Henry Fowler, 1st Viscount Wolverhampton

Henry Hartley Fowler, 1st Viscount Wolverhampton, GCSI, PC (16 May 1830  25 February 1911) was a British solicitor and Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1880 until 1908 when he was raised to the peerage. A member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, he was the first solicitor and the first Methodist to enter the Cabinet or to be raised to the peerage.[1]

The Viscount Wolverhampton

Secretary of State for India
In office
10 March 1894  21 June 1895
Prime MinisterThe Earl of Rosebery
Preceded byThe Earl of Kimberley
Succeeded byLord George Hamilton
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
10 December 1905  13 October 1908
MonarchEdward VII
Prime MinisterHenry Campbell-Bannerman
H. H. Asquith
Preceded bySir William Walrond, Bt
Succeeded byThe Lord Fitzmaurice
Lord President of the Council
In office
13 October 1908  16 June 1910
MonarchEdward VII
George V
Prime MinisterH. H. Asquith
Preceded byThe Lord Tweedmouth
Succeeded byThe Lord Beauchamp
Personal details
Born(1830-05-16)16 May 1830
Sunderland, County Durham. England
Died25 February 1911(1911-02-25) (aged 80)
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Ellen Thorneycroft
ChildrenEllen, Edith, and Henry

Early life

Fowler was born in Sunderland, the son of Rev, Joseph Fowler. He was educated at Woodhouse Grove School, Apperley Bridge, Bradford (1840–42) and later at St. Saviour's Grammar School, Southwark.

He moved to Wolverhampton and was admitted as a solicitor in 1852. He served as a local councillor and was Mayor of Wolverhampton in 1866. He was chairman of Wolverhampton School Board in 1870, and was a Deputy Lieutenant for Staffordshire and JP for Wolverhampton.[2]

Political career

At the 1880 general election Fowler was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for the borough of Wolverhampton,[3] a seat he held until the borough was divided under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885.[4] He then was then returned at the 1885 general election as the MP for Wolverhampton East,[5] and held that seat until he was ennobled in 1908.[6] He served under William Ewart Gladstone as Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department from 1884 to 1885, as Financial Secretary to the Treasury in 1886 and as President of the Local Government Board from 1892 to 1894 and under Lord Rosebery as Secretary of State for India from 1894 to 1895.[7] In 1886, he was sworn of the Privy Council.

Fowler later held office under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1905 and 1908. The latter year he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Wolverhampton, of Wolverhampton in the County of Stafford,[8] and served under Asquith as Lord President of the Council until 1910.[7] He was widely thought of as a future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but his ill health prevented this.

In his approach to policymaking, according to Neil Smith, Sir Henry Fowler (who became Viscount Wolverhampton in 1908) was supportive of reform legislation in the areas of pensions, education, and the Poor Law.[9] According to his private secretary, however, he did not have “the patience to suffer Radical and Labour members gladly.”[10]

He was an elected President of The Law Society 1901–02.[11]

Lord Wolverhampton died in February 1911, aged 80.


Fowler married Ellen Thorneycroft, daughter of ironmaster and first Mayor of Wolverhampton, George Benjamin Thorneycroft, in 1857. They had a son and two daughters.

Their son Henry succeeded to the viscountcy. Their daughters were the authors the Hon. Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler and the Hon. Edith Henrietta Fowler.

Viscountess Wolverhampton's great nephew was Peter Thorneycroft.


  1. ODNB Online, article "Fowler, Henry Hartley" (accessed 2 July 2010)
  2. Debretts Guide to the House of Commons 1886
  3. "No. 24829". The London Gazette. 2 April 1880. p. 2359.
  4. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 339. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
  5. "No. 25541". The London Gazette. 18 December 1885. p. 6139.
  6. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 212. ISBN 0-900178-27-2.
  7. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Wolverhampton, Henry Hartley Fowler, Viscount" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 781.
  8. Edinburgh Gazette
  9. http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/10241/1/10241_7035.PDF?UkUDh:CyT
  10. Haworth, Alan; Hayter, Dianne (22 April 2015). Men Who Made Labour. ISBN 9781135390488.
  11. "The Law Society". The Times (36752). London. 26 April 1902. p. 8.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hon. Charles Pelham Villiers
Thomas Matthias Weguelin
Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton
With: Hon. Charles Pelham Villiers
Constituency divided
see Wolverhampton East
Wolverhampton South
Wolverhampton West
New constituency
Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton East
Succeeded by
George Thorne
Political offices
Preceded by
George Lees Underhill
Mayor of Wolverhampton
Succeeded by
John Hawksford
Preceded by
John Tomlinson Hibbert
Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
Succeeded by
Charles Stuart-Wortley
Preceded by
William Jackson
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
February 1886  July 1886
Succeeded by
William Jackson
Preceded by
Charles Ritchie
President of the Local Government Board
Succeeded by
George Shaw-Lefevre
Preceded by
The Earl of Kimberley
Secretary of State for India
Succeeded by
Lord George Hamilton
Preceded by
Sir William Walrond, Bt
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
The Lord Fitzmaurice
Preceded by
The Lord Tweedmouth
Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
The Earl Beauchamp
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Wolverhampton
Succeeded by
Henry Fowler
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