Frederick Marquis, 1st Baron Woolton



Frederick James Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton, (23 August 1883 – 14 December 1964) was an English businessman and politician who served as chairman of the Conservative Party from 1946 to 1955. In April 1940, he was appointed Minister of Food and established the rationing system. During this time, he maintained food imports from America and organised a programme of free school meals. The vegetarian Woolton pie was named after Woolton as one of the recipes commended to the British public due to a shortage of meat, fish, and dairy products during the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—forming two opposi ...
. In 1943, Woolton was appointed Minister of Reconstruction, planning for post-war Britain.

Early career

Lord Woolton was born at 163 West Park Street in Ordsall, Salford,
Lancashire Lancashire ( , ; abbreviated Lancs) is the name of a Historic counties of England, historic county, Ceremonial County, ceremonial county, and non-metropolitan county in North West England. The boundaries of these three areas differ significa ...
, in 1883. He was the only surviving child of a saddler, Thomas Robert Marquis (1857–1944), and his wife, Margaret Marquis, ''née'' Ormerod (1854–1923). Educated in Ardwick and then at Manchester Grammar School and the University of Manchester, Woolton was an active member of the Unitarian Church. He was active in social work in
Liverpool Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England. With a population of in 2019, it is the 10th largest English district by population and its metropolitan area is the fifth largest in the United Kingdom The ...
(1906–1918). Woolton had hoped to pursue an academic career in the social sciences, but his wish was frustrated by his family's financial circumstances, and he became a mathematics teacher at Burnley Grammar School. He was forced to turn down a research fellowship in Sociology at the
University of London The University of London (UoL; abbreviated as Lond or more rarely Londin in post-nominals) is a federal public research university located in London London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom, with a ...
but was appointed a research fellow in Economics at the University of Manchester in 1910, where he took the degree of MA in 1912. Having been judged unfit for military service, Woolton became a civil servant, first in the War Office, then at the Leather Control Board, where he served as a civilian boot controller. At the end of the war, he became secretary of the Boot Manufacturers' Federation, joining Lewis's department store in Liverpool, where he was an executive (1928–1951), becoming director in 1928 and chairman in 1936. In 1938, he responded to the Anschluss by announcing that his stores would boycott Nazi German goods. Despite public support, he was reprimanded by Horace Wilson on behalf of Neville Chamberlain's National Government for diverging from its European policy of appeasement. Woolton was knighted in 1935 and was raised to the 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 "
Marquess A marquess (; french: marquis ), es, marqués, pt, marquês. is a nobleman Nobility is a social class found in many societies that have an aristocracy. It is normally ranked immediately below royalty. Nobility has often been an ...
", or "Marquis", is another grade of the peerage of the United Kingdom), so he took the title Baron Woolton after the Liverpool suburb of that name in which he had lived. He subsequently served on several government committees (including the Cadman committee). He refused to affiliate himself with any political party.

Second World War

In April 1940, Woolton was appointed as Minister of Food by Neville Chamberlain, one of several ministerial appointments from outside politics. Woolton retained this position until 1943. He supervised 50,000 employees and over a thousand local offices where people could obtain ration cards. His ministry had a virtual monopoly of all food sold in Britain, whether imported or local. His mission was to guarantee adequate nutrition for everyone. With food supplies cut sharply because of enemy action and the needs of the services, rationing was essential. Woolton and his advisors had one scheme in mind, but economists convinced them to instead try point rationing. Everyone would have a certain number of points a month that they could allocate any way they wanted. The experimental approach to food rationing has been considered successful; indeed, food rationing was a major success story in Britain's war. In late June 1940, with a German invasion threatened, Woolton reassured the public that emergency food stocks were in place that would last "for weeks and weeks" even if the shipping could not get through. He said "iron rations" were stored for use only in great emergency. Other rations were stored in the outskirts of cities liable to German bombing. When the Blitz began in late summer 1940, he was ready with more than 200 feeding stations in London and other cities under attack. Woolton had the task of overseeing rationing due to wartime shortages. He took the view that it was insufficient to merely impose restrictions but that a programme of advertising to support it was also required. He warned that
meat Meat is animal Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexually, and go thro ...
cheese Cheese is a dairy product produced in wide ranges of flavors, textures, and forms by coagulation Coagulation, also known as clotting, is the process by which blood changes from a liquid to a gel, forming a blood clot. It potential ...
, as well as
bacon Bacon is a type of salt-cured pork made from various cuts, typically the belly or less fatty parts of the back. It is eaten as a side dish (particularly in breakfast Breakfast is the first meal of the day usually eaten in the morning ...
and eggs, were in very short supply and would remain that way. Calling for a simpler diet, he noted that there was plenty of bread,
potatoes The potato is a starch Starch or amylum is a polymeric carbohydrate consisting of numerous glucose Glucose is a simple sugar with the molecular formula . Glucose is overall the most abundant monosaccharide, a subcategory of carboh ...
, vegetable oils, fats, and
milk Milk is a white liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals (including breastfed human infants) before they are able to digest solid food. Immune factors and immune-modul ...
. By January 1941, the usual overseas food supply had fallen in half. By 1942, however, ample food supplies were arriving through Lend Lease from the U.S. and a similar Canadian programme. Worried about children, he made sure that by 1942 Britain was providing 650,000 children with free school meal; about 3,500,000 children received milk at school, in addition to priority supplies at home. However, his national loaf of wholemeal brown bread replaced the ordinary white variety, to the distaste of most housewives. Children learned that sweets supplies were reduced to save shipping space. Woolton kept food prices down by subsidizing eggs and other items. He promoted recipes that worked well with the rationing system, including the " Woolton pie," which consisted of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and
turnips The turnip or white turnip ('' Brassica rapa'' subsp. ''rapa'') is a root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide for its white, fleshy taproot. The word ''turnip'' is a compound of ''turn'' as in turned/rounded on a lathe ...
oatmeal Oatmeal is a preparation of oats that have been de-husked, steamed, and flattened, or a coarse flour of hulled oat The oat (''Avena sativa''), sometimes called the common oat, is a species In biology Biology is the scient ...
, with a pastry or potato crust, and served with brown gravy. Woolton's business skills made the Ministry of Food's job a success, and he earned a strong personal popularity despite the shortages. He joined the Privy Council in 1940 and became a Companion of Honour in 1942. 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 Time is the continued sequence In mathematics, a sequence is an enumerated collection of objects in which repetitions are allowed and order matters. Like a set, it contains members (also called ''elements'', or ''terms''). The number of ...
'' on the issue of 26 March 1945. In May 1945, he featured in Churchill's "Caretaker" government as
Lord President of the Council The lord president of the Council is the presiding officer of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and the fourth of the Great Officers of State (United Kingdom), Great Officers of State, ranking below the Lord High Treasurer but above the ...

President of the Royal Statistical Society

In November 1945, Woolton gave his inaugural address as President of the Royal Statistical Society.

Conservative Party manager

In July 1945, Churchill lost the 1945 general election, and his government fell. The 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. Woolton rebuilt the local organisations with an emphasis on membership, money, and a unified national propaganda appeal on critical issues. To broaden the base of potential candidates, the national party provided financial aid to candidates and assisted the local organisations in raising local money. Woolton also proposed changing the name of the party to the Union Party and later emphasised a rhetoric that characterised opponents as "Socialist" rather than "Labour". He was given credit for the Conservative victory in 1951, their first since 1935. In May 1950, Woolton, with Churchill's approval, called for a kind of coalition with the Liberal Party based on nine principles he said they agreed upon: # Opposition to "the over-encroaching power of the State over the lives of individuals and of the processes which this commercial nation lives" # Opposition to the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange, "which is the creed of socialism"; # Opposition to "the centralisation of government in Whitehall and the weakening of the influence of local authorities"; # Belief in "the establishment, under private enterprise, of partnership in industry, whereby all ranks engaged in it shall … share in the increased yield that comes from greater effort or increased skill"; # Belief in the maintenance of a high and stable level of
employment Employment is a relationship between two parties regulating the provision of paid labour services. Usually based on a contract, one party, the employer, which might be a corporation, a not-for-profit organization, a co-operative A ...
, # Belief that "the best purposes of the State are served when there is economy in public administration and when Government conducted with rigorous avoidance of waste"; # Belief in high standards of health, housing, and
education Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits. These aims may include the development of understanding, rationality, kindness, and honest ...
, coupled with religious freedom; # Recognition of the national duty of maintaining sufficient defense forces, of the danger of militant
Communism Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...
, and of the necessity for close economic and political cooperation with America and
Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size and the weight of its history and traditions. Europe is also considered ...
; # "Tolerance, comradeship and unity among all classes." The Liberal leadership rejected the coalition as one that the Conservatives would control. Labour had recently narrowly won the 1950 general election. The Conservatives without Liberal help won the 1951 general election. In the 1953 Coronation Honours, he became Viscount Woolton. In 1956, he was further honoured when he became Earl of Woolton with the subsidiary title Viscount Walberton.


Woolton died 14 December 1964 at his home, Walberton House, in Arundel, Sussex. His titles passed to his son, Roger. He is buried at St Mary's Church, Walberton, Sussex.



Citations Bibliography * * *

Further reading

* * Hammond, R. J. ''Food, Volume 1: The Growth of Policy'' (London: HMSO, 1951); ''Food, Volume 2: Studies in Administration and Control'' (1956); ''Food, Volume 3: Studies in Administration and Control'' (1962) official war history ** Hammond, R. J. ''Food and agriculture in Britain, 1939–45: Aspects of wartime control'' (Food, agriculture, and World War II) (1954) * * Michael Kandiah & Judith Rowbotham (Editors), The Diaries and Letters of Lord Woolton 1940–1945. Records of Social and Economic History Series, vol. 61. Oxford: University Press for the British Academy, 2020. Hardcover. xxvii+324 p. .

External links

Catalogue of the papers of Frederick Marquis, Lord Woolton, at the Bodleian Library, Oxford
* , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:Woolton, Frederick Marquis, 1st Earl Of 1883 births 1964 deaths Alumni of the Victoria University of Manchester Chairmen of the Conservative Party (UK) Chancellors of the Duchy of Lancaster Conservative Party (UK) hereditary peers Knights Bachelor Lord Presidents of the Council Members of the Order of the Companions of Honour Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom Ministers in the Chamberlain wartime government, 1939–1940 Ministers in the Churchill caretaker government, 1945 Ministers in the Churchill wartime government, 1940–1945 Ministers in the Eden government, 1955–1957 Ministers in the third Churchill government, 1951–1955 People educated at Manchester Grammar School People from Ordsall Barons created by George VI Viscounts created by Elizabeth II Earls created by Elizabeth II Presidents of the Royal Statistical Society