The Peel Society History

The impetus for the founding of the Peel Society in 1979 came from two Tamworth councillors, the Mayor, Miss Suzy King MBE, and the leader of the council, Duncan Smith. They wanted to bring some prestige to the town by commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Metropolitan Police by Robert Peel in 1829. Three Sir Robert Peels were MPs for Tamworth between 1794 and 1878. The idea may have come to Suzy King due to the Royal Mail issuing a special stamp set; the envelope addressed to Miss King is in the Peel Society collection. The commemoration of the sesquicentennial began with a church service in St. Editha’s parish church in Tamworth followed by a wreath hazardously hung around the neck of the statue of Sir Robert Peel. From this beginning a committee was formed by the council, which became the Peel Society.

The objectives of the Society as stated are :- 
1. To encourage the study of the life, works and times of the Peel family.
2. To preserve the memorials, associations, manuscripts, letters, books etc. of the Peel Family and of the Police and to bring these items together for display in a “Peel Museum”. 
Membership of the Society is open to all persons interested in these Objectives. 

The first major event was the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the ‘Tamworth Manifesto’ in 1984. Peel wrote the world’s first party political manifesto in 1834 to the electors of Tamworth in unusual circumstances. Whilst the event was very successful, it drained the resources of the Society. This was counteracted by the Peel Society opening the volunteer run tourist shop in the gardener’s hut in the Castle grounds. This has been a major source of income for the Society and provided an excellent service to visitors to Tamworth. 

2004. Prime Minister Major, Speaker, Betty Boothroyd and former Chairman, Nigel Morris at a reception in Speakers’ House, Westminster on the launch of the Museum appeal.

Members scoured the antique fairs and shops for Peel memorabilia and were astonished at the amount available. These artefacts, together with donations meant that by 2000 we had a large collection but nowhere to show it. In 2004, the Society were offered a room at Middleton Hall, which is now the home of the Peel Museum with over 2500 artefacts. In 2011, The Society acquired an excellent collection of 149 contemporary caricatures with Peel appearing in 147. Subsequently, a book was published, which has sold all over the world.

The Peel Society has welcomed many distinguished politicians and police officers to its annual dinner and lecture series. Visits to Peel related sites around the UK, Ireland and Europe have been organised and appreciated by the membership.

With its museum and an enthusiastic core team, the Society undertakes talks and demonstrations to local historical societies, service clubs and schools. As original members retire, the Peel Society welcomes new members to take the Society forward. As the recent arguments over Brexit has shown, Sir Robert Peel is very much still a part of British politics.

 

The Peel Museum is housed at Middleton Hall and contains a wealth of information about Sir Robert Peel, the family and the politics of the first half of the 19th century. The picture shows the Peel Museum during a visit in 2018 of Dame Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the then chairman, Robert Critchley. Cressida Dick is looking at the Peel caricature book, which was presented to her.

2019. Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick with current chair, Alderman Mrs. Margaret Clarke and great great grandson of Sir Robert Peel, Robin Thorne, at the dinner to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Peel Society at Drayton Manor, the site of the Peel family home.