Family History and Canals 2017-02-15T09:56:04+00:00
The Barton on the Cygnet 1965

A Little Piece of Family History

“How are the canals of Great Haywood, Greece and Panama linked?”

canalside farm beside canal

We are often asked by our customers what drew us to Great Haywood and a spot beside the Trent and Mersey Canal when we decided to settle down and buy a Farm.  Its friendliness and beauty were definitely important factors, however we also think that genes played a part in the decision and that Chris’ great, great grandfather (Captain Peacock) was looking down and spurring us on!

Meet Captain George Peacock

Naval Officer, Explorer and Surveyor

George Peacock was an enterprising and energetic Victorian born at Starcross near Exeter, Devon in June 1805. His father owned sea faring vessels on which he became an apprentice (aged 13), and George quickly rose to become a ship’s master on the Brazilian and Mediterranean trade routes. In 1828 he entered the Royal Navy and was later appointed as the first commander of the newly constituted Pacific Steam Navigation Company (1840).

Captain George Pecock
Map of South America 1840

During a long and illustrious career, Captain Peacock’s greatest achievement lay in his contribution to the opening up of trade and communications with Chile and Panama. In 1832 he surveyed the isthmus of Panama and proposed routes for a railway and canal across it, both of which were later adopted by Comte Ferdinand de Lesseps when construction began in the 1880’s on the now world famous Panama Canal.

George also conducted a similar survey in Greece and his plans were again acknowledged as instrumental in building the Corinth Canal (opened 1893) which connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean.

Ingenious and Eccentric Inventor!

Throughout his life Captain Peacock was credited with creating many ingenious, water related inventions, including:

  • the screw propeller
  • an anti fouling paint to coat a ship’s hull
  • an invulnerable floating battery
  • a refuge buoy beacon
  • a floating poncho, which in the event of a shipwreck could be used as a life preserver!
  • the ‘Nautilus Bathing Dress’, the top half of which was inflatable and designed for “Swimming in Safety with Decorum!”
  • and the iconic ‘Swan of the River Ex’, a private yacht with the appearance of a giant bird, having the proportions of a mute swan but four times as large! The vessel was built for pleasure and could seat 10 for a meal on one central table. Four smaller vessels called ‘Cygnets’ would transport passengers to the Swan, only one of which remains today and can be seen in the Topsham Museum, Devon (see photo at top of page of Chris and his family on a Cygnet in 1965).
The Swan Yacht

Read more about the extraordinary life of Captain George Peacock on the Starcross History Blog and inside our Café when you next visit