Gerald Ashburner France

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Gerald Ashburner France (4 August 1870 – 11 February 1935) was a British businessman and importer and Liberal Party politician.

Family and education

Gerald Ashburner France was the son of James Ashburner France of Tynemouth and was rooted in the commercial and social life of the North East of England. His home was at Newbiggin Hall, Westerhope in Newcastle upon Tyne. In religion, France was a Methodist [1] and he was educated at Rydal, a boarding school in North Wales founded in the Methodist tradition. In 1898 he married Hilda Bainbridge from Eshott in Northumberland. They had four sons and a daughter.[2]


France had a business career as an agent and importer in the North East.[3] He rose to become governing director of the firm J A France & Co. of London and Newcastle as well as Chairman of Scott & Turner Ltd, a firm of Newcastle tinprinters. During the First World War, France served as a temporary lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.[4]


Local politics

France became a member of Northumberland County Council in 1903,[5] representing the coal mining area of Prudhoe [6] and was made an Alderman in 1913.[7] He was sometime chairman of the old age pensions committee of the county of Northumberland [8] and also served as chairman of the county’s Parliamentary Committee and of its Health Establishment Committee.[9]


France had Parliamentary ambitions. His name was mentioned as a possible Liberal candidate for the seat of Gateshead in 1909 to succeed the Lib-Lab MP, John Johnson [10] but although he was not chosen he was soon selected elsewhere. He entered Parliament at the January 1910 general election when he held the Liberal seat of Morley in the West Riding of Yorkshire by a majority of 4,631 votes over the Unionist in a three-cornered contest.[11] France held his seat at the December 1910 general election when he was returned unopposed.[12]

The Morley constituency was abolished for the 1918 general election and France was adopted as Liberal candidate for the new seat of Batley and Morley. He fought the seat as a Coalition Liberal (as Lieutenant Gerald France) and was not opposed by a Conservative or Independent Liberal. He was presumably awarded the Coalition coupon and in a straight with Labour candidate Ben Turner, France took the seat by a majority of 1,468 votes.[13]

France may have seen the political writing on the wall as he did not defend his seat at the 1922 general election when Batley and Morley fell to Ben Turner for Labour. He did not stand for Parliament again.[14]

Political appointments

In 1916, France was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the President of the Board of Trade,[15] Walter Runciman.[16] He was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Northumberland in August 1932 [17] He was also sometime President of the Gladstone Club.[18]

Other public appointments

France was sometime President of the National Commercial Temperance League,[19] a body formed in the 1890s to appeal to the business and professional community in the economic and ethical field of thought to promote temperance.[20] He was also a member of the national executive committee of the Boys’ Brigade.[21]


Towards the end of his political career, France’s health began to deteriorate. Just before Christmas of 1934, he went to Tenerife on doctors’ advice for the benefit of his condition. Back in England in the new year, he was taken to hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne on 21 January where he was kept until he died on 11 February.[22]


  1. Stephen Koss, Nonconformity in Modern British Politics; Basford, 1975 p154
  2. Who was Who, OUP 2007
  3. The Times House of Commons 1910; Politico’s Publishing, 2004 p86
  4. Who was Who, OUP 2007
  5. Who was Who, OUP 2007
  6. The Times House of Commons 1910; Politico’s Publishing, 2004 pp86-87
  7. Who was Who, OUP 2007
  8. The Times, 6 December 1910 p7
  9. Who was Who, OUP 2007
  10. The Times, 12 January 1909 p10
  11. The Times House of Commons 1910; Politico’s Publishing, 2004 pp86-87
  12. The Times House of Commons 1911; Politico’s Publishing, 2004 p95
  13. The Times House of Commons 1919; Politico’s Publishing, 2004 p24
  14. F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow, 1949 p691
  15. Who was Who, OUP 2007
  16. Sir Archibald Spicer Hurd, Who goes there?; Hutchinson &Co, 1942 p169
  17. The Times, 3 August 1932 p13
  18. The Times, 6 December 1910 p7
  19. Who was Who, OUP 2007
  21. Who was Who, OUP 2007
  22. Chemist and druggist: the newsweekly for pharmacy; Volume 122, 1935 p195
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alfred Eddison Hutton
Member of Parliament for Morley
January 19101918
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Batley and Morley
Succeeded by
Ben Turner