Joseph was born in 1799 and was the third oldest child of Edward and Rachel Pease. He was brought up in the family home only purchased that year on Northgate in Darlington. He started his Stockton & Darlington Railway career at the age of 19, setting out the prospectus for the new railway company to encourage investors. He went on to become the Company’s Treasurer and oversaw the extension to Middlesbrough and subsequent improvements to the dock facilities between 1828 and 1830. [i] He then took over managing the company in 1829. By 1830 he owned more collieries than anyone else in south west Durham having acquired them in order to take advantage of the cheaper transport offered by the railway.
In 1826 he married Emma Gurney, youngest daughter of Joseph Gurney of Norwich. They had twelve children, amongst whom, were Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, his eldest son and Arthur Pease (1837-1898), who was his fourth son. Joseph’s fifth child, Elizabeth Lucy Pease, married the agricultural engineer and inventor, John Fowler, a pioneer in the application of steam power to agriculture.
In 1832 he was elected Member of Parliament for South Durham but as a Quaker he was not permitted to take his seat – he refused to take the oath of office. Allowances were soon made, and he was able to take his seat in the House, but, refused to remove his hat when sitting in Parliament. He was prominent in campaigning against animal cruelty and in the fight against slavery. His statue is situated at the east end of Prospect Place, at the junction with Prebend Row, High Row and Northgate in Darlington. It was unveiled on the 27th September 1875; the Stockton & Darlington Railway’s Jubilee.
The statue is an electroform casting – zinc dipped in copper – one and a half times life-size (approximately 9ft). Pease is represented in middle age, wearing a Quaker lapel-less coat. He stands with his left hand at his side and his right tucked into the breast of his waistcoat, a pose he often assumed when speaking in public. The pedestal is in two parts; the plinth, of grey granite, supports a decorative base of polished pink Shap granite with colonnettes at the corners. Set into each of the four sides of the pedestal is a bronze relief panel representing different aspects of Pease’s public life including his railway and coal interests, education and the abolition of slavery.
A Pease Memorial Committee of 43 local businessmen was formed soon after Pease’s death in 1872 with the object of commissioning a painting for the town hall, and a statue. The sculptor, George Anderson Lawson, originally from Edinburgh but based in London from c.1862, is thought to have used a photograph of Pease aged 63 as his model; the foundry was Cox and Sons.
Funds were quickly raised, and the statue was unveiled on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The day was declared a public holiday throughout the district; 100,000 people are said to have filled the streets, 80,000 arriving from out of town in special trains. All the mayors of the United Kingdom were present for the unveiling of the statue, a service performed by the Duke of Cleveland, whose family had, over the years, attempted to thwart the development of the Peases’ railways.
The day was also commemorated with a souvenir plate. The plate has an image of the statue in the centre and around the circumference are pictures of other leading lights including Henry Fell Pease (MP for Cleveland, Yorkshire), Edmund Backhouse (MP for Darlington), George Stephenson (no introduction required!) and R. Luck (possibly Richard Luck representing St. Cuthbert’s parish). Two locomotives are also depicted – Locomotion No.1 from 1825 and possibly No. 1269 built in November 1874 at the North Road Works in Darlington and representing the latest in locomotive development (thank you to Barry Thompson for tracking down this locomotive in Pearce 1996, fig 219 and to Andrew Stoves, owner of the featured plate).
Joseph Pease features on our limited edition tea towel as does his statue. This is taken from the 1875 edition of the Illustrated London News. You can find it here.
[i] Archaeo-Environment 2018, 18