorate the condition of apprentices in the cotton and woollen trade’

on the regulations which he had practically adopted.  At various times he re-opened this question during the next seventeen years, but never with that success which he desired.

In 1801, he was created a baronet; about which time he purchased the estate of Drayton Manor, close beside Fazeley.  He died there, and was interred in the church of Drayton Bassett in 1830, where the escutcheon, with its bees and the word ‘industria’, was raised over his tomb by his more celebrated son.  But here, too, the son is now lying – ‘Dust to dust, ashes to ashes’.

His son, the second Sir Robert Peel*, was born 5th February, 1788, at Bury.  It being Shrove Tuesday, on which pancakes are a universal feast in England, and his birth-day recurring on that day, the boys of his own age fixed on him the name of ‘Pancake Bob.’ It is said, that having been insulted on a visit to Bury, after he was a man and a member of parliament, with the cry of ‘Pancake Bob’ he ever afterwards avoided the town.  Bury is famous for its cakes.  His latter years were identified with the untaxing of bread, and Bury was the first to propose a monument to his memory in gratitude for that legislation.  This monument was completed, and opened to public view on the 8th September, 1852.  It bears the following inscription, quoted from one of his latest speeches:-

It may be that I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of good-will in the abodes of those whose lot it is to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, when they shall recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food – the sweeter because it is no longer leavened by a sense of injustice.

* A full sketch of the late Sir Robert Peel, as an orator and statesman, having been previously given in The Instructor, Vol.iv, it is unnecessary to do more on the present occasion than very briefly to enumerate the leading features in his illustrious career.

From Bury he was sent to school at Harrow, where he displayed great diligence and aptitude for learning.  Lord Byron was his contemporary, and, long before the statesman reached his great eminence, bore testimony to his unusual ability and diligence.  He said:  Peel, the orator and statesman that was, or is, or is to be, was my form-fellow, and we were both at the top of our remove, in public phrase.  We were on good terms, but his brother was my intimate friend.  There were always great hopes of Peel amongst us all, masters and scholars, and he has not disappointed us.  As a scholar, he was greatly my superior; as a declaimer and actor, I was reckoned at least his equal.  As a schoolboy out of school, I was always in scrapes; he never; and in school he always knew his lesson, and I rarely.

Mr. Peel proceeded to Christchurch, Oxford.  On taking his degree, he was the first man of his year.  In 1809, he obtained a seat in parliament for the borough of Cashel, in Ireland.  In 1810, he was made under-secretary of state.  In September, 1812, he was appointed chief secretary for Ireland.  In 1817, Mr. Abbott, speaker of the house, and member for the University of Oxford, being elevated to the peerage, Mr. Peel was elected for the university in his stead.  In 1822, he succeeded Lord Sidmouth as secretary of state for the home department, and, with a short interval, filled that office eight years.  In 1819, he carried a measure effecting great changes in the currency.  In 1826, he introduced measures for the reform of the criminal code.  In 1828-29, he reformed the police system; and in the latter year, with the Duke of wellington, carried the catholic Emancipation Act.  Before entering on this last measure, he resigned his seat for the university, and stood a new election, but was rejected.  In 1830, he succeeded to the baronetcy and a magnificent fortune as Sir Robert Peel.  In 1831-32 he opposed Lord John Russell’s Reform Bill.  In addressing the electors of Tamworth, in 1832, he made a declaration of his principles, which did not seem so true then as it does now, in 1852, when his life and legislation are a part of national history.  He said:

I have never been the decided supporter of any band of partisans, but have always thought it better to look steadily at the peculiar circumstances of the times in which we live, and, if necessities were so pressing as to demand it, to conclude that there was no discredit or dishonour in relinquishing opinions or measures, and adopting others more suited to the altered state of the country.

In the month of November, 1834, Sir Robert Peel, being in Rome, received a message, that his presence was desired in London, to place himself at the head of a Conservative ministry.  He obeyed the summons; but the ministry only retained office until the month of April, 1835.  He remained out of office until 1841.  In that year he became prime minister, and in 1842, surprised both his adherents and opponents by the boldness of his financial measures.  He proposed an income and property tax, to supply the deficiency in the exchequer, which had been gradually increasing, and causing alarm over several years; and he proposed to exempt from the tariff of customs duties many hundreds of articles.  Some of these yielded little or no revenue, and were only a hindrance to commercial business; others entered largely into manufactures, as the raw materials of industry.  He still resisted the repeal of the corn-laws, but yearly his resistance became more feeble, until, on the 4th December, 1845, he allowed the ‘Times’ newspaper to have the privilege of announcing to all the world that it was his intention to propose the abolition of the corn-laws in the ensuing session of Parliament.  This was accomplished, and the act took full effect on the 1st February, 1849.

In the latter part of the session of 1846, deserted by many previous supporters, and not supported by the party of mixed Whigs and Free-Traders with whom, on the corn-question, he identified himself, Sir Robert resigned office.

He was succeeded by Lord John Russell.  Sir Robert occasionally spoke in the House afterwards, but evinced no desire to reconstruct a party or return to office.  When His Royal Highness Prince Albert pro-pounded the plan for a Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, for the year 1851, Sir Robert Peel entered heartily into it, was nominated a commissioner, and was, up to the week of his death, the most unweariedly working member of the commission.

On the 20th June, 1850, when riding on horseback on Constitution Hill, near Buckingham Palace, in London, he was seen to fall from his horse.  Whether the horse stumbled, or had lost his balance in a fit, no one could tell.  He was bruised and so severely injured, that he never recovered consciousness.  He died on the 2nd July, in the 62nd year of his age.  His body, as already said, is buried in the church of Drayton Manor, Staffordshire.  He is succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, now Sir Robert Peel.  The second son, Frederick Peel, now M.P. for Bury (his father’s birthplace, and theatre of the grand-father’s industrial greatness), has evinced more aptitude for parliamentary business, and mentally and physically resembles his father, more than any of his brothers.  The small estate of Peel Fold remains in the family of William Peel, eldest brother of the first Sir Robert, grand-uncle of the present baronet.

The connections of the family which inherited Peel Fold are exceedingly numerous.  William Peele (so the name was formerly spelt), with three brothers, and their aged father, moved from Craven, in Yorkshire, to Blackburn, in the year 1600.  They had all families, which still have descendants; some of them factory workers, one a black-smith, one a draper in Blackburn, and some farmers.  William had a son, William, who died in 1651.  His son, Robert, was an enterprising character.  He had several daughters, to whom he left each ‘nine-score pounds’ – a good fortune, considering the then value of money.  He had two sons, Robert and Nicholas.  The latter became curate of Blackburn.  Robert purchased a small estate called ‘The Crosse’, and named it Peele Fold.  The deed of conveyance is dated April 30, 1731.  William, the son of that Robert, lived at Peel Fold, and died at the age of seventy-five, in the year 1757.  By Anne Walmsley, of Upper Darwin, he had four sons, Robert (with whom we began in first article, at the date of 1765), Lawrence, Nicholas, and Joseph.  Lawrence does not appear to have been married.  Nicholas was in business at Manchester.  He died in 1820, having had a son and daughter by his wife, Jane Ward.  Joseph lived at Tamworth, and died in 1820, in the eighty-fourth year of his age; having had, by his wife, Martha, daughter of Thomas Fowler, of Blackburn, six sons and two daughters; all of whom are dead except the youngest daughter, Mary Peel.

Robert, the elder brother, inherited Peel Fold.  It was with him and his brothers just mentioned that the name was first spelt Peel instead of Peele.  By his wife, Elizabeth Howarth, he had seven sons and one daughter.  (For an account of his household and its internal economy, see our first article).  His sons were,-

1. William Peel, of Church, near Blackburn, founder of extensive bleaching and print-works.  He was born in 1745, and died March 30, 1790.  By his wife, Mary, daughter of Thomas Howarth, of Blackburn, he had eight sons and three daughters.  Most of them have families, who are half-cousins to the present Sir Robert Peel and his brothers.

2. Edmond Peel, of Church; born 1748, died 1776.  By his wife, Mary, daughter of Mr. Wright, of Blackburn, he had issue, Robert, Susannah, and Elizabeth.  The latter married Edward Howarth, of Mill Hill, Blackburn, and had a family.

3. Sir Robert Peel, first baronet.

4. Jonathan Peel, of Accrington House, near Blackburn, an extensive manufacturer; born 1752, died 1885.  By his first wife, Anne, daughter of Giles Howarth, of Blackburn, he had issue, Robert, Giles, Grace, Anne, Elizabeth, and Jane.  By his second wife, Hester, daughter of Robert Bolton, Esq. of Bolton, he had Jonathan, Bolton, William, Catherine, Hester, Dorothy, Mary, Jane, Susannah, Edmund, and Joseph; in all, seventeen children, whose descendants are numerous.

5. Anne (the little Anne of our first article).  She died in 1826, having been twice married; first to the Rev. Borlace Willcock, of Harwood, Lancashire; second, to the Rev. George Park, of Hawkeshead, same county.  She had issue only by the first marriage, Robert Peel Willcock, postmaster, of Manchester; who has a numerous family, two daughters being married to manufacturers in Manchester named Garnett, and one to Dr. Arnold, of Atherstone.  Annes’s second son was William Willcock, Esq., of Leeds, a manufacturer; who married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Peel, of Penzance, a distant relative, and had a family of five children, one of them being the Rev. William Wellington Willcock, incumbent of St. Andrew’s, Manchester.  Anne had also a daughter, Ellen, who became the wife of Charles Harding, Esq., of Fazeley, near Tamworth.

6. Lawrence Peel, of Manchester, an eminent merchant, born 1755.  He married, first, Alice daughter of Jonathan Howarth, of Manchester; secondly, Lady Radcliffe, of Milne’s Bridge, Yorkshire.  By the first he had issue, Robert, Jonathan, Frederick, Mary, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Caroline, and Harriet.  (Their marriages and issue not traced).

7. Joseph, a merchant in the city of London, born 1766.  He married Anne Howarth, sister to Alice, the wife of Lawrence, and had issue, Robert Howarth, Joseph, Lawrence, William, Marianna, Alicia, Elizabeth, and one other daughter. (Issue not further traced).

8. John, a manufacturer and merchant, who succeeded to his father’s business at Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire.  He married Elizabeth, daughter of Gilbert Slater, Esq., of Liverpool.

Reverting to the third son, Robert, who became first baronet, he was twice married:

first to Elizabeth, born 1766, daughter of William Yates, of Bury, his partner in business; second, to Susannah, daughter of Francis Clerke, Esq., younger brother of Sir William Clerke, of Hitcham, Buckinghamshire.  By the last he had no issue.  By the first he had:-

1. The late Sir Robert Peel, M.P., second baronet.

2. William Yates Peel, born at Chamber Hall, Bury, August 3, 1789.  He owns an extensive property in various cotton-factories and warehouses in Lancashire, all of which are leased to manufacturers.  He married, in 1819, Jane Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Mountcashel, and by her has had sixteen children, most of whom are alive, and some married.

3. Edmond Yates Peel, born at Chamber Hall, Bury, August 8, 1791.  He married in 1812, Jane, daughter of John Swinfen, Esq., of Swinfen, Staffordshire, and has issue three sons.  This gentleman resides at Bonehill, near to Fazeley and Tamworth, and holds in his own occupation extensive bleach-works and spinning mills.  He is also distinguished for his agricultural experiments and his successful breeding of race-horses.

4. John Peel, LL,B., Dean of Worcester, born at Chamber Hall, August 22, 1798.  He married in 1824, Augusta, fifth daughter of John Swinfen Esq., of Swinfen.  After an absence of forty years from Bury, he was present at the inauguration of Sir Robert Peel’s statue, 8th September, 1852.  His address on the occasion was alike eloquent and affecting.

5. Jonathan, a major-general in the army, but not recently employed.  He is the ‘Colonel Peel’ so well known for many years on the turf as a successful horse-racer, in connection with the late Lord George Bentinck.  He was born at Chamber Hall, October 12, 1799.  He married, in 1824, Alicia Jane Kennedy, youngest daughter of Archibald, marquis of Ailsa.  Their issue are five sons and one daughter; several of the sons, as also their cousins, sons of William and Edmund, are in the army, and some in the church.

6. Sir Lawrence Peel, born at Chamber Hall (date uncertain), made a knight in 1842; married, in 1822, Jane, sister of the Duke of Richmond.

7. Mary Peel, born at Chamber Hall; married, in 1816, to the Right Hon. George Dawson, of Castle Dawson, county of Derry, Ireland.

8. Elizabeth Peel, born at Chamber Hall, died in 1828; was married, in 1805, to the Very Reverend William Cockburn, dean of York.

9. Harriet Eleonora Peel, born at Chamber Hall, was married, in 1824, to the late Lord Henley, a Master in Chancery, and had a family.

Sir Robert Peel, the eminent statesman, born February 5, 1788 (near Chamber Hall, in a cottage, the hall being then under repair), and died July 2, 1850, married, June 8, 1820, Julia, daughter of General Sir John Floyd, Bart.  She has had issue:-

1. Sir Robert Peel, M.P. for Tamworth, late Charge d’Affaires in Switzerland; born May 4, 1822.

2. Frederick Peel, M.P. for Bury, previously M.P. for Leominster, and under-secretary for state for the colonies in the ministry of Lord John Russell; born October 26, 1823.

3. William Peel, born November 2, 1824, an officer in the royal navy.

4. John Floyd Peel, born May 24, 1827.

5. Arthur Wellesly Peel, born August 3, 1829.

6. Julia, married in 1841 to Lord Villiers, eldest son of the Earl of Jersey, by whom she has several children.

7. Elizabeth.

Thus it is seen that the late eminent statesman had a very numerous kindred.  But perhaps there never was a minister in this or any other country, at least in our time, who was so careful to avoid the charge of nepotism.  It is said that not a few of his relatives thought him needlessly patriotic and self denying; they even called him ‘unnatural’ and ‘cold hearted’, because he did not place them in offices of high emolument and easy duties.  All who obtained public employment were required to go into offices to which hard work was attached.  But most of the elder branches, and all the sons and daughters of his uncles, were amply provided for by their industry and success in the cotton trade.  The following extract from a letter, written by the father of the statesman, relating to his father, the Robert Peel of 1765 with whom we started, is worth perusal.  It was written in 1821.  He said:-

My father moved in a confined sphere, and employed his talents in improving the cotton trade . . . . I lived under his roof until I attained the age of manhood, and had many opportunities of discovering that he possessed in an eminent degree a mechanical genius and a good heart.  He had many sons, and placed them all in situations that they might be useful to each other.  The cotton trade was preferred, as best calculated to this object; and by habits of industry, and imparting to his offspring an intimate knowledge of the various branches of the cotton manufacture, he lived to see his children connected together in business, and, by his successful exertions, to become, without one exception, opulent and happy.  My father may be truly said to have been the founder of our family. and he so accurately appreciated the importance of commercial wealth in a national point of view, that he was often heard to say, that the gains to the individual were small compared with the national gain arising from trade.

Is there a moral to be derived from the history of the Peel family?

It was seen in the obedience of the boys to their father in 1765,

Seest thou a man diligent in his business, said he, he shall stand before kings

That article was published in 1852, almost 150-years ago in the Hoggs’ Instructor magazine.  It lists the numerous decendents of the Peels at that time, and indicates how difficult it is to try and trace present day descendants back to Robert Peel , a request often put to us, and one which The Peel Society, unfortunately, are not in a position to do.

This article is typical of the records and memorabilia relating to the Peel Family that the Society has collected over it’s 21-year existence.

To make such information and the artefacts accessible to everyone we desperately need to establish our own Museum and Heritage Centre.

We need a minimum of Half-a Million Pounds to establish such a centre.

A donation of just Ten Dollars from you would start us along this track.

If you would like to help please send your donation, to:

The Peel Society,
The Hon. Treasurer,
Mrs. Chris Moss,
Middleton Hall,
B78 2AE.