Peter Finch Martineau

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Peter Finch Martineau (12 June 1755 – 2 December 1847) was an English businessman and a philanthropist, with particular interest in improving the lives of disadvantaged people through education.

Life and family[edit]

A Unitarian, he was born into the renowned Martineau family of Norwich and christened in the Octagon Chapel. His eldest brother Philip Meadows Martineau became a distinguished surgeon and his youngest brother Thomas fathered sociologist Harriet Martineau and religious philosopher James Martineau.[1] Engineer John Martineau was another of Peter's nephews.

His first wife Susannah Scott had one son and his second marriage to Catherine Marsh brought him five more children. He and Catherine were both buried at West Norwood Cemetery. Their first daughter, Catherine, married the solicitor Edward Foss. The eldest son Peter (1785-1869) married first Eliza Barnard and secondly Mary Anne (1794-1882), the sister of his schoolmate Sir Francis Ronalds.[2] Their children included Sarah (1828-1908), whose husband was the brewer and benefactor Charles Edward Flower.[3]

Business interests[edit]

Peter Finch Martineau was active in various distinct businesses through his life. He was first a textile dyer in Norwich with his older brother David. He, David and their younger brother John then established a brewery at the King's Arms Stairs (one of the watermen's stairs on the Thames), which merged with Whitbread in 1812.[4] Next followed a sugar-refining partnership in Goulston Street, Whitechapel with his son Peter Jr, which continued until around the latter’s death in 1869;[5] Peter Jr patented an important new process for clarifying sugar in 1815 with his cousin John Martineau.[6] Peter Finch also opened a bank in St Albans after he moved there in 1818.[7][8]

The family in addition invested in mining operations in Devon, Cornwall and overseas, managed by Peter Jr's second cousin John Taylor. These included the Wheal Friendship mine at Mary Tavy and United Mines near Redruth. They also held Directorships in various Assurance companies: Peter Finch in the Hand in Hand Fire Insurance Society, and Peter Jr in the Equitable Assurance Office – he also served as auditor of the Phoenix Fire Assurance Company.[9]

Education initiatives[edit]

The Martineaus supported a wide range of targeted education initiatives.[10] Peter Finch was an early Governor of the African Institution, founded by abolitionists when they succeeded in making the British slave trade illegal. He helped establish the School for the Indigent Blind in 1800 and was still chairing its meetings nearly half a century later – the organisation continues today as SeeAbility. He was also a Governor of the London Asylum for the Support and Education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor; the House of Refuge for Orphan Girls; and the Refuge for the Destitute, which assisted people discharged from prison to enter the workforce. Finally, he served as Vice-President of the Manchester Academy Nonconformist higher education institution in York for nearly two decades.[9]

Political activities[edit]

Like others in his family, Martineau was Whig cum Radical in his politics. A friend of the political philosopher William Godwin, he joined the London Revolution Society[11] and was an energetic supporter of Norwich MP William Smith. He later served as Deputy Lieutenant of Hertfordshire. Peter Jr played an active role in the Anti-Corn Law League from its beginnings in the late 1830s, where he chaired large meetings in the boroughs where he lived and worked to garner support for the removal of import duties.[9][12]


  1. ^ Martineau, D. (1907). Notes on the Pedigree of the Martineau Family.
  2. ^ Ronalds, B.F. (2016). Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph. London: Imperial College Press. ISBN 978-1-78326-917-4.
  3. ^ "Mary Anne Martineau née Ronalds". Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  4. ^ Mathias, P. (1959). The Brewing Industry in England 1700-1830. Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ "Sugar Refiners & Sugarbakers Database".
  6. ^ Martineau, P. & M. (8 May 1815). "Methods of Refining or Clarifying certain Vegetable Substances". UK patent 3912.
  7. ^ "Peter Finch Martineau Esq". Gentleman’s Magazine. Vol. 29, New Series. 1848. p. 209.
  8. ^ Ruston, A.R. (1979). Unitarianism in Hertfordshire.
  9. ^ a b c Ronalds, B.F. (February 2018). "Peter Finch Martineau and his Son". The Martineau Society Newsletter. 41: 10–19.
  10. ^ "Obituary, Peter Martineau". The Inquirer. Vol. 29. 1870. p. 14.
  11. ^ "Obituary, Peter Finch Martineau". Christian Reformer, or Unitarian Magazine and Review. Vol. 4, New Series. 1848. p. 64.
  12. ^ "Anti-corn Law Association". Hereford Times. 23 February 1839. p. 4.