The Viscount Halifax
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
In office
6 July 1870 – 17 February 1874
Prime MinisterWilliam Ewart Gladstone
Preceded byEarl of Kimberley
Succeeded byEarl of Malmesbury
Secretary of State for India
In office
18 June 1859 – 16 February 1866
Prime MinisterViscount Palmerston
Earl Russell
Preceded byLord Stanley
Succeeded byEarl de Grey and Ripon
First Lord of the Admiralty
In office
13 March 1855 – 8 March 1858
Prime MinisterViscount Palmerston
Preceded bySir James Graham
Succeeded bySir John Pakington
President of the Board of Control
In office
30 December 1852 – 3 March 1855
Prime MinisterEarl of Aberdeen
Preceded byJohn Charles Herries
Succeeded byRobert Vernon Smith
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
6 July 1846 – 21 February 1852
Prime MinisterLord John Russell
Preceded byHenry Goulburn
Succeeded byBenjamin Disraeli
First Secretary of the Admiralty
In office
27 April 1835 – 4 October 1839
Prime MinisterViscount Melbourne
Preceded byGeorge Robert Dawson
Succeeded byRichard More O'Ferrall
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
In office
10 August 1832 – 14 November 1834
Prime MinisterEarl Grey
Viscount Melbourne
Preceded byEdward Ellice
Succeeded bySir George Clerk
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
22 February 1866 – 8 August 1885
Hereditary peerage
Preceded byPeerage created
Succeeded byThe 2nd Viscount Halifax
Member of Parliament
for Ripon
In office
11 July 1865 – 21 February 1866
Preceded byReginald Vyner
Succeeded byLord John Hay
Member of Parliament
for Halifax
In office
10 December 1832 – 11 July 1865
Preceded byNew constituency
Succeeded byEdward Akroyd
Member of Parliament
for Wareham
In office
2 May 1831 – 12 December 1832
Preceded byJames Ewing
Succeeded byJohn Hales Calcraft
Member of Parliament
for Great Grimsby
In office
9 June 1826 – 25 July 1831
Preceded byWilliam Duncombe
Succeeded byJohn Shelley
Personal details
Born(1800-12-20)20 December 1800
Pontefract, Yorkshire, England, Kingdom of Great Britain
Died8 August 1885(1885-08-08) (aged 84)
Hickleton Hall, Doncaster, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
Political partyWhig
SpouseLady Mary Grey (d. 1884)
Children7, including Charles Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax
Alma materOriel College, Oxford
Heraldic memorial window to Grey and Wood family, Church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross, Staffordshire.

Charles Wood, 1st Viscount Halifax Bt GCB PC (20 December 1800 – 8 August 1885), known as Sir Charles Wood, 3rd Baronet, between 1846 and 1866, was a British Whig politician and Member of the British Parliament. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1846 to 1852.


Halifax was the son of Sir Francis Wood, 2nd Baronet of Barnsley, and his wife Anne, daughter of Samuel Buck. He was educated at Eton and Oriel College, Oxford, where he studied classics and mathematics.

Political career

A Liberal and Member of Parliament from 1826 to 1866, Wood abandoned the seat of Great Grimsby and was returned in 1831 for the pocket borough of Wareham, probably as a paying guest, which arrangement enabled him to remain in London in preparation for the reading of the Reform Bill. He confided his views to his father:

the reform is an efficient, substantial, anti-democratic, pro-property measure, but it sweeps away rotten boroughs and of course disgusts their proprietors. The main hope therefore of carrying it, is by the voice of the country, thus operating by deciding all wavering votes ... The radicals, for which heaven be praised, support us ...[1]

He voted meticulously for the bill at every stage, and it received the Royal assent in the following year.

Wood served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord John Russell's government (1846–1852), where he opposed any further help for Ireland during the Great Famine there. In his 1851 budget, Sir Charles liberalized trade, reducing import duties and encouraging consumer goods. In the succeeding Tory government, the new Chancellor Benjamin Disraeli, a former protectionist, referred to Wood's influence on economic policy in an interim financial statement on 30 April 1852, setting a trend for the way budgets are presented in the Commons.[2] This reduction in tariffs led to a noticeable increase in consumption. For Wood, Disraeli was 'petulant and sarcastic', qualities he disliked.[3]

Wood later served as President of the Board of Control under Lord Aberdeen (1852–1855), as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord Palmerston's first administration (1855–1858), and as Secretary of State for India in Palmerston's second government (1859–1866). He succeeded to his father's baronetcy in 1846, and in 1866 he was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Halifax, of Monk Bretton in the West Riding of the County of York.[citation needed] After the unexpected death of Lord Clarendon necessitated a reshuffle of Gladstone's first cabinet, Halifax was brought in as Lord Privy Seal, serving from 1870 to 1874, his last public office.

Role in the Irish Famine

The Great Famine in Ireland (1845 to 1851) led to the death of 1 million, and over 1 million emigrating from the country to the United States or to the British dominions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand . On 30 June 1846, Peel's Tories were replaced by a Whig government led by Lord John Russell. The government sought to embed free trade and laissez faire economics. Sir Charles Trevelyan, a senior civil servant at the Treasury, in close cooperation with Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Charles Wood, sought to oppose intervention in Ireland.[4] Extreme parsimony of the British Government towards Ireland while Wood was in charge of the Treasury greatly enhanced the suffering of those affected by famine. Wood believed in the economic policy of Laissez-faire and preferred to leave the Irish to starve rather than "undermine the market" by allowing in cheap imported grain.[5] Wood also shared Trevelyan's anti-Irish, moralistic views, with Wood believing the famine should eliminate the "present habits of dependence", and obliging Irish property to support Irish poverty.[6] Wood wrote to the lord lieutenant that the famine was not accidental, but willed, and would bring along a social revolution: "A want of food and employment is a calamity sent by Providence", it had "precipitated things with a wonderful impetus, so as to bring them to an early head".[6] He hoped the famine would clear small farmers, and lead to a "better" economic system.[7]

Wood's dispatch

Main article: Wood's dispatch

As the President of the Board of Control, Wood took a major step in spreading education in India in 1854, when he sent a dispatch to Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India. Wood recommended the following:

  1. An education department should be set in every province.
  2. Universities on the model of the University of London should be established in large cities such as Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
  3. At least one government school be opened in every district.
  4. Affiliated private schools should be given grant in aid.
  5. The Indian natives should be given training in the vernacular.

In accordance with the Wood's dispatch, education departments were established in every province and universities were opened at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1857, as well as in Punjab in 1882 and in Allahabad in 1887 [citation needed].


Lord Halifax married Lady Mary Grey (3 May 1807 – 6 July 1884), fifth daughter of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, on 29 July 1829. They had four sons and three daughters:[citation needed]

Lady Halifax died in 1884. Lord Halifax survived her by just over a year and died in August 1885, aged 84. He was succeeded in his titles by his eldest son Charles, who was the father of Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax.


  1. ^ "Charles Wood". History of Parliament Online.
  2. ^ Hurd & Young, p. 116.
  3. ^ Hurd & Young, p. 121.
  4. ^ Charles Trevelyan, John Mitchel and the historiography of the Great Famine
  5. ^ Woodham Smith, Cecil, (1962) The Great Hunger. Penguin Books ISBN 9780140145151
  6. ^ a b Potatoes and Providence
  7. ^ The Irish Hunger and its Alignments with the 1948 Genocide Conventione
An 1873 portrait of Lord Halifax by Anthony de Brie.


Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byWilliam DuncombeCharles Tennyson Member of Parliament for Great Grimsby 1826–1831 With: George Heneage 1826–1830George Harris from 1830 Succeeded byJohn ShelleyGeorge Harris Preceded byJohn CalcraftJames Ewing Member of Parliament for Wareham 1831–1832 Succeeded byJohn Hales Calcraft New constituency Member of Parliament for Halifax 1832–1865 With: Rawdon Briggs 1832–1835James Stuart-Wortley 1835–1837Edward Protheroe 1837–1847Henry Edwards 1847–1852Francis Crossley 1852–1959James Stansfeld 1859–1865 Succeeded byEdward AkroydJames Stansfeld Preceded byJohn GreenwoodReginald Vyner Member of Parliament for Ripon 1865–1866 With: Robert Kearsley Succeeded byRobert KearsleyLord John Hay Political offices Preceded byEdward Ellice Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury 1832–1834 Succeeded bySir George Clerk, Bt Preceded byGeorge Robert Dawson First Secretary of the Admiralty 1835–1839 Succeeded byRichard More O'Ferrall Preceded byHenry Goulburn Chancellor of the Exchequer 1846–1852 Succeeded byBenjamin Disraeli Preceded byJohn Charles Herries President of the Board of Control 1852–1855 Succeeded byRobert Vernon Smith Preceded bySir James Graham, Bt First Lord of the Admiralty 1855–1858 Succeeded bySir John Pakington, Bt Preceded byLord Stanley Secretary of State for India 1859–1866 Succeeded byThe Earl de Grey Preceded byThe Earl of Kimberley Lord Privy Seal 1870–1874 Succeeded byThe Earl of Malmesbury Peerage of the United Kingdom New creation Viscount Halifax 2nd creation1866–1885 Succeeded byCharles Wood Baronetage of Great Britain Preceded byFrancis Wood Baronet(of Barnsley) 1846–1885 Succeeded byCharles Wood