Charles Wood, 1st Viscount Halifax

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Halifax
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
6 July 1846 – 21 February 1852
Monarch Victoria
Prime Minister Lord John Russell
Preceded by Henry Goulburn
Succeeded by Benjamin Disraeli
Personal details
Born (1800-12-20)20 December 1800
Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England
Died 8 August 1885(1885-08-08) (aged 84)
Hickleton Hall, Doncaster, England
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Lady Mary Grey (d. 1884)
Alma mater Oriel College, Oxford

Charles Wood, 1st Viscount Halifax, GCB, PC (20 December 1800 – 8 August 1885), known as Sir Charles Wood, 3rd Bt between 1846 and 1866, was a British Whig politician and Member of Parliament. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1846 to 1852.


Halifax was the son of Sir Francis Wood, 2nd Baronet, and his wife Anne, daughter of Samuel Buck. He was educated at Eton and Oriel College, Oxford, where he studied classics and mathematics.

Political career

A Liberal and Member of Parliament from 1826 to 1866, Wood served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord John Russell's government (1846 –1852), where he opposed any further help for Ireland during the Great Famine there. The extreme parsimony of the British Government towards Ireland while Wood was in charge of the Treasury greatly enhanced the suffering of those affected by famine. Wood believed in the economic policy of Laissez-faire and preferred to leave the Irish to starve rather than 'undermine the market' by allowing in cheap imported seed.[1] In his 1851 budget, Sir Charles liberalized trade, reduced taxes on imports duties and encouraged consumer goods. Disraeli, a former protectionist, would after Peel's death transform the party into a complex party machine that embraced free trade. In a speech an interim financial statement on 30 April 1852, Disraeli referred to Wood's influence on economic policy, setting a trend for the way budgets are presented in the Commons.[2] Tariff reduction led to a noticeable increase in consumption: the Conservatives moved from Derby-Bentinck protectionism towards a new politics during 1852. For Wood, a dry old stick, Disraeli was 'petulant and sarcastic,' qualities he disliked.[3]

Wood later served as President of the Board of Control under Lord Aberdeen (1852–1855), as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord Palmerston's first administration (1855–1858), and as Secretary of State for India in Palmerston's second government (1859––1866). He succeeded to his father's baronetcy in 1846, and in 1866 he was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Halifax, of Monk Bretton in the West Riding of the County of York.[4] After the unexpected death of Lord Clarendon necessitated a reshuffle of Gladstone's first cabinet, Halifax was brought in as Lord Privy Seal, serving from 1870 to 1874, his last public office.

Wood's despatch

As the President of the Board of Control, Wood did a yeoman's job in spreading education in India when in 1854 he sent a despatch to Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor-General of India. It was recommended therein that:

  1. An education department was to be set in every province.
  2. Universities on the model of the London university be established in big cities such as Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
  3. At least one government school be opened in every district.
  4. Affiliated private schools should be given grant in aid.
  5. The Indian natives should be given training in their mother tongue also.

In accordance with Wood's despatch, Education Departments were established in every province and universities were opened at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1857 and in Punjab in 1882 and at Allahbad in 1887.


Lord Halifax married Lady Mary Grey (3 May 1807 –6 July 1884), fifth daughter of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey on 29 July 1829. They had four sons and three daughters:[5]

  • Hon Blanche Edith Wood (d.21 July 1921) married 21 Sept 1876, Col Hon Henry William Lowry-Corry (30 June 1845 –6 May 1927).
  • Hon Alice Louisa Wood (d.3 June 1934)
  • Charles Lindley Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax (7 January 1839 –19 January 1934)
  • Hon Emily Charlotte Wood (1840 –21 December 1904)
  • Capt Hon Francis Lindley Wood, RN (17 October 1841 –14 October 1873)
  • Lt Col Hon Henry John Lindley Wood (12 January 1843 –5 January 1903)
  • Fredrick George Lindley Wood (later Meynell) (4 June 1846 –4 November 1910)

Lady Halifax died in 1884. Lord Halifax survived her by just over a year and died in August 1885, aged 84. He was succeeded in his titles by his eldest son Charles, who was the father of E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax.


  1. Woodham Smith, Cecil, (1962) The Great Hunger. Penguin Books ISBN 9780140145151
  2. Hurd & Young, p.116.
  3. Hurd & Young, p.121.
  4. Charles Wood, 1st Viscount Halifax of Monk Bretton.
  5. The Peerage, entry for 1st Viscount Halifax
An 1873 portrait of Lord Halifax by Anthony de Brie.


  • Steele, David (May 2009). "Wood, Charles, first Viscount Halifax (1800–1885)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29865. Retrieved 21 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • Kinealy, Christine (1994). This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845–52. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Famine 150: Commemorative Lecture Series. Dublin: Teagasc / U.C.D. 1997.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kinealy, Christine (1997). A Death-Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland. London: Pluto Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kinealy, Christine (2005). "'Was Ireland a Colony? The Evidence of the Great Famine' in Terrence McDonough (Editor), Was Ireland A Colony?". Dublin: Irish Academic Press. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Boyce, D. George (2005). New Gill History of Ireland Vol. 5: Nineteenth Century Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hickey, D.J; Doherty, J.E (2003). A New Dictionary of Irish History from 1800. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ó Gráda, Cormac (2006). Ireland's Great Famine: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Dublin: U.C.D.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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