Today is the 132nd anniversary of the birth of the extraordinary British politician Sir Stafford Cripps, whose archive, and that of his wife Dame Isobel Cripps, has been made available online
Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (1889–1952), politician and lawyer, was the youngest child of successful barrister, Conservative MP and Labour cabinet minister Charles Cripps.
Stafford received a staunchly Christian but undogmatic education. His strong faith would be a feature of his life and work until he died. He studied chemistry at university and met his future wife Isobel Swithinbank while campaigning for his father in the 1910 general election. They married on 12 July 1911, and had four children. Cripps was called to the bar in 1913, and during World War I used his chemistry training to run a munitions factory in Queensferry. In 1916, aged only 27, this work caused a physical breakdown which sidelined him for the rest of the war. He was affected by ill-health his entire life.
Cripps was made Britain’s youngest king’s counsel in 1927 and in 1929, he joined Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government as solicitor-general, and was knighted. In January 1931, he won a by-election at Bristol East (which later became Bristol South East), where he remained an MP for the next 29 years.
His politics swung significantly to the left and he became a prominent member and then chairman of the newly formed Socialist League, and highly critical of the Labour Party. In 1939, this led to Cripps being expelled from Labour.
The Second World War changed everything.
Rulebook of Nailsworth Pig Club, April 1918, from the Sir Stafford Cripps archive [sc22/1c]
There’s just something about this delightful little three page rulebook that tickles me. Perhaps it’s the use of phrases like ‘eligible
pigs’. Otherwise, it’s a perfectly serious document which details the ins and outs of the provision, insurance and inspection of pigs and potatoes (pigs and potatoes!) raised by members of the club.
It appears to have been produced by Gloucestershire County Council and was presumably part of a county-, or country-wide effort to encourage people to raise their own food during the war (also done during the second world war). Despite the central concern of food production, though, it’s a surprisingly cheering document for people concerned with animal welfare, as it’s very specific that the animals must be healthy and well-cared for, and that insurance compensation would not be paid if ‘the death or sickness of a pig is attributed to bad food, insufficient attention, or other carelessness or ill-treatment’.
One of my favourite things about the rulebook is who it belonged to: Stafford Cripps, probably best known as Britain’s ambassador to Moscow in 1940-1942 and as the austerity chancellor from 1947-1950. When this document was produced however, Cripps was not yet a political high flier. A chemistry graduate and practicing lawyer, he was both married and in ill health in 1914, which meant that he was not called up. He kept himself busy with recruitment efforts and then volunteered for a year in France as a Red Cross ambulance driver. In late 1915 he offered his chemistry expertise to the Ministry of Munitions and was posted to one of the country’s biggest munitions factories in Queensferry, near Chester. From early 1916, Cripps was running it, and it took its toll on his health. In early 1918, when this rulebook was drawn up, he was convalescing from a physical breakdown. Somehow, though, he still managed to find the time and energy to serve as honorary secretary of the Nailsworth Pig Club. The now nearly 100 year old rulebook survives in his archive at the Bodleian Library.
Incidentally, the first rule of Pig Club?:
- NAME.–The Society shall be called the “Nailsworth Pig Club.”
Can’t argue with that.