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about us

History and vision

It is more than 40 years since John Whittaker established the foundations that form the company as it is now, through a philosophy of recycling capital and long term investment, predominantly in the North West of England.

Between 1971 and 1987, John Whittaker acquired Peel Mills, John Bright & Brothers, Bridgewater Estates and the Manchester Ship Canal. Together they form the foundation on which Peel stands today.

Duke of Bridgewater

The families and companies involved in its past have had a great influence on the wealth, economy and social improvement particularly in North West England. In the late 18th century, Francis Egerton, the Third Duke of Bridgewater, driven by a desire to transport coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester, opens his canal which links Manchester with Runcorn and the River Mersey beyond. Later, the First Earl of Ellesmere reinvigorated the mines and grew the commercial traffic on the Bridgewater Canal



Sir Robert Peel

At about the same time, two famous sons of the North West began their careers in their family textile businesses at Peel Mills and John Bright’s in Lancashire. Sir Robert Peel later became Prime Minister and founded the Metropolitan Police Force.

John Bright later became the national champion of free trade. By 1850, the Whittaker family itself was involved in textiles, farming and quarrying. Daniel Adamson provided the vision and momentum to the movement to establish the Manchester Ship Canal.


Vision and firm foundations

After the acquisition of Peel Mills in 1971, the following ten years saw further acquisitions including John Brights and culminatiing in a Stock Exchange listing in 1981 under the name Peel Holdings p.l.c.

In 1983, Peel acquired Bridgewater Estates with a land portfolio of approximately 12,000 acres in and around Manchester and Salford. It was at this time that John Whittaker’s vision for the intu Trafford Centre (formerly The Trafford Centre) was born. Planning permission for the Centre was sought in 1986 and approval was finally achieved in 1995. It took 27 months to build and opened on 10th September 1998.

In 1987, the Manchester Ship Canal was added to the portfolio. This fusion of Peel’s property interests, and especially the Bridgewater Estate and the 36-mile long inland port of the Manchester Ship Canal, combined once again the forces that were fundamental in the establishment of one of the great industrial regions of the world.

The acquisition of Clydeport plc and its west coast Scottish ports in 2003 was followed in 2005 by the acquisition of The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company which resulted in the Peel Ports division becoming the second largest ports group in the UK.

Since being taken private in 2004, Peel has developed embryonic businesses in the Advertising, Energy,Environmental, Hotels, Media,  Outlets and Utilities sectors.

Also, the Group has interests in a number of publicly quoted companies in the Real Estate (Harworth Estates), Energy (Coalfield Resources), Media (Pinewood Shpperton) and retail sectors (Intu Properties).

Peel has a long term horizon - there is no interest in quick fixes