Joseph Pease was a member of the well known Darlington Quaker family that became closely involved with the development of both railways and industry in the region. His father Edward was a friend of the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry and the driving force behind the construction of the original Stockton and Darlington Railway. After 1829 Joseph took over responsibility for the management of the Company.
He also acquired or developed many mines in the Durham coalfield. His interest in shipping coal from these mines to British and overseas customers led him to look for opportunities to develop a new port in the region. In 1830 in partnership with other Quaker businessmen he bought a large tract of land on which the port and town of Middlesbrough was later developed.
In 1832 Joseph Pease became the first Quaker Member of Parliament. A man of strong principle, for some time he was unable to take his seat at Westminster until a committee of the House of Commons accepted that it was acceptable for him to affirm his loyalty rather than swear an oath which was contrary to Quaker belief.
Joseph was a formidable entrepreneur and a powerful business strategist. He was undoubtedly the mastermind behind the development and implementation of many regional infrastructure projects including the Stainmore line.
In his later life he became involved in promoting Quaker beliefs in non-violence. He served as President of the Peace Society from 1860 until his death in 1872