Samuel Morton Peto
Peto was born in Woking and attended a village school in Cobham. He later moved to London as part of an apprenticeship with his uncle, Henry Peto, a public works contractor. When his uncle died in 1830, Peto and his cousin, Thomas Grissell, went into partnership. 'Peto and Grissell' went on to build many well-known buildings in London, including the Lyceum and Nelson's Column.
During the 1830s the company branched out into the world of railway construction with the first line being the Hanwell and Langley section of the Great Western Railway. Grissell became more and more uneasy with the risks associated with the company's branching into railway contracting and thus dissolved the partnership in 1846. Peto therefore found a new partner, Edward Betts, and arguably two of their biggest contracts were seen abroad in Algeria and the Crimea. The late 1850s saw Peto and Betts construct the first railway in Algeria with Napoleon III accompanying them to the grand opening of the line. In 1854, Peto, Betts and Thomas Brassey constructed the Grand Crimean Central Railway between Balaclava and Sevastopol to transport supplies to the troops on the frontline. The Crimean venture necessitated the resignation of Peto's seat in the House of Commons in December 1854 - he had been MP for Norwich from 1847, and was instead offered the title of First Baronet as compensation for his loss.