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Forums » Misc » Nick Barratt's investigation into our hidden histories. This week: Peter Gabriel
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Family detective: Peter Gabriel
Nick Barratt's investigation into our hidden histories. This week: Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel was one of the founder members of the band Genesis, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year. Despite the rebellious image of the music scene in the late 1960s, the original members were public school boys from Charterhouse.
Gabriel left the band in 1975 to launch a solo career, achieving his greatest success in the late 1980s with songs such as Sledgehammer. Today he takes a leading role in promoting world music through the WOMAD festival.
Who is he related to?
Peter Brian Gabriel was born on February 13, 1950, the son of Ralph Parton Gabriel and his wife of three years, Edith Irene Allen. His Gabriel forebears were fairly well known in the 19th century as politicians and businessmen in Streatham, south London, where a long-standing family business can be traced.
Census returns indicate they enjoyed a comfortable life, waited upon by numerous servants and educated at the finest schools. Peter's grandfather, Christopher Burton Gabriel, for example, also appears as a boarder at Charterhouse in 1891.
The family had a profitable timber business and one of the main characters to emerge is Peter's two-times great-grandfather, Christopher Trowell Gabriel, born in 1797. He was the son-in-law of the famous billiard-table maker, John Thurston, whose only daughter, Ruth, he married in 1833.
The business was clearly not without its ups and downs. Christopher's brother, Thomas, applied for bankruptcy in March, 1859, but Thomas was able to recover, to the extent that he became the Lord Mayor of London in 1866.
At his death in 1873, Christopher left an estate of just under £200,000, a vast sum for the period. His son, Thomas, received the estate in Ely, while his widow, Ruth, was given all household goods in the family mansion, Norfolk House. Christopher's religious beliefs are also made clear by his will, with various bequests made out to Wesleyan societies.
Further research reveals when and where the Gabriel fortune was first made. Christopher Gabriel senior, Christopher and Thomas's grandfather, founded the family business in 1770 as a craftsman making tools and chairs, before turning to the timber trade from 1812. Many inventories survive, showing how the business expanded in the late 18th century.
Other records of the Gabriel family were deposited at the Guildhall Library, London, where letters, accounts and documents stretching back to the 1620s can still be viewed.