Richard Peacock

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Richard Peacock

Richard Peacock (9 April 1820 – 3 March 1889) was an English engineer, one of the founders of locomotive manufacturer Beyer-Peacock.

Early life and education

Born in Swaledale, Richard Peacock was educated at Leeds Grammar School but at 14 left to be apprenticed at Fenton, Murray and Jackson in Leeds.


At 18 Peacock was a precocious locomotive superintendent on the Leeds and Selby Railway. When the line was acquired by the York and North Midland Railway in 1840 he worked under Daniel Gooch at Swindon, but reputedly fled to escape Gooch's wrath. In 1841, he became the Locomotive Superintendent of the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway, subsequently the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway from 1847. In this role he was responsible for founding the Gorton locomotive works for this railway, although he had left the firm shortly before they were completed in 1848.

In 1847 Peacock was present with Charles Beyer at a meeting at Lickey Incline which it is generally acknowledged gave birth to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. George Stephenson was elected as first president and Charles Beyer as a vice president. Peacock became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1849.[1]

In 1853, he joined Charles Beyer to found the celebrated locomotive company Beyer-Peacock. Peacock had originally met Beyer through the acquisition of locomotives from Sharp Brothers, and as mentioned earlier through both being among the founders of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1847.[2]

Politics and Religion

From the 1885 general election until his death in 1889, Peacock was Liberal Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Gorton division of Lancashire. Peacock was an Unitarian, and one of his contributions to the community in Gorton was the construction of Brookfield Unitarian Church; a place of worship which stands today, and whose bells are named after his children. Emily Faithfull the Victorian printer and women's rights activist dedicated her book "Three Visits To America" to her "Friend Richard Peacock Esq of Gorton Hall" in 1882. During his period in parliament Peacock was in favour of Home Rule, of the reform of the House of Lords, the disestablishment and disendowment of the church and the establishment of local self-government.


Peacock was the son of Ralph Peacock, a mines supervisor from Swaledale, Yorkshire and Dorothy Robinson. He was married twice, firstly to Hannah Crowther, and secondly to Francis Littlewood. At the time of his death his eldest son Colonel Ralph Peacock V.D (1838–1928) of the Manchester Volunteer Artillery succeeded him at Gorton Foundry. Of his daughters the eldest one, Jane Peacock, (1855–1928) married William Taylor Birchenough J.P., a silk manufacturer who was elder brother of Sir Henry Birchenough and son of John Birchenough. Peacocks grandson Richard Peacock Birchenough married Dorothy Grace Godsal, daughter of Philip Thomas Godsal, the inventor of the Godsal anti tank rifle. Peacocks youngest daughter, Eugenie, married George P. Dawson, who succeeded Colonel Peacock as Managing Director on the formation of the new Beyer, Peacock and Company Limited in 1902. Colonel Ralph Peacock died without issue as did Richard Peacock's only other surviving son Frederick William Peacock (1858–1924).

Peacock Family Memorial at Brookfield Unitarian Church, Gorton.

He died in Manchester and is buried in the Peacock Mausoleum in the graveyard of Brookfield Unitarian Church, Hyde Road, Gorton which he built. The graveyard also holds the remains of Ralph Peacock and an earlier deceased son Joseph Peacock also lie.


  1. ^ Lloyd, Backtrack, 2004, 18 710
  2. ^ Beyer Peacock Locomotives to the World RL Hills and D Patrick page 10
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
  • Beyer Peacock Quarterly Review July 1927
  • Who's Who of British Parliament Volume 2 1886-1918


  • Ahrons, L.E. (1927) The British Steam Railway Locomotive 1825–1925
  • Obituary - The Engineer, 8 March 1889.
Business positions
Preceded by
No predecessor
Locomotive Superintendent of the
Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway

Succeeded by
W. G. Craig
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Gorton
Succeeded by
Sir William Mather
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