The name ‘Baron Charnwood’

6 November 2021

The title of ‘Baron Charnwood’ first appeared a hundred and ten years ago in 1911, but the peerage was extinct by 1955.

Godfrey Rathbone Benson was the first holder of the title. He was born on 6th November 1864 at Alresford in Hampshire. He lectured at Balliol and later married Dorothea Roby in 1897. Dorothea was a descendant of the Mundella family who were the founders of Viyella. The marriage brought him wealth and connections.

Godfrey Benson served as the Liberal MP for Woodstock in Oxfordshire from 1892 to 1895 then, after losing his seat, he lived and worked in Staffordshire. He became Mayor of Lichfield and served on the Council as a Councillor and Alderman until 1938. His political views were of the times – he fostered Anglo-US co-operation and opposed women’s suffrage.

As a writer, among his many works, he published a religious study and authored books on Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1911 his ennoblement came about in the Coronation Honours of George V. He chose his title and became

‘Baron Charnwood of Castle Donington in the County of Leicester’

Benson died in February 1945. His obituary stated that he chose the title as he could see the distant edge of Charnwood Forest from his home. He appears to have had no connection with Castle Donington (which is actually in Derbyshire). It was therefore rather a strange choice – but it was his own. His son, John Roby Benson was born on 31st August 1901. In 1945 he succeeded his father as Lord Charnwood but died in 1955 without issue.

Article and Research by Loughborough Library Local Studies Volunteers’ Group

Keil, Ian, Charnwode The Newsletter of the Friends of Charnwood Museum, No. 4.

Godfrew Rathbone Benson, First Baron Charnwood
by Walter Stoneman, 1920
Photo in the National Portrait Gallery, London – ref NPG x66779 – and used under Creative Commons Licence. See here.