PETO, Sir Samuel Morton

1809 - 1889

Samuel Morton Peto

Samuel Morton Peto, was born at Whitmoor House, Woking, Surrey on 4 August 1809, eldest son of William Peto of Cookham, Berkshire, and his wife Sophia Allowoy, daughter of Ralph Allowoy of Dorking. Apprenticed to uncle Henry Peto, a builder in London, receiving education as a draughtsman and architect. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from York Road, Westminster Bridge, London in 1830 'Western Elevation of a Church'. His uncle died in 1830 leaving the business to Samuel and another nephew Thomas Grissell [1801-1874] when the company of Grissell & Peto constructed many important buildings in England including the Lyceum Theatre, Nelsonís Column, Woolwich Docks and part of the Great Western Railway and were constructing the Houses of Parliament when the partnership was dissolved. Peto retained the railway and dock work which had extensive connections world wide. In 1844 he purchased from Lord Sidney Godolphin Osborne, the estate of Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk, rebuilding the Hall, restoring the church and improved the estate in general which he sold in 1863 to Sir Francis Crossley, a wealthy carpet manufacturer of Halifax, now Lords Somerleyton. Peto was the Member of Parliament for Norwich 1847-54, created a baronet in 1855 and went to America in 1865. He purchased the ailing Lowestoft harbour and navigation for £7,000, built the outer haven which provided safe anchorage for 600 vessels and prevented the silting up of the harbour. He was also responsible for the layout of Lowestoft to the south which he purchased from St Peterís church, Kirkley for £200, building fine hotels and houses and in 1847 also extended the G E Railway from Norwich to Lowestoft. Three years after the sale of Somerleyton he and his partner Edward Ladd Betts had to suspend payment in the depression of 1866 with liabilities of some £4 million but his assets were proved to be greater than this amount. He felt obliged to resign his seat in Parliament and on 22 April 1868 withdrew from public life going into retirement. He married firstly on 18 May 1831 Mary, daughter of Thomas de la Garde Grissell by whom he had a son Henry Peto, a barrister, and three daughters, and secondly on 12 May 1843 Sarah Ainsworth, daughter of Henry Kelsall of Rochdale, by whom he had six sons and four daughters. Samuel Morton Peto died at Tunbridge Wells on 13 November 1889.