Fred Marquis (1883-1964), Lord Woolton, was born to working class parents in Salford. Educated at Manchester Grammar School and Manchester University he pursued academic research into social issues whilst also working directly in social welfare in Liverpool’s docklands. After working for the government during the First World War, he joined the firm of Lewis’s and eventually rose to become its Chairman. His business acumen and knowledge of social issues, led to his appointment to the government in 1939, and he became Minister for Food, 4 Apr 1940. From the outset Woolton understood that as well as ensuring the nation’s food supply he had to retain the goodwill of the general public and keep up morale. In notes for his first speech he wrote, ‘He who touches the Nation’s food is courting trouble’.
He made communication a key aim and gave regular radio broadcasts directed towards housewives, who he called his ‘Kitchen Front’. His name was immortalized in the ‘Woolton Pie’, a meat-less pie, based on root vegetables with a pastry or potato topping.
Although he was a non-party government minister during the war, he was appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1946 and is credited with reforming the party structure and aiding Churchill’s re-election in 1951.
His papers were given to the Bodleian Library in 1973 and the catalogue has recently been made available online. The papers can be consulted in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room in the Weston Library.