Alnwick, Family History Society

Northumberland Hall, Alnwick.
Northumberland Hall, Alnwick.

A modest socialist

The Alnwick branch of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society welcomed Mike Fraser to its November meeting to talk on Sir Charles Trevelyan, third Baronet of Wallington, a “Socialist of modest means”.

Sir Charles was born into a family which had owned the Wallington estate from 1777.

He was brought up in an active political environment, being the eldest son of Sir George Trevelyan, a Liberal MP who encouraged and financed him to also pursue a political career.

Charles is described as having “good looks, intelligence, good manners and an independent outlook”.

At first Liberal MP for Elland, he became Labour MP for Newcastle in 1922.

He had a strong interest in education and held offices in both parties, as Secretary for Education under Asquith, and as President of the Board of Education under Labour.

Charles opposed the First World War and resigned from the Government, but in contrast was briefly expelled in 1939 from the Labour party for supporting the “Popular Front” against appeasement to Hitler, of which Winston Churchill was also a member.

From 1930 until 1949 Charles was Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland.

Charles married Mary Bell, who also came from a politically active family, and they had six children.

He was described by his granddaughter as an anachronism both in his political and personal life.

He had a long-term passionate affair with Edith Bulmer, who shared his political and intellectual interests. At the age of 72, he fathered an illegitimate son with Edith, who was then 39 years old. His wife was understandably upset by his scandalous behaviour, but had to accept Edith living on the Wallington estate.

Charles always enjoyed the privileges of his wealth and position, and inherited Wallington in 1928. However, he could see an uncertain future for grand estates. He therefore decided to hand over Wallington to the National Trust in 1941.

It was the first house that was put in trust to it, but on the proviso that the family could stay there and retain their rights.

He said: “I do not believe in private ownership of land, and do not think it right for individuals to enjoy wealth and exercise power over the lives of others which they obtain from land ownership.”

He believed that Wallington should be enjoyed by the majority, not minority, and was “not hampered by sentiment”.

Sir Charles died in 1958, the last member of the family to live at Wallington being his daughter Patricia, who died aged 98 in 2013.