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How do we come to have a button from the world-famous Burberry raincoat on our tree? To find out why, we have to go back to the early nineteenth century, to a man called Thomas Peacock.

Thomas Peacock was born in Littleport in 1829, the son of John and Elizabeth who farmed on the outskirts of Littleport. Thomas was christened in St Georges’ church. And he made it his personal mission to improve the lives of working families in Littleport.

In due course Thomas was apprenticed as a drapery assistant to Robert Sayle of Cambridge. Thomas’ work took him to India and Hong Kong. He worked hard at learning his trade and became a successful businessman in his own right. He married his wife Mary in St John’s cathedral in Hong Kong.



 

 

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Bringing 'Hope' to Littleport

After his marriage the family returned to London. Thomas established a new business manufacturing mass-produced shirts. He was told that this venture would fail … but it succeeded, and his business thrived.

Thomas returned with his family to live in Littleport. He purchased The Grange, a large and imposing house in Grange Lane (now The Grange care home).

The Burberry company was founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry. Thomas Burberry invested much time and effort in inventing a new kind of waterproof fabric. He called it Gaberdine. There was a huge demand for clothing made from Gaberdine. Explorers, sportsmen and women, the police and the armed services all placed orders for clothing and uniforms made from the new ‘wonder material.’ And it wasn’t long before it came fashionable for everyday wear as well.

The Burberry trademark is a ‘knight errant on an armoured charger’ (known in heraldry as the prorsum horse).  Prorsum is latin for forward.

In 1937 a plane (a De Havilland DH88 Comet) was re-named the Burberry. It became known as the ‘only Burberry no-one ever wore’.  The Littleport Burberry factory closed in 1998.

So, with this Burberry button, we celebrate the achievements (and philanthropy) of a son of Littleport, who travelled the world to make his fortune but who never forgot his roots and the community he sprang from.

Maureen Scott

The Burberry factory