Peter Breton came from a long-established Southampton family. He was probably related to Frederick Breton (died 7 March 1818, aged 61 years), sheriff of Southampton (1796-7), mayor (1801-2 and 1803-4) and a borough magistrate.
Peter was born (according to what he told later census enumerators) in Southampton in c.1793. He saw service with the Honourable East India Company as an officer in the Bombay Artillery. He retired on half-pay with the rank of Captain. Back in Southampton, he married Mary Ann Wright at All Saints Church on 4 November 1820. She was the eldest daughter of Blastus Godley Wright, of Beechwood House in Bartley Regis [Copythorne] up to 1819 and then of Polygon House in Southampton. He was brother-in-law to General Giles Stibbert of Portswood House, formerly commander in chief of the East India Company's forces in Bengal.
Captain Breton inherited Polygon House on the death of his father-in-law, aged 85 years, in December 1827, and continued to live there until his death in July 1862. A brother was William Henry Breton (born 1799), a half-pay officer in the Royal Navy, explorer, travel writer, resident magistrate and coroner at Launceston (Tasmania) in the 1830s and 1840s, and, at his death in Bath on 12 June 1887, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
One of William's daughters, Adela Catherine (born 1849), became an archaeologist of international repute. It is likely that the Reverend Edward Rose Breton (born in Devon 30 April 1803) was also related. He became stipendiary curate of All Saints Church in 1828, officiating at most of the marriages of the Breton children, before moving in July 1843 to Charminster (Dorset) as rector.
Captain Peter Breton was a member of both the pre- and post-reform Municipal Corporation: nominated a serving burgess in September 1836, sheriff 1830-1, mayor 1836-7 and 1839-40 (described on election by the Hampshire Advertiser as “both a gentleman and a man of business”), councillor for the ward of All Saints (elected December 1835) and alderman. He was a Tory in politics and a close ally of Colonel George Henderson. He was a member of Southampton Improvement Board (chairman of its first meeting on 14 August 1844) and of the Board of Waterworks, a commissioner of land and assessed taxes and a trustee of Public Charities in Southampton (appointed November 1837) and of the South District of the Southampton Turnpike roads. He was, in 1839, president of the Literary Association and in the 1840s was a promoter of Southampton general cemetery. It is chiefly as a magistrate that he was known, sitting for both the county (from 1830) and the borough (from January 1836). He was a deputy-lieutenant of Hampshire for many years.
Peter and Mary Ann Breton had five daughters and a son, all baptized in All Saints Church:
1) Mary Ann, baptized 6 May 1822. Whilst still a minor, she married Horatio Francis Kingsford Holloway, fifteen years her senior, in All Saints Church, Southampton, on 10 March 1841. Dynastically it was a good marriage. Holloway was the immensely rich owner of Marchwood Park, responsible for the huge, overpriced Church of St John the Apostle in Marchwood, completed in 1843, and appointed sheriff of Hampshire in July 1841. Her parents are commemorated in the west window of Marchwood Church.
2) Lucy Jane Bradby, baptized 31 March 1824. She died a spinster, with effects of over £15,000, in Portman Square, London, on 2 September 1912. She was living with her father in Polygon House in 1851, with her uncle, William Henry Breton, in Bath in 1861 and with two of her sisters in Brighton in 1871.
3) Frederica, baptized 24 August 1825. She married Phipps John Hornby, a Lieutenant in the Royal Enginers and a cricketeer who had represented Hampshire, at her home church on 7 March 1844. He was the son of Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby, and two of his brothers later became respectively Admiral of the Fleet and provost of Eton College. She moved with her husband to Montreal, where she bore him two children. He died (with the rank of Captain) on service there on 8 April 1848, aged 28 years. Returning to England, Frederica married in 1850 George Augustus Frederick Shadwell, a son of Sir Lancelot Shadwell, Vice-chancellor of England and progenitor of one of the most influential of mid-Victorian families. A connection may be that one of George's brothers, John Aemilius Shadwell, was rector of All Saints during most of Edward Breton's curacy. Frederica and George Shadwell lived for most of their lives in Barnes, Surrey. George later bought North Baddesley House, where he died in October 1885.
4) Alithea Catherine, baptized 7 February 1827. She died unmarried in Brighton on 8 February 1890, leaving a personal estate of over £10,000.
5) Anna Maria, baptized 5 March 1828. She died unmarried in 1890 in Kensington.
6) Henrietta, baptized 27 February 1830. She died the next day.
7) Peter Wright, baptized 23 November 1831. He followed his father into the army, serving as a Captain in the 38th Regiment of Foot and, with the same rank, in the Hampshire Militia. He died, unmarried, at Brighton on 28 November 1878.
Mary Ann Breton was buried on 17 February 1851, aged 59 years. Peter Breton died on 17 July 1862 at his residence in Polygon House. At probate, he had effects of “under £12,000”.
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