Plaque Unveiled to Commemorate Littleport's Great Benefactor

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By elypeople | Saturday, June 04, 2011, 12:36

A memorial plaque was unveiled today to celebrate the life of one of Littleport's most significant benefactors, Thomas Peacock, a 19th century philanthropist who built a shirt factory in the village in 1882 to provide employment for young women and mothers.

Thomas Peacock was born in Littleport in 1829 but after the success of a shop that he had founded in London in the 1870s, he moved his family back to Littleport and lived for a time in one of the village's most impressive homes, The Grange. After witnessing the poverty that was affecting the lives of the rural villagers, he hatched a plan to build a shirt factory to create local employment, eventually providing work for up to 400.

Built on a site in Victoria Street that he purchased for £540, in the spirit of his mission he named the factory Hope Brothers, taken from an expression of his own – 'Hope on'. He also provided houses for his workers, as well as sporting facilities and a library, fulfilling his ambition to give the people of Littleport some hope.

Peacock's legacy was remembered with the unveiling of the plaque on June 4, 2011, attended by Ely's Town Crier. Maureen Scott, historian of the Littleport Society and a former employee of Hope Brothers, was the driving force behind the monument, which was erected in association with Valerie Beattie, great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Hope's brother, William. In a speech to the assembled crowd before unveiling the plaque, Valerie Beattie said: "Until 2010 I didn't know anything about Thomas Peacock and it's only now, thanks to the Littleport Society, that I know all about my family."

"It's also a special day for Maureen Scott," said Grenville Goodson, chairman of the Littleport Society. "We wouldn't have this monument without her efforts. She worked in this very building when it was Hope Brothers and later when it was owned by Burberry. We're also indebted to the Whitfield Group who now own the building and who gave us permission to place the plaque."

After the unveiling, onlookers were invited to an historical exhibition staged by the Littleport Society, which included Thomas Peacock's extensive family tree, researched and created by Bruce Frost.

Thomas Peacock died unexpectedly in 1895 but the family business as makers of men's formal wear continued under the stewardship of his brother William, with a chain of shops around the country, including the founding shop in London's Ludgate Hill, and several factories. For a period in the Forties and Fifties, Hope Brothers were also manufacturers of the England football kit.

View more pictures of the unveiling and the exhibition staged by Littleport Society in the Ely People picture gallery.



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