Frederick Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton


Frederick Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton

Frederick James Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton CH , PC (1883–1964) was a British businessman and politician.

Educated at Manchester Grammar School and the University of Manchester (where he was a Research Fellow) Woolton was an active member of the Unitarian Church.

In the 1930s he built up the department store Lewis's (not to be confused with the John Lewis department stores), of which he became Managing Director. He was awarded a peerage in 1939 for his contribution to British industry . Despite his wishes, he was informed that it was not possible to be Baron Marquis (because 'Marquis' is another grade of the nobility of England) and so he took the title Baron Woolton. He subsequently served on a number of government committees (including the Cadman committee). Geoffrey Dawson described him as "a cheerful cove".

In April 1940 he was appointed as Minister of Food by Neville Chamberlain, one of a number of ministerial appointments from outside politics. Woolton retained this position when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister the following month and was faced with the task of overseeing rationing due to wartime shortages. He took the view that it was insufficient to impose restrictions but that a programme of advertising to support it was undertaken. There were many new recipes made out of the restricted supplies, including the "Woolton pie" named after the minister which consisted of carrots, parsnips, potatoes and turnips in oatmeal, with a pastry or potato crust and served with brown gravy. It was Woolton's business skills that managed to make the Ministry of Food's difficult job a success and he engendered a strong personal popularity despite the shortages.

In 1943 Woolton entered the War Cabinet as Minister of Reconstruction, taking charge of the difficult task of planning for post-war Britain and in this role he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on the issue of 26 March 1945.

In May 1945 he was included in Churchill's "Caretaker" government as Lord President of the Council, but in July the government fell when Churchill lost the 1945 general election. The very next day Woolton joined the Conservative Party and was soon appointed Party Chairman, with the job of improving the party's organisation in the country and revitalising it for future elections. Under Woolton many sweeping reforms were carried out and when the Conservatives returned to government in 1951, Woolton served in the Cabinet for the next four years.

* Maurice Cowling, "The Impact of Hitler - British Politics & Policy 1933-1940", Cambridge University Press, 1975, p.419, ISBN 0-521-20582-4


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