Clitheroe Civic Society talk on 'The Seven Robert Peels'
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Of these, the most well-known was Robert Peel, the Prime Minister and founder of the police force, but he was not the first.
The first Robert Peel was his grandfather, born in 1723, the eldest son of William Peel, who was a farmer in Oswaldtwistle.
Robert Peel number one was not destined to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a farmer. He started business as a calico printer with his brother, becoming so successful that he was able to set up a spinning mill and on his death in 1795 was able to bequeath to his children a coat of arms and £1,700 each.
American War of Independence
His eldest son, the second Robert, was born in Blackburn in 1750, educated in Blackburn then Harrow. He inherited the mills and the calico print works and was successful enough to buy an estate in Drayton Basset.
On becoming MP for nearby Tamworth, he sold his mills and gave £10,000 to the Tory war chest for the American War of Independence. This earned him a baronetcy, and he became Sir Robert Peel of Tamworth. He worked hard to improve the conditions for the children employed in mills, ensuring their education, and when he died in 1830, he was mourned by all of Drayton Basset.
By the time he died his eldest son, the third Robert Peel who became the second Baronet, was well established in his political career having been home secretary twice and founding the police force.
Prime Minister twice
This Robert Peel was educated at Bury Grammar school, then Harrow and Oxford. On entering parliament, he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming prime minister twice, but losing the backing of his party when he pushed through a bill to repeal the corn laws.
He died in his early 60s in 1850 after a riding accident. He is commemorated by many statues around the country being one of our most successful and effective home secretaries and prime ministers.
His eldest son, Robert Peel number four, inherited a vast fortune with the estate and proceeded to spend it as quickly as possible. He was destined for the diplomatic service and politics but failed dismally in both.
‘Champagne lifestyle on beer money’
Robert Peel number five was also educated at Harrow and Oxford and, following his father’s example, tried to live “a champagne lifestyle on beer money”. Even though declared a bankrupt he amassed more debts and eventually fled to Paris.
The fifth baronet, Robert Peel number six, had been left to himself and the servants as child. He joined the army but was invalided out and spent some time in Australia, perhaps recovering from TB.
Back in England he made a living selling second hand cars. He married Beatrice Lillie, the well-known film actress and entertainer, and her earnings funded his gambling habit. They had one son, Robert Peel number seven, who was brought up at Drayton Basset by his grandmother and became the sixth baronet when his father died, aged only 35 in 1934.
He was killed in action on board HMS Tenedos in Colombo Harbour, Sri Lanka in 1942.
So ended the Peel baronetcy.