Window in Council Chamber of Lowestoft Town Hall
(donated by Samuel Peto)


Sir Samuel Morton Peto Bt.1809-1889 by Dr. Edward C. Brooks

Page 158-160

In the present Town Hall there is the original Peto window, in celebration of the Anglo-French alliance in the Crimean war of 1855. Peto provided this impressive stained glass window measuring 100 sq. ft for the far end of the Council Chamber in the Town Hall at a cost of £857 in 1857. The theme is the Cloth of Gold as its central motif. This recalls the meeting between Francis I of France and Henry VIII between the 7th and 24th June 1520 when a vast concourse of French and English met in an open field between Guisnes and Ardres. The rich splendour with jousting, dancing, and pageantry, is told in the contemporary pages of the enthusiastic chronicle Edward Hall, though in historical terms the amity with all its scenic magnificence was short-lived and was but a brief interlude. But for Peto, the fall of Sebastopol and the Treaty of Paris in March 1856, removing Russian control, and the development of trade and communications between England and France in the decade before, were sufficient grounds for hopeful optimism for expanding Lowestoft's trade links with Europe.

In the top light are two oval medallions wreathed in laurel, one of Victoria and Albert in face profile, the other similar, of Napoleon III (who had granted Peto honours for his work on the Algiers railway) and Eugenie of France, over the words "Hail Happy Union". The profiles face each other.

Over the roundels and round the apsidal top are three winged cherubs, the left one with a cornucopia, harp, and painter's palette, and on the right a cherub also with a cornucopia and a section of a toothed wheel and sceptre, a synthesis of art and engineering with the subtle suggestion that the sceptre lay with mechanical and scientific progress. The centre cherub at the top holds a crown over both roundels and flanked by the words "Forever United".

To the right of the centre light is the figure of St George the Patron Saint England and in armour with a shield bearing the Cross of St George, supported in the bottom light by the Tudor arms. The face of St Geoqe closely resembles that of Albert. To the left is St Denys the Patron Saint of France and Bishop of Paris, in episcopal robes and in his right hand the hilt of an upturned sword. It is rather baffling to account for the incorporation of the sword as St Denys was not a warrior bishop but perhaps its inclusion was merely to suggest that the Patron Saint of France, as George of England, defended the rights of the nation against all comers - this would include Charles of Spain! Martyred c 250AD the body of St Denys was recovered from the Seine and over his shrine, the Abbey of St Denys was built, the future burial place of French kings. The cult of St Denys had spread to England in the medieval period where no fewer than 41 churches bear his dedication.

The great roundel in the centre light depicts the Cloth of Gold with a central tent. Outside the roundel at the top was the letter `N' for Napoleon, at the base outside the roundel the letter `V' for Victoria, between the words "Guardians of Europe". In the bottom light in the centre are the crossed flags of both nations with the imperial crown surmounting, and flanked by the Tudor arms mentioned, and on the left, by the royal arms of Napoleon. Entwined English roses and Fleur-de-lis are in the border.

The whole construction was a romanticised view of the co-operation in the Crimean War and highly symbolic of the new wealth of the nations of Peto's period, expressing his hopes for the future involvement of Lowestoft in the European trade for which political stability was essential through peace and agreements.

Samuel Morton Peto a Victorian Entrepreneur by Adrian Vaughan


The newly made Baronet compounded his public glory by paying for a Crimean War Memorial window for Lowestoft Town Hall. It is not a memorial to those who had been killed, but rather an admission that what the war had been fought for - the advancement of Anglo-French banking and trade over the Russian variety. The window had no `Christian' content - unless a Bishop with a sword counts as such - and no element of sorrow at the loss of thousands of lives. It was a celebration of the triumph of the new Anglo-French banking alliance -'Hall Happy Union'.

In the late 1850s, Peto and his brother in law Betts helped to build the first railway in Algeria. Peto accompanied Napoleon III to the official opening of the line.[5]. In 1854 during the Crimean War Peto, Betts and Brassey constructed the Grand Crimean Central Railway between Balaklava and Sevastopol to transport supplies to the troops at the front line[6].

In February 1855, the government recognized Peto for his wartime services; he was made a Baronet of Somerleyton Hall in the County of Suffolk.

King Frederick of Denmark honoured Peto for his construction of the Danish Railway system, which led to a growing export/import trade with the Port of Lowestoft.