To say he had a varied work life would be a huge understatement.

Capt George Peacock (1805-1883) was appointed Dock Manager of the Southampton Dock Company in 1848, becoming Dock Superintendent in 1850.

Prior to joining the Docks Company, he had already enjoyed an amazing career, becoming a Ship’s Captain and Master Mariner, inventor, engineer and explorer, later using these attributes to set up a local manufacturing business and become a major local employer.

The Southampton Dock Company was formed in 1836 to build a new port on 216 acres of tidal mudland acquired between the Town Quay and River Itchen. The only working dock was the 16 acre Dock, later known as the Outer Dock opened in 1842 with two dry docks being added later. The non-tidal 10-acre Inner Dock was completed in 1851.

During his time with the Dock Company, there were significantly increased demands on the port to cater for the larger ships of P&O, Royal Mail, Union Line and other companies. As Superintendent, soon after completion of the Inner Dock, he implemented work to widen the narrow 46 ft Inner Lock entrance and deepen the dock. Due to the increased size of ships, a larger dry dock was required and in 1854 a third dry dock was opened in the Outer Dock. Peacock also continued with his inventions and in 1850, to mark the dangerous Calshot Spit entrance to Southampton Water, he designed a totally new type of floating marker/refuge buoy with a platform for 15 shipwrecked sailors.

Daily Echo: George Peacock.

George Peacock was born at Exmouth in South Devon, the second son of Richard George Peacock, who had served as Master in the Navy and was now a shipowner. At just 13, after an education at Dawlish Grammar School, George became an apprentice on his father’s ship Fanny of Exeter, trading to the Baltic and Mediterranean.

In 1822, he experimented with a screw propeller made from oar blades and began studying steam engineering as an apprentice to the famous Henry Maudslay, including sea-going time as ‘stoker’.

Peacock gained his full masters ticket in 1828 when just 23 years old and was promoted to HMS Winchester the following year, undertaking survey work in the West Indies.

During a period of leave in 1832, he made a detailed survey across the Panama Isthmus. It was later used by Ferdinand de Lesseps in planning the construction of the Panama Canal.

Daily Echo: HMS Winchester - on which Peacock once served.

In February 1840, after leaving the Navy, he was appointed first Commander of the newly formed Pacific Steam Navigation Company, initially overseeing the building of their first vessels, the 730-ton steamships 'Peru' and 'Chile' at Curling & Young in Limehouse.

For 6 years he was the Company resident marine superintendent on the west coast of South America, during which time he prospected for nitrates and experimented with anti-fouling compositions.

Pacific Steam Navigation became one of the great Victorian steamship companies.

In 1961, he was remembered when a new Pacific Steam tanker was named 'George Peacock', capable of carrying over 30,000 tons of petroleum products. The launch was attended by Peacock’s great granddaughter.

Soon after his appointment with Southampton Dock Company, he started a new career when he formed the firm of Peacock & Buchan with Henry Joseph Buchan of Wilton Lodge in Bedford Place, who in 1871 became the Mayor of Southampton.

Daily Echo: Building on the corner of Tebourba Way and Oakley Road, now occupied by City Plumbing.

Together they opened a factory at ‘Mousehole Works’ in Millbrook, then a village well outside the main town, for the manufacture of patented anti-fouling and other protective coatings. Even the Royal Navy referred to the protection of the ship's hull as ‘Peacocking’.

The firm survived until the 1960s when the factory was renamed the Atlantic Works of Sealocrete Products. The building, just off Mousehole Lane which was renamed Oakley Road is alongside Tebourba Way and it still exists today. It is currently occupied by a plumbing showroom and a collectables emporium.

In 1858, Peacock resigned from the Docks company and became a partner in shipbroking firm Seymour & Peacock, based near Exmouth. He died in June 1883 and is buried in Starcross, Devon.

Daily Echo: SeeSouthampton logo. Image: Echo

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