The Lord Thorneycroft
by Walter Stoneman, 1948
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
13 January 1957 – 6 January 1958
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byHarold Macmillan
Succeeded byDerick Heathcoat-Amory
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
11 February 1975 – 14 September 1981
LeaderMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byWilliam Whitelaw
Succeeded byCecil Parkinson
Secretary of State for Defence[a]
In office
13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byHarold Watkinson
Succeeded byDenis Healey
Minister of Aviation
In office
27 July 1960 – 13 July 1962
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byDuncan Sandys
Succeeded byJulian Amery
President of the Board of Trade
In office
30 October 1951 – 13 January 1957
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Anthony Eden
Preceded byHartley Shawcross
Succeeded byDavid Eccles
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
4 December 1967 – 4 June 1994
Life Peerage
Parliamentary offices
Member of Parliament
for Monmouth
In office
31 October 1945 – 10 March 1966
Preceded byLeslie Pym
Succeeded byDonald Anderson
Member of Parliament
for Stafford
In office
9 June 1938 – 15 June 1945
Preceded byWilliam Ormsby-Gore
Succeeded byStephen Swingler
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
4 August 1965 – 13 April 1966
LeaderEdward Heath
ShadowingFrank Soskice
Roy Jenkins
Preceded byEdward Boyle
Succeeded byQuintin Hogg
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
16 October 1964 – 4 August 1965
LeaderAlec Douglas-Home
ShadowingDenis Healey
Preceded byDenis Healey
Succeeded byEnoch Powell
Personal details
Born(1909-07-26)26 July 1909
Dunston, United Kingdom
Died4 June 1994(1994-06-04) (aged 84)
London, United Kingdom
Political partyConservative
Alma materRoyal Military Academy, Woolwich
City Law School

George Edward Peter Thorneycroft, Baron Thorneycroft, CH, PC (26 July 1909 – 4 June 1994) was a British Conservative Party politician. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1957 and 1958.

Early life

Born in Dunston, Staffordshire, Thorneycroft was the son of Major George Edward Mervyn Thorneycroft and Dorothy Hope Franklyn. He was the grandson of Sir William Franklyn and nephew of Sir Harold Franklyn.[1] He was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery as a second lieutenant on 29 August 1929 but resigned his commission on 1 July 1931.[2][3] In 1933, he was called to the bar for the Inner Temple.

Political career

He entered Parliament in the 1938 Stafford by-election, for the borough of Stafford. He was re-commissioned into the Royal Artillery in his previous rank on 30 August 1939.[4] During the Second World War, he served with the Royal Artillery and the general staff. Along with other members of the Tory Reform Committee, Thorneycroft pressed his party to support the Beveridge Report.

He served in the Conservative caretaker Government 1945 as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of War Transport. In the 1945 general election, he lost his seat to his Labour opponent, Stephen Swingler, but he returned in the 1945 Monmouth by-election for Monmouth a few months later.[5]

Throughout the late 1940s Thorneycroft worked assiduously to refurbish the Conservative Party after its disastrous defeat in the 1945 general election. His opposition to the Anglo-American loan in the Commons earned him a reputation as a parliamentary debater, and when the Conservatives returned to power after the general election of 1951, he was appointed President of the Board of Trade. He was instrumental in persuading the government in 1954 to abandon the party's support for protectionism and accept the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.[6]

Chancellorship and resignation

Thorneycroft's support for Harold Macmillan in Macmillan's successful 1957 leadership contest for the premiership led to his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer,[7] one of the most senior positions in the government. He resigned in 1958, along with two junior Treasury Ministers, Enoch Powell and Nigel Birch, because of increased government expenditure. Macmillan, himself a former chancellor, made a famous and much-quoted remark that the resignations were merely "little local difficulties". (In reality, Macmillan was deeply concerned about the possible effects of Thorneycroft's resignation.)[citation needed]

In retrospect, Thorneycroft questioned the wisdom of his resignation, saying that "we probably made our stand too early."[citation needed]

Later political career

Thorneycroft returned to the Cabinet in 1960, when he was appointed Minister of Aviation by Macmillan. In 1962, he was promoted to be Minister of Defence. He retained the post upon Macmillan's replacement by Sir Alec Douglas-Home; then in April 1964 the post was combined with the First Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air as the Secretary of State for Defence. At Defence, Thorneycroft played a pivotal role in the Sunda Straits Crisis, first supporting and then opposing the passage of the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious through the Indonesian-claimed Sunda Strait during the height of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in August and September 1964.[8]

After the Government was defeated in 1964, Thorneycroft first served as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence under Alec Douglas-Home, before being made Shadow Home Secretary by Edward Heath the next year. Thorneycroft lost his seat at the 1966 general election, and was raised to the peerage as a life peer as Baron Thorneycroft, of Dunston in the County of Stafford on 4 December 1967.[9]

Later life

Thorneycroft was a strong supporter of Margaret Thatcher's monetarist policies, and she made him Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1975. He held the position until 1981.

He was notable as an amateur watercolourist and held exhibitions. Winston Churchill, when told of Thorneycroft's interest, had said, "Every minister must have his vice. Painting shall be yours".[5]

He was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour as a Member (CH) in the 1980 New Year Honours.[10] During his time as M.P. for Monmouth, Thorneycroft lived at Machen House, in the hamlet of Lower Machen, to the west of the City of Newport.[11]


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Peter Thorneycroft" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

His grandfather was the Victorian Colonel Thomas Thorneycroft, a Wolverhampton industrialist, eccentric, landowner and well-known Conservative; he was asked to stand for election by Benjamin Disraeli. Colonel Thorneycroft owned or leased various houses in Staffordshire and Shropshire including Tettenhall Towers and Tong Castle.

His great-grandfather was George Benjamin Thorneycroft, an ironfounder, JP, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and first Mayor of Wolverhampton. His grandfather's cousin was John Isaac Thorneycroft who founded Vosper Thorneycroft. A second cousin was Siegfried Sassoon. A third cousin was William Whitelaw. Another second cousin was the novelist Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler. His great uncle was Lord Wolverhampton.

After his first marriage, to Sheila Wells Page, and divorce, he married Carla, Contessa Roberti (later known as Lady Thorneycroft, DBE) in 1949. He had a son by his first wife and a daughter by his second wife.


  1. ^ Block, Maxine; Rothe, Anna Herthe; Candee, Marjorie Dent (1953). Current Biography Yearbook. H. W. Wilson Co. p. 592. ISBN 9780824201180. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  2. ^ "No. 33530". The London Gazette. 30 August 1929. p. 5644.
  3. ^ "No. 33731". The London Gazette. 30 June 1931. p. 4246.
  4. ^ "No. 34660". The London Gazette. 29 August 1939. p. 5920.
  5. ^ a b Howarth, Alan (6 June 1994). "Obituary: Lord Thorneycroft". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  6. ^ Robert Shepard, "Theorneycroft, (George Edward) Peter", in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century British Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 642
  7. ^ "No. 40981". The London Gazette. 22 January 1957. p. 501.
  8. ^ Easter, David (2012). Britain and the Confrontation with Indonesia, 1960–66. I.B.Tauris, p. 100.
  9. ^ "No. 44469". The London Gazette. 5 December 1967. p. 13287.
  10. ^ "No. 48059". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 January 1980. p. 298.
  11. ^ Ridout, Joanne (22 July 2022). "Country estate in need of modernisation". Wales Online. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  1. ^ As Minister of Defence until 1 April 1964

Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byWilliam Ormsby-Gore Member of Parliamentfor Stafford 19381945 Succeeded byStephen Swingler Preceded byLeslie Pym Member of Parliamentfor Monmouth 19451966 Succeeded byDonald Anderson Political offices Preceded byHartley Shawcross President of the Board of Trade 1951–1957 Succeeded byDavid Eccles Preceded byHarold Macmillan Chancellor of the Exchequer 1957–1958 Succeeded byDerick Heathcoat-Amory Preceded byDuncan Sandys Minister of Aviation 1960–1962 Succeeded byJulian Amery Preceded byHarold Watkinson Secretary of State for Defence 1962–1964 Succeeded byDenis Healey Preceded byDenis Healey Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 1964–1965 Succeeded byEnoch Powell Preceded byEdward Boyle Shadow Home Secretary 1965–1966 Succeeded byQuintin Hogg Party political offices Preceded byWillie Whitelaw Chair of the Conservative Party 1975–1981 Succeeded byCecil Parkinson