Background and early life
John Peter Labouchere was born in London on 14 August 1799, the younger son of Pierre César Labouchere (1772-1839), a Hugenot banker who was a partner in the Amsterdam firm Hope & Co, and his wife Dorothy Elizabeth Baring, daughter of the London banker Sir Francis Baring.
In around 1815 John Peter Labouchere and his cousin Henri Mathieu Labouchere became partners in Hope & Co, which had been re-formed in around 1813 by his father and his uncles Samuel Pierre Labouchere and Alexander Baring, all of whom were based in London.
In December 1825, during a major banking crisis, the London private bank of Williams, Williams, Burgess & Williams failed, a day after the collapse of another city bank, Pole, Thornton, Free, Down & Scott, with which it had close connections. A plan emerged for what remained of the two businesses to be taken over and managed jointly by Henry Sykes Thornton of the latter bank and Charles Williams of the former. The plan depended, however, on finding one or more wealthy backers who would be willing to join them in the partnership. The situation was urgent; in the words of Thornton’s sister Marianne, ‘twenty four hours only remained in which to discover a man with £300,000 and willing to risk it in these troublous times at a day’s notice with two young men who had nothing to offer but the ruins of their respective Houses.’
With help from the Baring family, an arrangement was agreed the next day. Williams and Thornton would be joined in the partnership by John Deacon, a former partner of the Barings; John Melville, Thornton’s cousin and later brother in law; and John Peter Labouchere. On 2 January 1826 the new bank began trading as Williams, Deacon, Labouchere & Co. Thornton joined the partnership a little later, after the affairs of his former bank had been settled. Labouchere continued as a partner in the bank until his death in 1863.
Family life and character
At some point before 1831 John Peter Labouchere married Mary Louisa Du Pré, second daughter of the Hugenot James Du Pré of Wilton Park, Buckinghamshire. They had six daughters and three sons together. Their eldest son, Henry du Pré Labouchere (1831-1912), went on to become an MP and journalist, owner of the periodical Truth, and a man described by Queen Victoria as ‘that horrible lying Labouchere’. The family lived at Broome Hall in Capel near Dorking, Surrey.
Labouchere’s London home was in Portland Place, where his elder brother Henry (1798-1869), later 1st Baron Taunton, also lived. It is recorded that Henry ‘was constantly pestered by persons confusing him with his brother the banker, who called to ask for his help and patronage with regard to various evangelical enterprises. It was his habit to reply to them: ”You have made a mistake, sir; the good Mr Labouchere lives at No.16” ’.
Religious and charitable activities
Labouchere shared the evangelical Christian beliefs of his bank partners, some of whom, particularly Thornton, were members of the ‘Clapham Sect’. This group was notable for the practical application of its religious beliefs through charitable and campaigning societies. Labouchere himself subscribed to 30 such organisations, serving as president of one, vice-president of two, treasurer of eight, governor of three and on the committee of another three.
Labouchere was a dedicated supporter of the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street which opened in 1852. He subscribed to the appeal for funds, and served as the hospital’s first honorary treasurer. The hospital banked with his firm, and he lent it money from his own funds when necessary. With the help of a reading and appeal by Charles Dickens he substantially increased the hospital’s resources. By the end of its first decade the hospital was treating over 500 inpatients a year alongside almost 11,000 outpatients. On his death the hospital’s committee of management stated that Labouchere ‘was one of the earliest friends of the institution and always one of the most liberal and benevolent patrons’. He was succeeded as treasurer by his partner at the bank, Henry Sykes Thornton.
Labouchere was appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Surrey in 1857 and in the same year served as High Sheriff of the county. He built and endowed a church at Leith Hill, near his Surrey home, consecrated in 1848. He was a founding committee member in 1836 of the Home and Colonial Infant School Society, and paid for the building of an infant school at Capel, Surrey, opened in 1851.
John Peter Labouchere died in London on 29 January 1863.
- EJT Acaster, ‘Banking with the Laboucheres’, Three Banks Review, December 1973, vol. 100, pp. 29-42
- Gordon Pillar, ’Great Ormond Street’, Three Banks Review, December 1969, vol. 84, pp. 33-42