Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet

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Engraving of Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet, by John Henry Robinson (mid 19th century)

Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet (25 April 1750 – 3 May 1830), was a British politician and industrialist and one of early textile manufacturers of the Industrial Revolution. He was the father of Sir Robert Peel, twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.


Peel's father Robert Peel and grandfather William Peele were yeoman farmers who were also engaged in the infant textile industry, then organised on the basis of the domestic system (most of the work being undertaken in the home).

Business career[edit]

Like many others, Peel joined partnerships in order to raise the capital required to set up spinning mills. These were water powered (usually utilising the water frame invented by Richard Arkwright), and thus located by rivers and streams in country districts. Thus Peel and Yates set up a mill and housing for their workers at Burrs near Bury. As elsewhere, the shortage of labour in the rural districts was mitigated by employing pauper children as 'apprentices', imported from any locality that wanted them off their hands. They were housed in a kind of hostel.

Peel became quite rich, and lived at Chamber Hall in Bury, where his more famous son was born. Peel was listed as a subscriber to the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal navigation in 1791.[1] He also built the first factory in nearby Radcliffe.

Political career[edit]

In politics, Peel was a staunch 'Church and King' man – in other words, a Tory. This was unusual, as many of the Lancashire mill owners were nonconformist and radical in their outlook. He was a paternalist towards his workforce. When elected Member of Parliament for Tamworth, he carried these principles into political life. He was responsible for the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act, legislation that tried to limit the number of hours the children worked in the mills, and obliged the mill owners to provide some form of schooling. In 1800 he was created a Baronet, of Drayton Manor in the County of Stafford and of Bury in the County Palatine of Lancaster.[2] In later years, he purchased property near Tamworth and started to adopt the lifestyle of a country gentleman.


Peel married as his first wife Ellen Yates (the daughter of his partner) on 8 July 1783. They had eleven children, including:

After the death of his first wife, Peel married Susanna Clerke (sister of Sir William Clerke) on 18 October 1805. The marriage was unsuccessful and the couple eventually separated, with Susanna moving to Warwickshire. She died on 10 September 1824. Sir Robert was at the time unwell and his children represented him at the funeral.[3]


  1. ^ A list of the subscribers to the intended Bolton Bury and Manchester Canal Navigation. Greater Manchester County Records Office, ref. E4/78/419: Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Company. 1791. 
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 15307. p. 1244. 1 November 1800.
  3. ^ Gash, 33.


  • Gash, Norman (1961). Mr. Secretary Peel: The Life of Sir Robert Peel to 1830. New York: Longmans. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
John Courtenay
John Calvert
Member of Parliament for Tamworth
With: John Courtenay 1790–1796
Thomas Carter from 1796
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Tamworth
With: Thomas Carter 1801–1802
William Loftus 1802–1812
Lord Charles Townshend 1812–1818
William Yates Peel 1818–1820
Succeeded by
William Yates Peel
Lord Charles Townshend
Baronetage of Great Britain
New creation Baronet
(of Drayton Manor and Bury)
1800 – 1830
Succeeded by
Robert Peel