Palmer, John 1818

John Palmer (senior) was born in 1742, the eldest son of an affluent and respected Bath brewer and theatre owner. He was educated at Colerne, progressing to the free grammar school at Marlborough. John was given a job in the counting house of his father’s brewery, later working as a labourer in the brewery itself. After a year or so his health started to deteriorate and he was sent away to recuperate, returning to Bath to work in his father’s Old Orchard Street Theatre. After his father’s death, he obtained a Royal Letter Patent for it in 1768 which gave him an effective monopoly on playhouses in Bath and the right to use the title ‘Theatre Royal’, the first theatre outside London to acquire it. John’s second theatre was in Bristol and this was granted the same status in 1778. He organised a rapid carriage service to transport actors and stage props between the theatres and believed a similar scheme could improve the postal service. In 1782 he sold his theatre interests and went to London to lobby the Post Office, who believed that the speed of the mail could not be improved. However, William Pitt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, accepted his idea and an experimental service was undertaken at John Palmer’s expense, starting at Bristol on 2nd August 1784, at 4.00pm. It reached London at 8.00am the next morning. A journey that had taken 38 hours was reduced to just 16 hours. John was also MP for the city between 1801 and 1807. His association with the city council included being a councilman (April 1775 – 1795), constable (1775 – 1776), bailiff (1777 – 1778), alderman (April 1795 – 1818), mayor 1796 – 1797 and 1809 – 1810), and JP (1797 – 1798 and 1810 – 1818). He died in Brighton, but is buried in the Abbey.

Memorials on which this person appears

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