The day finally arrived when Thomas Peacock, the founder of Hope Brothers factory was officially recognised for all that he did for his home village of Littleport.
Thanks are due to the family of his brother William (to whom he was very close) a plaque was presented as a gift to Littleport and unveiled by Valerie Beattie. Thomas was her great, great, great uncle.
The Whitfield Group, who purchased the factory after its final closure proceeded to convert it to luxury flats, they gave the Littleport Society permission to mount the plaque on the side of the building in White Hart lane. The weather was good and thankfully a very large crowd had assembled for the unveiling. I am sure Thomas would have appreciated every moment, from the Ely Town Crier, to the people dressed in Victorian costume including a Mary and Thomas look-a-like.
An opening speech was given by the Chairman Grenville Goodson, followed by Valerie Beattie who stated that before last November she knew very little about members of the Peacock family. She said that as a child she had heard mention of Hope Brothers but it meant nothing to her – until she and her partner John were looking through a box of items left by Valerie’s late mother, a postcard with an address on the back, which stated: Miss Flanders, Vanbrugh House, Victoria Street, Littleport. Valerie was aware of a Flanders connection and that was it, a jubilant Valerie contacted Bruce Frost, the information she received left her speechless and partner John was on the case. Vanbrugh House was one of the houses Thomas had built for family members and Amelia Flanders was found. The quest then started in earnest. Amazing when you think what finding one postcard can do.
The curtain was opened to loud clapping by the crowd, who were then invited to partake of refreshments and view the exhibits in the Village Hall (formerly called the Constitutional Hall). Thomas would have been very proud and pleased at the venue, as he had a hand in building the hall.
The W.I. is to be commended on the super display of food, which not only looked good but tasted as good as it looked. A penny farthing cycle and another Victorian cycle were on display, kindly loaned by Mr & Mrs David and Beryl Smith. Attending were Mr & Mrs Colin and Margaret Bedford from the March cycle club, Mr & Mrs John Smith had a wonderful display of Victorian skates and lots of skating pictures, Mr Garth McGowen (Mac) was in charge of the bookstall. Mr Des Smith decorated the stage with a picture of Thomas in pride of place, in front of this were family photographs loaned by Valerie, the large bell and the later whistle that were used to call the employees to work. A very long family tree which made a lot of work for Mr Bruce Frost, and many artefacts from the Society archive which included wills, photos, recipes and information on the family. Thanks to Mr Des Smith and Mrs Ann Lightowlers for all their help. A cake was then cut by Valerie Beattie and Mr Whitfield.
It was a truly remarkable morning and enjoyed by all, such a joy to see so many interested people, in particular many of the former factory employees. It was great for them to get together, I think everyone will agree it all went like a dream; I would like to add my personal thanks to anyone who helped in any way and to everyone for attending, not forgetting those who have donated photographs of the da
Thomas Peacock, The Skater!
Thomas Peacock was such a keen skater that he bought the 28 acre field, called The Moors, so that he could flood it and make it into an ice ground in the freezing winters to hold all skating activities, and specially ice speed skating races, in which everyone could take part.
Of those different ice pursuits, bandy was also a popular team sport played on the fens in those days by many speed skaters.
He was also happily able to see his field from his factory.
Not only did this benefit the village residents directly, but indirectly too as thousands of keen skaters and spectators travelled from far and wide to Littleport.
Trains from Kings Cross were packed on skating days in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Surely he would be smiling on the plan by another dedicated skater to erect a new ice ground on The Moors in this 21st century…