Samuel Morton Peto

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Sir Samuel Morton Peto, 1st Baronet (4 August 1809 – 13 November 1889) was an English entrepreneur and civil engineer in the 19th century. A partner in Grissell and Peto, he managed construction firms that built many major buildings and monuments in London. He then became one of the major contractors to build the rapidly expanding railways of the time.


Early life

Samuel Morton Peto was born in Woking, Surrey. As a youth, he was apprenticed as a brick-layer to his uncle Henry Peto, who ran a building firm in London.


When the uncle died in 1830, Peto and his older cousin Thomas Grissell (who had been a partner to his uncle for five years), went into partnership. The firm of Grissell and Peto (1830–1847) built many well-known buildings in London, including the Reform Club, the Oxford & Cambridge Club, the Lyceum, and St James's Theatre, Hungerford Market and Bloomsbury Chapel (1848), the first Baptist church with spires in London. In addition, they built Nelson's Column (1843) and the vast infrastructure project of the London brick sewer.

Railway works

In 1834 Peto saw the potential of the newly developing railways and dissolved the connection with his uncle's building firm. He and his cousin Grissell founded a business as an independent railway contractor. His firm's first railway work was to build two stations in Curzon Street, Birmingham. Next the firm built its first line of track, the Hanwell and Langley section of the Great Western Railway, which included the Wharncliffe Viaduct.[1] Grissell became increasingly nervous of the risks taken by Peto and dissolved the partnership in 1846.[2]

Peto then entered into partnership with Edward Betts, who had married his sister Ann.[2] Between 1846 and 1855, the firm carried out many large railway contracts both at home and abroad, including the following:

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