Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Baron Mount Temple

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The Lord Mount Temple
Wilfrid Ashley - Bain Collection.jpg
Minister for Transport
In office
11 November 1924 – 4 June 1929
MonarchGeorge V
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Preceded byHarry Gosling
Succeeded byHerbert Morrison
Personal details
Wilfrid William Ashley

13 September 1867 (1867-09-13)
Died3 July 1939 (1939-07-04) (aged 71)
Romsey, Hampshire
Political partyConservative
Amalia Mary Maud Cassel
(m. 1901; died 1911)

(m. 1914)
ChildrenEdwina Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma
Mary Cholmondeley, Lady Delamere
Parent(s)Evelyn Ashley
Sybella Charlotte Farquhar
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford

Colonel Wilfrid William Ashley, 1st Baron Mount Temple, PC (13 September 1867 – 3 July 1939) was a British soldier and Conservative politician. He served as Minister of Transport between 1924 and 1929 under Stanley Baldwin.

Background and education[edit]

Ashley was the son of Hon. Evelyn Ashley, second surviving son of the social reformer Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. His mother was Sybella Charlotte Farquhar, daughter of Sir Walter Farquhar, 3rd Baronet. William Cowper-Temple, 1st Baron Mount Temple, was his great-uncle. He was educated at Harrow and Magdalen College, Oxford.[1] He left Oxford without taking a degree, and then travelled widely, including in Africa and the Americas.

Military career[edit]

Ashley served in the Ayrshire militia (1886–9), then held an active commission in the regular army with the Grenadier Guards (1889–98), before returning to the militia when he was commissioned with the 3rd battalion of the Hampshire Regiment (1899–1902).[2] Though in the militia, he volunteered for active service in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899–1902), but was invalided home. He resigned from the militia with the honorary rank of major in December 1902.[3]

Political career[edit]

Ashley's father was a Liberal Unionist and Ashley initially acted as private secretary to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannermann, beginning in 1899, when he was leader of the opposition. After being invalided home from the South Africa in 1901, he congratulated Campbell-Bannermann on his "methods of barbarism" speech in June 1901.[2]

Ashley, who held the rank of colonel in the British Army,[4] was well known as an activist in various pressure groups before commencing his party political career. He was a leading figure in the Navy League and also set up the anti-state intervention No More Waste Committee during the First World War.[5] He was subsequently involved in the foundation of the Comrades of the Great War in 1917 and as President of the group helped to ensure that the ex-servicemen's movement was closely linked to the Conservative Party at its foundation.[6]

Ashley was elected to Parliament in 1906 to represent Blackpool, holding the seat until 1918 before subsequently sitting as member for Fylde until 1922 and New Forest from 1922 to 1932.[7] Ashley commanded the 20th battalion of the King's Regiment (Liverpool) in 1914 in the rank of lieutenant-colonel before returning to England in 1915 to become parliamentary private secretary to the financial secretary to the War Office.[2] Ashley, who owned Classiebawn Castle in southern Ireland, was a fierce opponent of Irish republicanism and wrote to David Lloyd George, then Prime Minister, in 1921 to ask for the protection of his Irish estates.[2]

He served under Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Parliamentary Secretary to the Office of Works from October 1922 until October 1923, when he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for War, which he remained until January 1924.[7] Ashley was sworn of the Privy Council in February 1924[8] and when the Conservatives returned to power under Baldwin in November of that year he was made Minister for Transport,[9] an office he retained until the fall of the Baldwin administration in 1929. He left the House of Commons in 1932 and was raised to the peerage as Baron Mount Temple, of Lee in the County of Southampton,[10] a revival of the title held by his great-uncle.

Lord Mount Temple remained active within the House of Lords and was a vocal supporter of the policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany. He admired Adolf Hitler for his anti-communism, although much of his conviction rested on the belief that the Treaty of Versailles had been unjust to begin with and that it should be revised regardless of who was in government in Germany.[11] In 1935, in order to underline his support for the Germans, Lord Mount Temple was instrumental in establishing the Anglo-German Fellowship.[12] He served as chairman of both this group and Anti-Socialist Union simultaneously in the later 1930s.[13] In October 1938, after the Munich Agreement, he was among twenty-six signatories of a letter to The Times, calling the agreement "the rectification of one of the most flagrant injustices in the peace treaties".[2]

As AGF chairman, Lord Mount Temple (as he now was) visited Germany in mid-1937 and held a meeting with Hitler.[14] Unlike some of his contemporaries in the Fellowship, the laissez-faire capitalist Mount Temple did not support ideological Nazism (perhaps due in part to the fact that his first wife was Jewish). In the aftermath of Kristallnacht he resigned in protest from the chairmanship although his membership of the group continued.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Portrait of Mrs Wilfrid Ashley (née Muriel Emily ["Molly"] Spencer) by Philip de László, 1920

In 2008, the British historian Edward Feuchtwanger described Ashley as "a strikingly good-looking man, of military bearing, courteous and tactful, with strongly held, rather conventional views, sometimes regarded as reactionary".[2]

Lord Mount Temple married Amalia Mary Maud Cassel, daughter and only child of financier Sir Ernest Cassel, in early January, 1901.[1] Amongst the wedding guests was The Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (the wedding taking place on 4 January, only eighteen days before Albert Edward became King-Emperor), who was a friend of Cassel.[16] The couple had two daughters:

Following his first wife's early death in 1911, he married in 1914 Muriel Emily ("Molly") Forbes-Sempill, the former wife of Rear-Admiral The Hon. Arthur Forbes-Sempill, daughter of The Rev. Walter Spencer of Fownhope Court, Herefordshire, and sister of Margery, Viscountess Greenwood.

Lady Mount Temple had an interest in interior decoration and floral design, which was then highly fashionable; she had a florist business named Flower Decorations.[citation needed] The couple commissioned the architect Oliver Hill to design two Westminster town houses, naming them both Gayfere House.[18] The first house, built at 12 Gayfere Street (1923–26),[19] had a drawing room completely decorated with gold leaf.[18] The second, at the corner of Gayfere Street and Great Peter Street (1929–32), was decorated in Art Deco style,[20] making much use of mirrored walls and ceilings, most famously in a bathroom called by the Press "Lady Mount Temple's Crystal Palace".[18] She on 30 June 1954 at Culver House, Penshurst, Kent aged 73.

The family also owned Classiebawn Castle on the west coast of Ireland.

Lord Mount Temple collapsed and died following a recent diagnosis of Parkinson's disease at his home Broadlands in July 1939, aged 71, at which time the barony became extinct and the Broadlands estate passed to his eldest daughter Edwina Ashley. the wife of Lord Louis Mountbatten.


  1. ^ a b "Lt.-Col. Wilfred William Ashley, 1st and last Baron Mount Temple", The Peerage, 18 August 2011
  2. ^ a b c d e f Feuchtwanger, E.  (3 January 2008). Ashley, Wilfrid William, Baron Mount Temple (1867–1939), politician. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 15 Nov. 2020, from https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-30471.
  3. ^ "No. 27501". The London Gazette. 5 December 1902. p. 8443.
  4. ^ Christof Mauch, Thomas Zeller, The world beyond the windshield: roads and landscapes in the United States and Europe, Ohio University Press, 2008, p. 169
  5. ^ Frank McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, appeasement, and the British road to war, Manchester University Press, 1998, p. 96
  6. ^ Niall Barr, The lion and the poppy: British veterans, politics, and society, 1921-1939, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, pp. 12-13
  7. ^ a b Cameron Hazlehurst, Sally Whitehead, Christine Woodland, A guide to the papers of British cabinet ministers, 1900-1964, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 30
  8. ^ "No. 32910". The London Gazette. 22 February 1924. p. 1549.
  9. ^ "No. 32992". The London Gazette. 14 November 1924. p. 8241.
  10. ^ "No. 33790". The London Gazette. 15 January 1932. p. 346.
  11. ^ McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, pp. 96-97
  12. ^ McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, p. 97
  13. ^ Thomas P. Linehan, British Fascism, 1918-39: Parties, Ideology and Culture, Manchester University Press, 2000, p. 46
  14. ^ N. J. Crowson, Facing fascism: the Conservative party and the European dictators, 1935-1940, Routledge, 1997, p. 23
  15. ^ Crowson, Facing Fascism, p. 32
  16. ^ Sidney Lee, King Edward VII: A Biography, Part 2, Kessinger Publishing, 2004, p. 62
  17. ^ "Lady Delamere, Figure in Murder," New York Times. 5 September 1987.
  18. ^ a b c Powers, Alan (2008). The Twentieth Century House in Britain: From the Archives of Country Life. London: Aurum Press. pp. 38–41. ISBN 978-1-84513-012-1.
  19. ^ Powers, Alan (1989). Oliver Hill: Architect and Lover of Life 1887–1968. London: Mouton Publications. p. 65. ISBN 0-9514250-0-5.
  20. ^ Historic England. "North House and Gayfere House (1357066)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 19 February 2015.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Blackpool
Succeeded by
New constituency Member of Parliament for Fylde
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for New Forest and Christchurch
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport
Succeeded by
Preceded by Under-Secretary of State for War
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Mount Temple