Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet

Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet, (25 April 17503 May 1830), father of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, was a politician and industrialist and one of early textile manufacturers of the industrial revolution. His father also Robert and grandfather William 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).

Like many others, he 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 mitigating 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.

In politics, he 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 privide some form of schooling.

In later years, he purchased property near Tamworth and started to adopt the lifestyle of a country gentleman, far removed from his roots.

Peel married firstly 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.



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

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