Thomas Farrer, 1st Baron Farrer

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The Lord Farrer
Photo of Thomas Farrer, 1st Baron Farrer.jpg
Personal details
Born(1819-06-24)24 June 1819
London, England
Died11 October 1899(1899-10-11) (aged 80)
Abinger Hall, Dorking, Surrey
Political partyLiberal Party
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Butcher (died 1908)
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st Baron Farrer (24 June 1819 – 11 October 1899) was an English civil servant and statistician.

Background and early life[edit]

Farrer was the son of Thomas Farrer, a solicitor in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Born in London, he was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1840. He was called to the bar at Lincolns Inn in 1844, but retired from practice in the course of a few years.

Career in the civil service[edit]

He entered the public service in 1850 as secretary to the naval department (renamed the marine department in 1853) of the Board of Trade. In 1865 he was promoted to be one of the joint secretaries of the Board of Trade, and in 1867 became permanent secretary.

His tenure of this office, which he held for upwards of twenty years, was marked by many reforms and an energetic administration. Not only was he an advanced Liberal in politics, but an uncompromising advocate of free trade of the strictest school. He was created a baronet for his services at the Board of Trade in 1883,[1] and in 1886 he retired from office. During the same year he published a work entitled Free Trade versus Fair Trade, in which he dealt with an economic controversy then greatly agitating the public mind. He had already, in 1883, written a volume on The State in its Relation to Trade.

In 1889 he was co-opted by the Progressives as an alderman of the London County Council, of which he became vice-chairman in 1890. His efficiency and ability in this capacity were warmly recognized; but in the course of time divergences arose between his personal views and those of many of his colleagues. The tendency towards socialistic legislation which became apparent was quite at variance with his principles of individual enterprise and responsibility. He consequently resigned his position.

In the 1893 Birthday Honours, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Farrer, of Abinger, in the County of Surrey.[2] From this time forward he devoted much of his energy and leisure to advocating his views at the Cobden Club, the Political Economy Club, on the platform, and in the press. His efforts were especially directed against the opinions of the Fair Trade League, and upon this and other economic controversies he wrote able, clear, and uncompromising letters, which left no doubt that he still adhered to the doctrines of free trade as advocated by its earliest exponents. In 1898 he published his Studies in Currency.

He was President of the Royal Statistical Society from 1894 to 1896.[3]

Marriage and issue[edit]

Farrer married twice, first in 1854 to Frances Erskine (1825–1870), daughter of the historian and orientalist William Erskine (1773–1852) and his wife, Maitland Mackintosh, daughter of Sir James Mackintosh by his first wife. They bore the following children:

Frances died on 15 May 1870. Farrer remarried in 1873 to his former wife's half-cousin, Katherine Euphemia Wedgwood (1839–1931), daughter of Hensleigh Wedgwood of the Wedgwood pottery family and his wife Fanny Mackintosh.


Thomas Farrer died at Abinger Hall, Dorking in 1899 and was buried at Brookwood Cemetery. He was succeeded in the title by his eldest son Thomas Cecil (1859–1940).


  1. ^ "No. 25278". The London Gazette. 16 October 1883. p. 4917.
  2. ^ "No. 26415". The London Gazette. 23 June 1893. p. 3570.
  3. ^ "Royal Statistical Society Presidents". Royal Statistical Society. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  4. ^ "Claude Erskine Farrer (FRR882CE)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
New position
Leader of the Progressive Party
Succeeded by
James Stuart
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Baron Farrer
Succeeded by
Thomas Farrer