Frederick Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton

Frederick James Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton, CH, PC (23 August 1883 – 14 December 1964) was an English businessman and politician who served as chairman of the Conservative Party from 1946 to 1955.

The Earl of Woolton
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
1 July 1946  1 November 1955
Preceded byRalph Assheton
Succeeded byOliver Poole
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
24 November 1952  20 December 1955
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byThe Viscount Swinton
Succeeded byThe Earl of Selkirk
Minister of Materials
In office
1 September 1953  16 August 1954
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byArthur Salter
Succeeded byoffice abolished
Lord President of the Council
In office
28 October 1951  24 November 1952
MonarchsGeorge VI
Elizabeth II
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byThe Viscount Addison
Succeeded byThe Marquess of Salisbury
In office
28 May 1945  27 July 1945
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byClement Attlee
Succeeded byHerbert Morrison
Minister of Reconstruction
In office
11 November 1943  23 May 1945
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byPosition created
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Minister of Food
In office
3 April 1940  11 November 1943
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded by William Morrison
Succeeded by John Llewellin
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
7 July 1939  14 December 1964
Hereditary Peerage
Preceded byPeerage created
Succeeded byThe 2nd Earl of Woolton
Personal details
Frederick James Marquis

(1883-08-23)23 August 1883
Ordsall, Salford, Lancashire, England
Died14 December 1964(1964-12-14) (aged 81)
Arundel, Sussex, England
Political partyConservative
Alma materVictoria University of Manchester
OccupationBusinessman, politician

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. 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, 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 (1906–1918).[1]

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 but was appointed a research fellow in Economics at the University of Manchester in 1910, where he took the degree of MA in 1912.[1]

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.[1] 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.[2]

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", 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.[1]

Second World War

Lord Woolton (right) being interviewed in London in 1944

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.[1] 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.[3]

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.[4] When the Blitz began in late summer 1940, he was ready with more than 200 feeding stations in London and other cities under attack.[5]

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 and cheese, as well as bacon 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, vegetable oils, fats, and milk.[6]

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. [7] Children learned that sweets supplies were reduced to save shipping space.[8]

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 in oatmeal, 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. [9][10]

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 on the issue of 26 March 1945.[11] In May 1945, he featured in Churchill's "Caretaker" government as Lord President of the Council.

President of the Royal Statistical Society

In November 1945, Woolton gave his inaugural address as President of the Royal Statistical Society.[12]

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.[13]

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:[14]

  1. Opposition to "the over-encroaching power of the State over the lives of individuals and of the processes which this commercial nation lives"
  2. Opposition to the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange, "which is the creed of socialism";
  3. Opposition to "the centralisation of government in Whitehall and the weakening of the influence of local authorities";
  4. 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";
  5. Belief in the maintenance of a high and stable level of employment,
  6. 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";
  7. Belief in high standards of health, housing, and education, coupled with religious freedom;
  8. Recognition of the national duty of maintaining sufficient defense forces, of the danger of militant Communism, and of the necessity for close economic and political cooperation with America and Western Europe;
  9. "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.[15][16]

In 1956, he was further honoured when he became Earl of Woolton with the subsidiary title Viscount Walberton.[17]


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.[18]


Coat of arms of Frederick Marquis, 1st Earl of Woolton
Arms of the Earl of Woolton
A Coronet of an Earl
Suspended from and between the Antlers of a stag a Stirrup and Leather proper
Sable on a Bend engrailed between two Garbs Or a Rose Gules barbed and seeded proper between two Lions rampant of the field
On either side a Lion rampant Or gorged with a Riband Azure pendent therefrom by a Chain also Or an Escutcheon Azure charged with a Liver Bird Argent
Fortitudine Virtute Dabitur (By fortitude and courage it shall be given)



  1. Kandiah, Michael D. (2004). "Marquis, Frederick James, first earl of Woolton (1883–1964), politician and businessman". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34885. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Retrieved 22 October 2021. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. Bouverie, Tim (2019). Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War (1 ed.). New York: Tim Duggan Books. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-451-49984-4. OCLC 1042099346.
  3. Angus Calder, The People's War: Britain 1939–45 (1969) pp. 380–87 excerpt and text search
  4. Keesing's Contemporary Archives Volume III-IV, (June 1940) p. 4117
  5. Keesing's Contemporary Archives Volume III-IV, (September 1940) p 4260
  6. Keesing's Contemporary Archives, Volume IV, (February 1941) p. 4474
  7. Lacey (1994), pp. 108–109
  8. Keesing's Contemporary Archives, Volume IV, (March 1942) p. 5080
  9. Longmate (2010), p. 152
  10. "Lord Woolton, 81, Food Minister In Early Years of War, Is Dead; Rebuilt British Conservatives in 9 Years as Chairman—Initiated Ration Points". The New York Times. 15 December 1964. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  11. Eggs or anarchy: the remarkable story of the man tasked with the impossible: to feed a nation at war. William Sitwell. 2016.
  12. Lord Woolton: The man who used statistics (and more) to feed a nation at war. Brian Tarran. First published: 09 June 2017, Significance Magazine, Royal Statistical Society. doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2017.01036.x
  13. Robert Blake, The Conservative Party from Peel to Major (1997) pp. 259–264
  14. Keesing's Contemporary Archives, Volume VII-VIII, May 1950 Page 10717
  15. "No. 39863". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 June 1953. p. 2940.
  16. "No. 39904". The London Gazette. 3 July 1953. p. 3677.
  17. "No. 40682". The London Gazette. 10 January 1956. p. 219.
  18. Delorme (1987), p. 54


Further reading

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. ISBN 978-0-19-726684-7.

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