Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Laurie, Peter

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LAURIE, Sir PETER (1779?–1861), lord mayor of London, born about 1779, was son of John Laurie, a small landowner and agriculturist, of Stitchell, Roxburghshire. He was at first intended for the ministry of the established church of Scotland, but his tastes inclining him to a commercial life, he came to London as a lad to seek his fortune. He obtained a clerkship in the office of John Jack, whose daughter Margaret he afterwards married, and subsequently set up for himself as a saddler, carrying on business at 296 Oxford Street (Post Office London Directory, 1807). Becoming a contractor for the Indian army his fortune was rapidly made, and in 1820 he took his sons into partnership; he himself retired from the business in 1827. He was chairman of the Union Bank from its foundation in 1839 until his death. In 1823 he served the office of sheriff, and on 7 April 1824 received the honour of knighthood. On 6 July 1826 he was chosen alderman for the ward of Aldersgate. In 1831 he contested the election for the mayoralty with Sir John Key, who was put forward for re-election. Laurie was defeated, but served the office in the following year in the ordinary course of seniority. He was master of the Saddlers' Company in 1833. During his mayoralty and throughout his public life Laurie devoted himself largely to schemes of social advancement. He gained the reputation of being a good magistrate, and took an active part in the proceedings of the court of common council, where he showed himself a disciple of Joseph Hume [q. v.] In 1825 he succeeded in throwing open to the public the meetings of the court of Middlesex magistrates, and in 1835 the meetings of the court of aldermen were also held in public through his endeavours. He was president of Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals, and a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant for the city of Westminster and the county of Middlesex. His town residence was situated in Park Square, Regent's Park, where he died of old age and infirmity on 3 Dec. 1861. He was buried in Highgate cemetery on the 10th of that month. Laurie had no children, and was left a widower in 1847.

There is a mezzotint portrait of him engraved by James Scott from a painting by Thomas Philipps, R.A., and published in 1839; and an inferior lithographic print from a drawing by F. Cruikshank was published by Hullmandel. A portrait by an unknown painter, presented to him by the company on 24 Feb. 1835, hangs in Saddlers' Hall.

Laurie published: 1. 'Maxims ...,' 12mo, London, 1833. 2. 'Substance of Speech of Sir P. Laurie on the Question of the Periodical Election of Magistrates in the Court of Common Council,' 28 March, privately printed, 8vo, London, 1835. 3. 'Correspondence between C. Cator ... and Sir P. L. upon the Minutes of the Court of Common Council,' 8vo [1839]. 4. 'Speech ... at the Public Breakfast of the Wesleyan Missionary Society,' pp. 8, 8vo, London, 1843. 5. 'Killing no Murder, or the Effects of Separate Confinement ...,' 8vo, London, 1846. 6. 'A Letter on the Disadvantages and Extravagances of the Separate System of Prison Discipline for County Gaols ...,' 8vo, London, 1848.

[Townsend's Calendar of Knights; City Press, 7 Dec. 1861; Gent. Mag. 1862, pt. i. pp. 91–3; Sherwell's Historical Account of the Saddlers' Company, 1889; Catalogues of the British Museum and the Guildhall Library.]

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