George Wyatt Peachey: Henry Norris’ Loyal Friend
Last updated: July 2008
George Wyatt Peachey was born in 1864 to George Charles Peachey and his wife Susana, née Wyatt. George Charles Peachey was an auctioneer’s clerk. Originally and because of the Norris connection I thought he probably worked for an estate agent; but since I started researching George juniors sisters I’ve wondered whether he might have worked for a firm which sold horses. Anyway, he had a typically large mid-Victorian family; George junior was the elder of two sons, and there were five daughters. George junior’s birth was registered in Chelsea but the family moved around a lot, mostly in west London but they are all missing from the 1871 census so I guess George’s obituary got it right when it said he had been educated in France.
I can’t find George junior on the 1881 census either but by 1888 he was back in England: he married Emma Sarah Hills that year, in Fulham. Emma Sarah Hills was 9 years older than George Wyatt Peachey and had been married before. Her maiden name had been Temple and she was the daughter of a corn chandler based in Brompton; she had married Richard J Hills, who ran a cab firm, but he had died in 1882.
By 1891 George’s father had retired to Eastbourne. On the day of the 1891 census George and Emma Sarah were living at 26 Norroy Road Wandsworth. George gave his profession as “auctioneer’s clerk”, he had entered the same profession as his father. In 1901, however, he described himself to the census taker as a “mercantile clerk, retd” and he doesn’t seem to have worked again. I have tried to search for clues as to what he was living on during the rest of his life but haven’t come up with any answers. On official documents he often described himself as “gentleman”; in his Will he called himself a “company director” though he didn’t name the company, perhaps there was more than one. I’ve concluded, cautiously, that Emma Sarah had inherited money. Her father died early in 1892. Shortly after that Emma Sarah and George moved into the house her father had owned in Fulham: Rose Villa, 82 Fulham Park Road. George continued to live there until the late 1920s and gradually began to take a role in the civic life of Fulham.
He began this move on 2 October 1902, by becoming a freemason, being initiated into Fulham Lodge number 2512. You became a freemason by being invited, and scrutinised by those who were already members, so Peachey must have made acquaintances in Fulham who were prepared to recommend him. The Lodge held meetings on the first Thursday of February, May, October and December; and the third Thursday of January, April and November, so it was a serious commitment of time. The most important meeting was the May one, where the hierarchy for the following twelve months took office. Peachey remained a member of the lodge until his death, served as its master once (1918-19), joining its Royal Arch Chapter (formed in 1911) and serving as the head of that once (1923).
The acquaintances Peachey had who welcomed him as a freemason may have been in the local Conservative party. My first siting of George Wyatt Peachey in the local press in Fulham is a rather poignant one: the Fulham Chronicle in January 1903 describes him playing Father Christmas at a children’s party organised by South Fulham Constitutional Club at the King’s Hall; afterwards Peachey became the centre of all the children’s games. He had been married since 1888 so he must have known long before 1903 that he would never have children himself. He seems to have turned to his sisters’ children, and was particularly close to Violet Whitelock, the only child of his sister Mabel.
I haven’t been able to establish exactly when George Wyatt Peachey met Henry Norris but the very latest date for that is 6 February 1903 when Norris, too, became a member of Fulham Lodge number 2512. Norris had rather an up-and-down relationship with Fulham Lodge number 2512 and never made it the main focus of his efforts in freemasonry. This time he lasted only until 31 January 1903 when he resigned, not being a member again until late 1907. However, if they hadn’t already got to know each other via the Fulham Conservative party, Peachey and Norris could have done so through the local freemasons.
One thing they definitely didn’t get to know each other through is football. I can find no evidence in the whole of Peachey’s life for an interest in the sport that played such a big part in Henry Norris’ life. Peachey seems to have preferred a cricket match. In July 1903 the Fulham Chronicle had a report on a fund-raising concert organised by Fulham Palace Cricket Club, which played in the local amateur league. Peachey was listed as the club’s honorary secretary; Albert Feaviour was its treasurer and the event was held in the King’s Head Hotel, High Street, Fulham, where Feaviour was the licensee. I mention the King’s Head because its function rooms were often hired for events which Peachey attended down the years; and because he had some connection with it that I haven’t been able to find anything much about. It involved him signing the lease by which the firm of Criswick and Feaviour held the King’s Head; though whether Peachey was lessor or lessee I don’t know. Fulham Chronicle covered several matches played by Fulham Palace CC during the 1903 season; a Mr Foulds batted for them, probably the Arthur Foulds employed by Allen and Norris. When they played a team from Putney a Mr Allen batted for Putney - probably William Gilbert Allen who was a good all-round sportsman. But Henry Norris was never mentioned; I am quite sure he had no interest in cricket. Peachey batted sometimes but well down the order - in August 1903 he batted 10th and was out for a duck and didn’t do any of the bowling - so I guess he had more enthusiasm for the sport than talent at playing it.
1903 was the year that William Gilbert Allen, Henry Norris and the group of local men around them took over Fulham FC. Though Criswick and Feaviour bought shares in the company Allen and Norris were setting up to run the football club (the King’s Head was one of the nearest pubs to Craven Cottage), Peachey never bought any shares.
In 1903 Peachey stood as a Conservative candidate in the local elections, in Town Ward, the ward he lived in. On 3 November 1903 he was elected. At the first meeting of the new council, on 9 November 1903 he was elected onto several standing committees: finance, establishment (which looked after the Council’s buildings), cartage (which looked after its horses and carts) and rates assessment. He continued to serve on the rates assessment standing committee until he retired from the Council in the mid-1920s; through a period in which the amount of housing in Fulham was hugely increased, by the building programmes of Allen and Norris amongst others. Peachey was a councillor all through the period in which Henry Norris was the most prominent personality on the London Borough of Fulham; and beyond.
On 14 March 1906 Peachey was elected a manager of the Sherbrooke Road group of LCC schools in Fulham. On 1 November 1906 there were local elections again. Peachey was re-elected in Town Ward. And Henry Norris became a Fulham councillor for the first time, representing Sands End ward; he continued as a councillor until November 1919 and was mayor continually from November 1909 to 1919. At the first meeting of this new council, Peachey and Norris were both elected to the Works standing committee. Norris was elected its vice-chair after being nominated by George Peachey.
On the evening of Tuesday 27 November 1906 George Peachey went to the 73rd annual dinner of the Peterborough Benevolent Society, one of Fulham’s local charities. In Fulham Chronicle’s coverage of the event there’s no mention of Peachey’s wife having been with him. She wasn’t with him on Thursday 13 December 1906 either, when he attended the funeral of Frank Adams, licensee of the Queen Elizabeth pub Bagley Lane and a well-known local freemason and member of the Conservative party. It was still not common for women to go to funerals but Emma Sarah Peachey’s not going to functions like the benevolent society dinner makes me wonder if she was an invalid; she rarely appeared with him at such events.
In February 1907, the London Borough of Fulham reorganised its standing committees; the works committee and the highways committee were amalgamated. Peachey was elected the first chairman of the Works and Highways committee, with Henry Norris as its vice-chair. Shortly afterwards a new Electricity and Lighting standing committee was created to superintend the replacement of the borough’s gas street lighting with electric lighting. Peachey was elected to this new standing committee.
On the evening of Monday 17 June 1907 George Peachey went to a Conservative Party meeting at Fulham Town Hall. William Hayes Fisher, who’d lost the Fulham constituency to a Liberal after being involved in a financial scandal, announced that - if selected (he was, of course) he would stand in Fulham again at the next general election.
On Thursday 27 June 1907 George Peachey went to the carnival in Fulham being organised to raise funds for the Lord Mayor of London’s Cripples Fund.
On 10 October 1907 Henry Norris rejoined Fulham Lodge number 2512; this time he stayed a member until 1923 though I don’t think he was ever a very active one.
Peachey was still a member of Fulham Palace Cricket Club, but illness prevented him from going to its annual dinner on 26 October 1907.
In the autumn of 1907 the councillors at the London Borough of Fulham were divided on whether they wanted a new tram service to run down Fulham Palace Road. During November 1907 Henry Norris and George Peachey represented the Council at a conference held at the headquarters of the London County Council designed to reach agreement on whether it should be built and how it should be funded. They both voted in favour of the new tram service.
In November 1907 fellow member of Fulham Lodge number 2512, E G Easton, was elected mayor of Fulham. Shortly afterwards, his wife died. On 23 December 1907 George Peachey and Henry Norris were at All Saints church Fulham and then at Fulham Cemetery for her funeral.
On 30 April 1908 George Peachey went to the 71st anniversary dinner of the Fulham Philanthropic Society, at Fulham Town Hall (the usual pre-war venue). Mayor Easton and Conservative Party candidate William Hayes Fisher were both there though Henry Norris wasn’t. This is the first evidence I have of Peachey’s involvement with the Society. He started going to the dinner regularly and in the 1920s he was an active member of the Society, which organised one dinner each year to raise money to help the local deserving poor. A lot of its work the rest of the year was trying to work out who (in the committee’s opinion) was deserving and who wasn’t.
In 1908-09 there was one of those ‘busts’ that are a part of a boom and bust economy. On Wednesday 13 January 1909 George Peachey attended the opening and first lunch session of the Mayor of Fulham’s soup kitchen, in Cassidy Road.
I’m not sure how far George Peachey was involved with cricket. An article in January 1909 in the West London and Fulham Times didn’t list him with other locals who were actively involved in Fulham Cricket League. Nor did he attend a whist drive held to raise money for Fulham Palace Cricket Club during the month.
On Tuesday 27 April 1909 George Peachey attended the annual dinner of the Fulham Philosophical Society. However this year he didn’t attend the annual supper of the Peterborough Benevolent Society, held in June 1909.
On Tuesday 13 July 1909 there was an event that is unique as far as my researches go: George Peachey attended a function with his wife Emma Sarah. They both went to the wedding of Gertrude Littleboy to Alfred Archard at St Thomas’s church in Fulham. The bride was the daughter of a Fulham councillor.
There were local elections on 1 November 1909 and the Conservatives were returned to power in Fulham on 30% of the vote. George Peachey was re-elected in Town Ward and was considered by the Fulham Chronicle as a possible nominee to serve as mayor. But the Chronicle admitted that Henry Norris was the prime candidate, and on 9 November 1909 he was elected for the first of his 10 years in the office. At the meeting George Peachey was elected to serve on Fulham Distress Committee which was in charge of the Council’s official efforts to help the unemployed. After the mayor-making meeting was over he went (but his wife didn’t) to a dinner given at the Fulham Town Hall by Henry and Edith Norris to celebrate the Conservatives keeping power in Fulham. Henry Norris’ sister Ada Norris and his brother John Edward Norris both attended the dinner so George Peachey could have met them then; though I expect he’d done so many years before.
George Peachey never served as mayor of Fulham. A lot of councillors didn’t, of course - until after World War 1 there was no salary for the job, so the mayor’s financial resources had to be up to a year of official functions and many men baulked at the thought. I’ve already said I’ve no real idea what Peachey’s financial status was but I think it won’t have been money that deterred him. I get the impression of a man who was happy doing his work quietly, who didn’t really want to get involved with all the official and semi-official socialising and speech-making that the role involved. Henry Norris loved it, at least at first.
However, Peachey did attend a lot of the functions focused on Henry Norris as mayor of Fulham. On Monday 20 December 1909, for example, he went to a dinner he may well have helped organise: at the Holborn Restaurant in central London (a favourite football venue) the aldermen and councillors of the London Borough of Fulham played host to Henry and Edith Norris as their mayor and mayoress. Once again, though Peachey was at the dinner, his wife wasn’t.
High unemployment continued and the Fulham soup kitchen was needed for a second winter. On Tuesday 4 January 1910 it opened again on the site in Cassidy Road. Henry Norris, as mayor, did the opening ceremony and George Peachey attended it: as a member of Fulham Distress Committee he now had to help organise its efficient running.
There was a General Election in the UK on 15 January 1910. The campaign in Fulham was a fraught one, between the presiding Liberal Timothy Davies (who owned a local haberdashers shop) and Conservative William Hayes Fisher. George Peachey was a very active worker on behalf of William Hayes Fisher. He was one of the large number of local great and good who were listed as officially supporting Hayes Fisher’s nomination as candidate, but he went further than that. He was chairman of a campaign rally for Hayes Fisher at Munster Road LCC school which the West London and Fulham Times later described as “of a somewhat disorderly character” with all the speeches being made against continual interruptions from members of the audience. Peachey also attended Hayes Fisher’s last rally of the campaign, on Monday 10 January 1910 at the Fulham Town Hall; though he was not chairman on that occasion (and probably glad of it). William Hayes Fisher was elected and served as MP for Fulham until 1918, when he got a peerage.
On Thursday 6 January 1910 George Peachey and his wife attended a reception given by Henry and Edith Norris at Fulham Town Hall: food and dancing from 7 in the evening till 1am.
On Tuesday 18 January 1910 Peachey went to the King’s Head Hotel in High Street Fulham, to attend the AGM of Fulham Philanthropic Society, the third in a row he’d been present at. By this time he was on its governing committee, which met each Tuesday evening during the winter at the King’s Head Hotel.
During the spring of 1910 civic Fulham was busy organising an Army Pageant to run from 20 June to 2 July 1910. Henry Norris as the mayor chaired a meeting on Wednesday 16 February 1910, after the regular Council meeting, to set up the committees which would run it. Someone had arranged to have the king and Princess Christian as its patrons. George Peachey was elected to the organising committee.
On the evening of Sunday 20 February 1910 George Peachey went with Henry Norris and many other councillors to hear the last sermon of Rev Whitty of St Matthew’s before he left Fulham for another post. It turned out to be a very big social occasion.
March 1910 brought elections to the London County Council and once again, Peachey was an active campaigner for the Conservative Party candidates, his friend E G Easton and Cyril Cobb. On Wednesday 2 March 1910 he attended a campaign rally for them at Fulham Town Hall.
On 27 April 1910 the London Borough of Fulham elected George Peachey as one of its representatives on the board of Fulham Waste Land and Lygon Almshouses. This was an old charity, nominally independent but run by a number of trustees sent by the local council and the LCC. The almshouses are still there, on Fulham Palace Road near the Charing Cross Hospital.
On Tuesday 26 April 1910 George Peachey attended the last meeting of the winter of the Fulham Philanthropic Society. Then on the following evening, 27 April 1910, he was present at the Society’s annual dinner which - as a committee member - he will have helped organise. It took place at its usual venue, the King’s Head High Street Fulham. Henry Norris was present, with William Hayes Fisher, now the MP for Fulham again. It was one of the rare occasions on which George Peachey was recorded as making a speech: it was his task to propose one of the evening’s toasts, “the visitors and kindred societies”. Earlier, he’d also been out and about amongst the guests, helping collect their yearly subscriptions to the Society, which formed the main part of its income. It isn’t clear from the report in the West London and Fulham Times whether Emma Sarah Peachey went to the dinner.
King Edward VII died on 6 May 1910. Memorial services were held all over the UK. Fulham’s took place on Friday 20 May 1910 at All Saints, starting with a procession of councillors led by Henry Norris as the mayor. George Peachey attended the service.
On Saturday 19 June 1910 there was a dress rehearsal at Fulham Palace for the army pageant. George Peachey ought to have been there, as one of its organisers, but I don’t know whether he did go as the list in the local press only included the military big-wigs who attended it, including Field Marshall Lord Roberts. The pageant ran from 20 June to 2 July 1910 but was judged by the West London and Fulham Times to be a failure, blighted by the death of the king and of one of the organising committee, and by bad weather.
The next local project George Peachey got involved in was (I think) more to his taste. On Monday 1 May 1911 he was present at the first day of a six-day flower show at Fulham Town Hall, with proceeds going to one of the Earl of Shaftesbury’s charities. All the women who ran the stalls were listed: Edith Norris did so, as the borough’s mayoress, but Emma Sarah Peachey did not.
It’s noticeable from the minutes of London Borough of Fulham that during the spring of 1911 George Peachey began to miss more Council meetings than in the past. Although he continued to serve as a school manager of Fulham’s Group 4 schools, being re-elected in June 1911.
Emma Sarah Peachey died on Thursday 24 August 1911. Although she had been in poor health for several years her final illness was unexpected, lasting just a few days. She left an estate of £14574 which was a lot more at that time than it sounds to be now; I assume George Peachey inherited all of it, he was certainly his wife’s executor. Emma Sarah Peachey was buried at Brompton Cemetery on Monday 28 August 1911; the report I found of her funeral listed only the family members who attended it so I don’t know whether Henry Norris was there, but he was not on holiday so he could have gone to it. The London Borough of Fulham was on its summer vacation at the time; George Peachey didn’t attend its first meeting of the autumn, on Wednesday 20 September 1911; the councillors offered him their condolences in his absence. It would have been acceptable mourning behaviour for a newly-widowed man to spend a few months not attending his usual meetings and functions. However, in October 1911 George Peachey resumed his regular attendance at Council meetings - perhaps finding consolation in work and a regular schedule. He never remarried. Occasionally his sister Mabel Whitelock went to functions with him but usually he continued to attend them alone - much as before, in fact. And he continued to live in the house inherited by his wife, in Fulham Park Road.
One of the first functions George Peachey attended as a widower was Henry and Edith Norris’ dinner given at the Clarendon Restaurant, Hammersmith on Thursday 5 October 1911. This was a very civic affair, with mayors and mayoresses of most of the London boroughs being invited. The Clarendon Restaurant was owned and run by a freemason acquaintance of Norris’, Henry Foreman; it’s likely George Peachey knew Foreman as well.
He also continued to go to freemasons’ meetings. On 16 November 1911 he joined the Fulham Lodge’s new Royal Arch chapter; he remained a member of that until his death.
Peachey kept up his connection with Fulham Palace Cricket Club as well after his wife died: perhaps he found himself with more time for cricket now he was living alone. On Friday 22 March 1912 the club held a whist drive at the Fulham Town Hall, to raise funds for the coming season. Henry Norris, despite his lack of interest in cricket, was persuaded to attend with Edith. Peachey donated one of the prizes (the newspapers didn’t say which one it was).
Another instance of George Peachey’s interest in children was his attendance, on Saturday 15 June 1912, at the fund-raising festival for the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys - the freemasons’ boys’ school. This was held every year, at different locations; in 1912 it took place in Brighton. Peachey was the representative of Fulham Lodge number 2512 at this big event, and was one of the stewards - which meant that he had given the school a donation.
Autumn 1912 brought the local elections around again. Peachey stood again in Town Ward. Commenting briefly on all the candidates, West London and Fulham Times said that one of Peachey’s advantages was that not being in paid employment, he could devote the whole of his time to the work of the Council”. The WLFT described Peachey as a man who, “Thinks and votes regularly, but seldom speaks”. On 1 November 1912 Peachey was re-elected, though he polled less votes than the other two Conservative candidates in the ward. In Fulham the election was a complete whitewash for the Conservative Party: from 1912 to 1919 there were no opposition councillors at all at the London Borough of Fulham. This year, Peachey didn’t go on the Works and Highways or the Electricity and Lighting standing committees; but he was elected to two new ones (new to him, I mean), the Public Health and Public Libraries committees.
On Tuesday 3 December 1912 George Peachey attended the annual festival of the Peterborough Benevolent Society, held at the Fulham Town Hall - an event he hadn’t gone to very often in recent years. Despite having a legal association with the lessees of the King’s Head Hotel he didn’t attend the annual dinner of Fulham and South Kensington Licensed Victuallers’ Association on 17 December 1912.
In November 1912 Henry Norris was elected mayor again for his fourth year in the job. On Saturday 9 November 1912 George Peachey and all the other Fulham councillors went to a reception Henry and Edith Norris held at the Fulham Town Hall. He also went, with his sister Mabel Whitelock, to the biggest reception Henry Norris ever held, a really glittering occasion with a guest-list of several hundred mixing his civic acquaintances with people he knew from the freemasons and football. It took place on Thursday 13 March 1913 at the Fulham Town Hall.
On Thursday 17 April 1913 George Peachey was out in the evening again at the Fulham Town Hall, this time at the annual dinner of the Fulham Philanthropic Society. He went on his own to this function, as had always been normal with him. He was also on his own at the Clarendon Hotel on Thursday 25 April 1913 when the Fulham councillors entertained Henry and Edith Norris to dinner.
On 10 November 1913 Henry Norris was elected mayor of Fulham again. When the standing committees were chosen for the following 12 months George Peachey carried on on the Public Health and Public Libraries ones but was elected to the all-important Finance standing committee for the first time.
On Thursday 30 April 1914 Peachey went to the annual dinner of the Fulham Philanthropic Society. Whether the need for the Society’s money was more this year than usual I don’t know but the West London and Fulham Times mentioned that the Society was meeting once a month in the summer, which it hadn’t done before; George Peachey attended the summer meetings regularly so probably he was still on the Society’s committee.
In July 1914 it was the turn of the school boards to have elections, for their school managers; but this year George Peachey didn’t stand for re-election. I think he never served on a school board after this.
And then it was war.
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Copyright Sally Davis July 2008