Richard Peek (3 October 1782 - 7 March 1867) was a tea merchant in London from modest beginnings in Loddiswell in Devon. He rose to be one of the Sheriffs of the City of London. He was a known abolitionist and philanthropist in his home area. Whilst sheriff he sent a missionary into Newgate Prison.
as Sheriff in 1832-33
|Born||3 October 1782|
|Died||7 March 1867|
|Resting place||Hazelwood, Devon|
|Known for||Philanthropy, Tea Merchancy|
|Parent(s)||John and Susannah Peek|
Peek was born 3 October 1782 at Halsenwood villa (later Hazelwood) to John and his wife Susannah (née Foxworthy). Peek left his birthplace in Loddiswell to go to Plymouth where he worked for a grocer. He reputedly walked to London and remet a Quaker who arranged for his new employment at a tea merchants called Sanderson and Barklay. Peek did so well that not only was he promoted but two of his brothers also travelled up from Devon to join the trade. The three brothers, Richard, William and James Peek eventually set up their own firm in 1823 (after William initially led the way with a family business in 1818).
The business prospered as the East India Company's monopoly on the importation of tea ended and Peek Bros and Co. set up offices in Liverpool. This firm was still in business in 1958 trading as Peek Bros. and Winch. Peek was elected to be on the Corporation of London and subsequently one of the Sheriffs of the City of London in 1832. During his tenure as Sheriff he funded a missionary to visit the prisoners in Newgate Prison. He was also noted for his hatred of capital punishment and it was said that he would meet the Secretary of State at odd hours in an attempt to intercede on behalf of the condemned. The Secretary of State at the time was Robert Peel.
Peek had built a home called Hazelwood in his home village and had moved his father into the house. This house was on the same site of a previous building where Richard was born.
The partnership between the Peek brothers in Liverpool was dissolved "by mutual consent" on 30 May 1834 when Richard retired from the business. The remaining business was in Eastcheap in London. He retired from that as well on 21 December 1838.
Peek was on the organising committee and attended the 1840 World's Anti-slavery convention in London and he was included in the painting which is now in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
The second international Anti-Slavery convention was in 1843 when Peek was a vice-president of the convention with other notables including John Cropper who had also had a business in Liverpool. Peek took the chair of the convention when Samuel Gurney had to leave.
Peek was reported as being an instigator of The Patriot magazine which did much for forwarding abolitionism in Britain.
One of his gifts was a contribution towards a chapel at Dodbrooke in Kingsbridge, which was to be used by the Bible Christians; in addition, he supplied weekly free medical attention in his home village as well as funding a news and reading room in 1839.
After he retired back to Loddiswell he became a magistrate known for his philanthropy. He gave land for a local school in 1841 and later gave land to fund its upkeep The British School was founded in 1853. Early records show that the fees of many early students were met by the school, moreover Richard Peek would open his home once a year to give tea to the local Sunday schools. This building is still the local primary school.
Peek died 7 March 1867, without issue, in Kingsbridge and an alabaster pulpit was paid for in his memory and erected at his local church. He was buried in the catacombs under Hazelwood.
Current surviving descendants include Sir Richard who still lives in Devon, and his three sons Timothy, Matthew and Michael Peek.
- Peek of Hazelwood Archived 2009-07-12 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 25 April 2009
- Richard Peek - Obituary, Christian Witness and Congregationalist Magazine, p281, 1867, accessed April 2009
- A Short History of the Peeks, Christine Mitchell, at peek of hazelwood, accessed April 2009
- Court Circular, p431, 1833, accessed April 2009
- Loddiswell Archived 2008-03-02 at the Wayback Machine, Devon local studies, accessed April 2009
- "No. 19281". The London Gazette. 19 June 1835. p. 1177.
- "No. 19692". The London Gazette. 4 January 1839. p. 34.
- "Slavery and the internal slave trade in the United States of North America; being replies to questions transmitted by the committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade throughout the world. Presented to the General Anti-Slavery Convention, held in London, June, 1840"
- The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, accessed April 2009
- "Proceedings of the General Anti-Slavery Convention, called by the committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and held in London from Tuesday June 13th to Tuesday June 20th, 1843", accessed April 2009
- Kingsbridge and its surroundings, S.P.Fox, 1867, p80-90
- Morris and Co.'s Commercial Directory and Gazetteer, 1870, accessed April 2009
- Loddiswell from some Old Devon Churches, J. Stabb, 1908, via Genuki, accessed April 2009
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