Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne

Thomas Lionel Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne, TD, PC (20 July 1897 – 26 March 1977), known as Sir Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baronet from 1945 to 1959, was a British Conservative Party politician. He resigned as a government minister over the Crichel Down Affair, often quoted as a classic example of the convention of individual ministerial responsibility.

The Lord Crathorne

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
In office
5 November 1951  28 July 1954
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byTom Williams
Succeeded byDerick Heathcoat Amory
Lord Commissioner of the Treasury
In office
28 May 1937  12 February 1940
Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain
Preceded bySir Archibald Southby
Succeeded byPatrick Munro
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
9 October 1959  26 March 1977
Hereditary Peerage
Preceded bypeerage created
Succeeded byThe 2nd Baron Crathorne
Member of Parliament for
In office
30 May 1929  8 October 1959
Preceded bySir Murrough John Wilson
Succeeded byTimothy Kitson
Personal details
Born(1897-07-20)20 July 1897
Died26 March 1977(1977-03-26) (aged 79)
Political partyConservative

Background and early life

Thomas Dugdale was the son of Captain James Lionel Dugdale, of Crathorne Hall near Yarm in Yorkshire. His grandfather John Dugdale (died 1881) was from a family of Lancashire cotton manufacturers, and had bought the Crathorne estate in 1844.[1]

Dugdale was educated at Eton College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He joined the Army in 1916, serving with the Scots Greys in the First World War and the Yorkshire Hussars in the Second World War.

Political career

In 1929, Dugdale was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond, North Yorkshire, where he remained until 1959. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to several ministers, including Stanley Baldwin, and Deputy Chief Whip. He was later Chairman of the Conservative Party and Chairman of the Party's Agricultural Committee. He was created a baronet in the 1945 New Year Honours "for political and public services".[2]

The Crichel Down affair

When the Conservatives won the 1951 election, Churchill made Dugdale his Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Crichel Down was a piece of farmland in Dorset compulsorily bought by the government for defence use. Commander George Marten, whose wife Mary was the only child and heiress of the original owner of the land Lord Alington, wanted to buy the land back in the 1950s now that it was no longer used by the Ministry of Defence. However, the Ministry of Agriculture resisted, wishing to use the land for experimental farming in a time of rationing and agricultural development. Marten, a former equerry to the royal family, had very influential friends and stirred up much trouble in the local Conservative Party and on the government backbenches. There followed a public inquiry that criticised the department's decision and its civil servants, especially their methods, which were seen as an example of an over-powerful state.

Finally, in 1954, Dugdale announced that Marten could buy the land back, and told the House of Commons he was resigning.


Dugdale's resignation went down in history as an honourable, even heroic, one: a minister taking responsibility for civil servants' actions, which would lead to the perceived code of individual ministerial responsibility. However, in papers released thirty years after the affair it was found that Dugdale had known and approved of his civil servants' actions, and had to an extent passed the buck to them himself. It was also found that the inquiry was inaccurate and biased, having been led by a former Conservative candidate who was very opposed to civil servants and state interference.

Dugdale's junior minister, Lord Carrington, also tendered his resignation, but it was refused. He went on to be Foreign Secretary, resigning the post in 1982 over the Falklands War. Commander Marten received his land, but not a Conservative parliamentary seat, for which he had hoped.

In 1959, Dugdale himself was raised to the peerage as Baron Crathorne, of Crathorne in the North Riding of the County of York.[3] Subsequently he had a second political career in Europe, building links with parliamentarians in NATO and the Council of Europe.


Dugdale married Nancy, daughter of Sir Charles Tennant, 1st Baronet and Marguerite (née Miles), in 1936.[4]

He died in March 1977, aged 79. His son James succeeded him as Baron Crathorne.

Styles of address

  • 1897–1929: Mr Thomas Dugdale
  • 1929–1945: Mr Thomas Dugdale MP
  • 1945–1959: Sir Thomas Dugdale Bt MP
  • 1959–1977: The Right Honourable The Lord Crathorne[lower-alpha 1]
  1. Although The Lord Crathorne was a baronet, by custom the post-nominal of "Bt" is omitted, as peers of the realm do not list subsidiary hereditary titles.


  1. Tom E. Faulkner; Helen Berry; Jeremy Gregory (2010). Northern Landscapes: Representations and Realities of North-East England. Boydell & Brewer. p. 155. ISBN 978-1-84383-541-7.
  2. "No. 36866". The London Gazette. 29 December 1944. p. 1.
  3. "No. 41768". The London Gazette. 17 July 1959. p. 4557.
  4. "Wedding Capt. Tommy Dugdale & Mrs Nancy Gates 1936". British Pathe.


  • Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990,
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Murrough Wilson
Member of Parliament for Richmond
Succeeded by
Timothy Kitson
Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Williams
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
Succeeded by
Derick Heathcoat-Amory
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Crathorne)
Succeeded by
James Dugdale
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Crathorne
Succeeded by
James Dugdale

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