Peat, Thomas (DNB00)

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PEAT, THOMAS (1708–1780), almanac-maker, was born in 1708 at Ashley Hall, near Wirksworth, Nottinghamshire, where his father held a farm. He early acquired a taste for learning, which his father strove to repress. A brother, a joiner in Nottingham, to whom he became apprenticed, gave him no more encouragement; but Cornelius Wildbore, a master-dyer, and like the Peats, a regular attendant at the presbyterian High Pavement chapel, noticed him, and supplied him with the means of obtaining books. Peat devoted himself chiefly to the study of mathematics and astronomy, and in 1740 he was one of the principal projectors of ‘The Gentleman's Diary, or Mathematical Repository.’ The first number appeared in 1741, with Peat as joint-editor; in 1756 he became sole editor, and filled that office until his death in 1780, his successor being a Rev. Mr. Wildbore, probably a son of Peat's early benefactor. In addition to the usual information contained in almanacs, ‘The Gentleman's Diary’ was largely devoted to the solution of mathematical problems. The original editions in the British Museum are not complete. A collected edition was published in 1814 (3 vols.) The numbers edited by Peat occupy the first two volumes.

Subsequently Peat became editor of the ‘Poor Robin's Almanac,’ which is erroneously said to have been started by Herrick (Notes and Queries, 6th ser. vii. 321–3). It was conducted anonymously. Peat's share in it ceased some time before his death.

Peat was also a surveyor, architect, and schoolmaster, using his almanacs as means for advertising himself in each of these capacities; he is also said to have been ‘not a bad censor of poetry.’ About 1743 he projected a course of fourteen lectures at Nottingham on mechanics, hydrostatics, optics, pneumatics, astronomy, and the use of globes; the price of a ticket for the course was a guinea, and a syllabus of the lectures was published at Nottingham. In 1770 he proposed to publish a map of Leicestershire, drawn from his own survey; at that time he was residing at Thringstone; in 1771 he removed to Swannington, both in Leicestershire, and in 1777 he returned to Nottingham, where he died, at his residence at Greyfriars' Gate, on 21 Feb. 1780, aged 72.

[Prefaces to the Gentleman's Diary, signed Thomas Peat; Syllabus of Lecture, 1744?; Wylie's Old and New Nottingham, p. 158; Brown's Nottinghamshire Worthies, p. 379; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. viii. 465.]

A. F. P.