The Peels‘Master’ – William Felton Peel – was born at Tamworth, Staffordshire in 1839. The son of Edmund Peel, a Commander in the Royal Navy, William became a successful cotton merchant, dealing mostly in India and then Egypt. He married ‘Mistress’ – Sarah Edith Willoughby – in Poona, India in 1866. Sarah was the daughter of Michael Francklin Willoughby – a Major General in the British Army who was Canadian by birth. The Peels’ first five children (they eventually had 13) – Emilie Constance, Edith, Lucy, Willoughby Seymour and Jonathan – were born in India.
Winifred, May and Grace Peel, the ‘young ladies’ that were in Alexandria with Kate at the time she wrote her diary, were born in Salford, near Manchester, where the family moved because of Mr Peel’s business interests. In the 1881 census they are living at Shenstone House, Broughton with a large household, including a governess and nurse maids. Mr Peel is described as a merchant in cotton and foreign produce. Business was obviously booming because by 1891 they are living at Saltersford House, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, with an even bigger household, including a page. In 1893, when Lucy married Ernest Charles Hogg (Lt RN) at St Mary’s Church, Wistaston, the family were living at nearby Wistaston Hall.
After Alexandria, Winifred married Reginald Norton Knatchbull, who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Leicestershire Regiment, in 1906. According to the army death indices, she died in Poona, India in 1910, aged just 33.
May married George Frederick Godfrey Purvis (Lt RN), mentioned in Kate’s diary, in Tamworth in 1900. George was 40 when they married and May was 22 years old. The couple lived in Berkshire, where George died in 1936 and May in 1964, at the age of 84.
Grace married Richard Griffith Bassett Jeffreys, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, in 1909 in London. The couple were killed in a plane crash while holidaying in Ajaccio, Corsica on 10 January 1923. Grace was 43 years old.
‘Master’ died in Blackwater, Hampshire, in 1907 aged 68 – although there is also a report that he died playing polo in Alexandria; certainly, he lies buried in Hawley Church, near Blackwater. In the spring of 1908, Sarah extended and refurbished an apse at the east end of the church in memory of her husband.
After William’s death Sarah went to live with Lucy, also now a widow, as Ernest Hogg had died in Egypt earlier that year. Sarah outlived yet another of her children: Lucy died in 1924 in Hartfield, Sussex and Sarah in 1932 in Wargrave, Berkshire.
William Felton Peel