The origins of Plenty, association with Newbury, Pellew connection and lifeboat

Author: Ellie Thorne
Date published: 09/08/2010
© Ellie Thorne

Ellie Thorne
It is commonly stated that the Plenty's association with Newbury started in 1790 when William Plenty moved from Southampton and set up business as a maker of agricultural equipment. The first reference in the records which links him to Newbury is a patent for a plough in 1815.

Around this time William Plenty designed his first lifeboat The Experiment which attracted attention from many including Admiral Sir Edward Pellew (later Viscount Exmouth) who became godfather to William's next son Edward Pellew. When the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Lives from Shipwreck was founded in 1824, 11 out of the 14 lifeboats stationed around the country were built by Plenty. In 1851 William's sons James and Edward Pellew entered a modified and improved version of their father's lifeboat in the Duke of Northumberland's competition for an improved lifeboat and came third with their model displayed at the Great Exhibition. Edward Pellew's copy of the report of the committee and photographs of their model survive in the collection (D/EX1739/9/8-9).

William Plenty died in 1832 and from then the company was run jointly by his sons James and Edward Pellew. James died in 1851 and Edward Pellew continued to run the company, later assisted by his son, also Edward Pellew. The elder Edward Pellew retired in 1884 and Captain Henry George Fane and the younger Edward Pellew ran the company as partners until Fane's retirement in 1892.

The company was incorporated as Plenty and Son Ltd on 29 November 1890. After Fane's retirement the company was restructured and Earl Russell became Chairman and Edward Pellew became Managing Director.

The elder Edward Pellew Plenty died in 1898 and soon after this in 1899 the younger Edward Pellew disappeared with over £4,600 of the company's assets. (The next reference to Edward Pellew is in a share certificate in 1918 which states that he is living in Vigo, Spain.) (Note FONRC -  He ran off with a bar maid from the adjacent Catherine Wheel pub) Earl Russell and fellow director Wethered were left to prevent the company becoming bankrupt and appointed the younger Edward Pellew Plenty's son,  also Edward Pellew, as the new Managing Director.

The family's involvement with the company continued until Edward Pellew's death in 1949. His son, also Edward Pellew, had been trained to take over the business but had died of influenza after returning from the First World War on 21 November 1918.


The famous Admiral, Sir Edward Pellew (created Viscount Exmouth, Sept. 21, 1816) took a keen interest in Mr. Plenty's humane exercise, and agreed with other distinguished naval authorities that his boat was built on such a principle of complete safety that it was impossible to sink her, or that she could become water-logged, or even bilged against rocks. The Lords of the Admiralty, and the Royal National Institution for the preservation of Lives from Shipwreck ordered several of Mr. Plenty's lifeboats, after practical test of their powers, and they were for many years in use at various places along the coast; one at Appledore, Devon, and another at Skegness in Lincolnshire having been instrumental in saving 120 lives.
Mr. Edward Pellew Plenty, son of the inventor (to whom Lord Exmouth was sponsor), in conjunction with his brother James, exhibited his father's lifeboat with certain modifications, at the Great Exhibition of 1851, in a competition in which there were over 300 entries, for a reward of £105 given by the Duke of Northumberland, for a lifeboat fulfilling certain conditions, and obtained third honours, but the Appledore boat, which stood second, was but an improved copy of the Plenty lifeboat at that station. The prize was awarded to Mr. James Beeching, of Yarmouth, but his boats have not been found completely efficacious.

Newbury Weekly News 14 May 1914


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