My Family and Canals!

What connects Canals in Panama, Greece and Great Haywood?

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, beauty and peacefulness were definitely key factors, however, we also think that genes played a part in the decision and that Captain Peacock (Chris’s Great, Great Grandfather) was looking down and spurring us on!
During the 19th Century, Captain Peacock surveyed possible routes for the Panama Canal in Central America and the Corinth Canal in Greece. His plans were acknowledged as providing the basis for both of these world reknown constructions 50 years later.
Captain George Pecock

Captain George Peacock: Naval Officer, Explorer, Surveyor….

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

…ingenious, 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  the hull of a ship
  • an invulnerable floating battery
  • a refuge buoy beacon
  • a granulated 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 could seat 18 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 be seen in the Topsham Museum, Devon (see photo at top of page of Chris and his family on a Cygnet in 1965!)
Swan yatch

Read more about the extraordinary life of Captain George Peacock in our Canalside Café