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Bewdley Town Council

Happy Birthday to the 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

By Town Clerk's Office Bewdley Town Council

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

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Bewdley's most famous son, Stanley Baldwin the 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, would have been 150 years old on the 3rd August 2017, being born in 1867 in Lower Park. A blue plaque marks his place of birth and can be seen easily from the junction of Lax Lane and High Street. Baldwin was British prime minister three times in the 1920s and 1930s .

He was born the only son of a wealthy industrialist and member of parliament. The author Rudyard Kipling was Baldwin's cousin on his mother's side of the family.

After graduating from Cambridge University, Baldwin joined the family iron and steel business. He became Conservative MP for Bewdley in 1908, a seat his father had held. Following various ministerial appointments, in 1922 he was appointed chancellor of the exchequer. The following year he became prime minister when ill health forced Andrew Bonar Law to retire. He soon called a general election to seek approval for the government's plans to introduce protective tariffs, but failed to gain a majority. Ramsay MacDonald's first Labour government came to power, backed by Liberal support.

It was short-lived and by November 1924, the Conservatives were back in power with a landslide majority and Baldwin as prime minister. In 1926, Baldwin's calm and general sympathy for organised labour helped keep the temperature down during the General Strike and discourage recriminations thereafter. The following year he passed the Trade Disputes Act, which declared general strikes to be revolutionary and illegal.

The Conservatives lost the general election of 1929 and Labour came back to power. Baldwin considered leaving politics, and spent much of the next two years fighting elements within his own party. But in 1931 he returned to government as a member of Ramsay MacDonald's National Coalition and in June 1935 he became prime minister again when MacDonald resigned. On succeeding MacDonald he called an early election to get a firm mandate from the country for general rearmament, having already boosted the RAF in 1934, declaring that if he were refused it he would "leave it to those who think the risks are worth taking". But for that the Battle of Britain could have ended very differently.

This term of office was largely dominated by rising tensions in Europe and the abdication crisis. Baldwin believed that Edward VIII's wish to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson was unacceptable. The king was given the choice of renouncing her or abdicating, and chose to abdicate in December 1936.

Baldwin retired in May 1937 and was made Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. He died on 14 December 1947.

Nick Farress, Town Clerk, said “Stanley Baldwin received the Freedom of the Borough of Bewdley in 1925 when he became Prime Minister and his portrait hangs above the Mayor's chair in the Guildhall. We are very proud to have such an iconic figure connected with Bewdley and he will be remembered this year especially when a bronze statue of him is unveiled in the town centre later in the year”.

 

Richard Perrin, Chairman of the Bewdley Civic Society added “Stanley Baldwin was the Civic Society’s founding President in 1944 and we are pleased to be at the forefront of the Statue Appeal. Our noted Sculptor, Martin Jennings, has completed a life-sized clay model which is now at the foundry for the casting of the bronze figure. Fundraising is going well and we anticipate that the Society will be able to raise sufficient money to enable the statue to be installed and unveiled in Bewdley later in 2017 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of his birth. It is hoped that the Prime Minister of the day will carry out the unveiling. At the same time, the Statue will be given to the people of Bewdley whose predecessors were served so well by him as their Member for Parliament for 30 years”.

Mr Perrin went on to say “in the meantime, we are delighted that the Dean of Worcester Cathedral has very kindly agreed to hold a 150th Anniversary Evensong  service at Worcester Cathedral on Sunday 17th September 2017 at 4.00pm which we hope as many people as possible will be able to attend. We are also organising an event at Spring Grove House (West Midland Safari Park) on 29th November to help with our fundraising activities”.

 

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