Focus on Tunstall: John Nash Peake
Nash Peake Street in Tunstall is named after John Nash Peake who was one of the town’s most flamboyant characters.
Born in Tunstall on the 13th April 1837, John was the son of Thomas Peake the owner of Tunstall Tileries in Watergate Street who was Tunstall’s Chief Bailiff from 1858 to 1861.
Educated in Bloomsbury, John showed remarkable artistic ability. He became a student at the Royal Academy under Millais.
When he was only 18, one of John’s paintings called “Alpine Monks Restoring a Traveller” was put in an exhibition at Burlington House. A year later, he exhibited “The Last Hours of the Condemned” a painting that portrayed a soldier awaiting execution.
Although he could have remained in London and become a professional artist, John returned to Tunstall in the late 1850s, and joined his father’s firm which manufactured bricks, tiles, water pipes and ornamental garden pottery. When Thomas died, John inherited the business. He doubled its size and made it one of the largest tileries in the world with 35 ovens and kilns producing over 250,000 roof tiles a week.
A man who cared about Tunstall and the welfare of its people, John had a forceful personality, a keen intellect and a commanding presence. He was eloquent, versatile and persevering.
Politically a Liberal, John became a member of Tunstall’s Board of Health in 1869. A staunch supporter of the Church of England and the Protestant Reformation, he opposed the growing influence of Newmanism and the introduction of Anglo-Catholic dogma and rites into Potteries churches.
Working closely with the Board of Health’s clerk, solicitor Arthur Llewellyn, and its architect Absalom Reade Wood, he regenerated the market hall and gave Tunstall a late Victorian Civic Centre which included a town hall and the Jubilee Buildings that contained a free library, an art school, a technical school, a swimming pool and a museum.
On 15th October 1903, John presented Tunstall’s Urban District Council with a mahogany cabinet that was surmounted by one of his paintings of Queen Victoria.
Designed to house the town’s records, the cabinet was placed in the council chamber in the town hall. There was a compartment between Queen Victoria’s portrait and the drawers at the base where the records were kept.
When the compartment’s doors were opened a glass display panel was revealed which contained photographs of former chief bailiffs, clerks and surveyors. During the presentation ceremony, a bronze portrait bust of John was unveiled in the council chamber and he was given an illuminated address thanking him for his services to the town.
Thanking the council for its gift, John who was 66 years old, said: “I know well that day by day I come nearer to a time when I shall be forever absent from the council chamber and the streets. Think what it means to me, this surprising tribute of yours, that I shall not be forgotten: that I shall be with you dwelling among my own people in imperishable bronze”.
He died two years later. The bronze bust disappeared a long time ago. So far all attempts to trace it have failed.
Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2010