Walter Layton, 1st Baron Layton

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Walter Layton

Walter Thomas Layton, 1st Baron Layton CH CBE (15 March 1884 – 14 February 1966), was a British economist, editor, newspaper proprietor and Liberal Party politician.

Background and education

Layton was the son of Alfred John Layton of Woking, Surrey, and Mary Johnson. He was educated at King's College School, Westminster City School, University College, London and Trinity College, Cambridge.


He became a lecturer in economics at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1908, then from 1909 to 1914 he was a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. A notable economist, Layton worked for the Ministry of Munitions during the First World War. In 1922 he was appointed editor of The Economist, a post he held until 1938, and from 1944 to 1963 was also Chairman of The Economist Newspaper Ltd. His editorship was of profound importance to the newspaper, and he was probably the person to whom it owes most thanks for its survival and continued independence. He was editorial director of the News Chronicle (1930–40), and returned to the Chronicle after the war, where he remained until the newspaper ceased publication in 1960.[1]

He was a member of the Liberal Party committee that produced Britain's Industrial Future, otherwise known as the Liberal Yellow Book. He stood as a Liberal Parliamentary candidate, contesting the London University seat in 1929. Layton was again drafted in to work for the government during the Second World War, holding positions in the Ministry of Supply (from May 1940) and the Ministry of Production. Head of Joint War Production Staff 1942 to 1943. After the war, he served as Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1949 to 1957.


Layton was made a CBE in 1917 and a Companion of Honour in 1919.[2] He was knighted in 1930[3] and in 1947 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Layton, of Danehill in the County of Sussex.[4]

Liberal politics

Layton stood unsuccessfully for parliament three times as a Liberal. He fought Burnley in 1922, Cardiff South in 1923 and in 1929 he switched again to fight the London University seat. However, Layton's importance in Liberal politics had much more to do with his work at the News Chronicle and The Economist where he became a prominent member of a group of Liberals who had a major influence on public opinion. Their orbits were the Whitehall and Westminster villages. They moved in Fleet Street, the City, and Oxbridge circles. Among their contemporaries were Maynard Keynes, William Beveridge, Gilbert Murray, and Seebohm Rowntree. Layton would later chair the executive committee of the Liberal Industrial Inquiry which produced the celebrated Yellow Book of 1928.

Marriage and children

Lord Layton married Eleanor Dorothea Osmaston, daughter of Francis Beresford Plumptre Osmaston, in 1910. They had seven children:

  • The Hon. Margaret Dorothea Layton MA (13 March 1911 – 5 July 1962), married Alfred Geiringer (1911-1996) of Reuters, four children
  • Michael John Layton, 2nd Baron Layton (28 September 1912 – 23 January 1989), married Dorothy Rose Cross (1916-1994), two children
  • Lt. Col. the Hon. David Layton MBE BA (5 July 1914 – 31 July 2009), educ. Gresham's School and Cambridge University, married (1) (Joan) Elizabeth Gray, three children;[5] married (2) Joy Parkinson (d. 2013)[6]
  • The Hon. Jean Mary Layton (14 April 1916 – 8 July 2017),[7] violinist and music therapist,[7] 100th birthday marked by Classic FM in 2016,[8] married Paul Eisler (d.1966), two children
  • The Hon. Olive Shirley Layton (18 December 1918 – 22 June 2009),[9] actress, married Peter Gellhorn, composer and conductor (1912-2004), four children
  • The Hon. (Elizabeth) Ruth Frances Layton (27 April 1923 – 4 June 2016),[10] served in ATS, married Edward Gutierrez Pegna (1919-2009), four children
  • The Hon. Christopher Walter Layton (born 31 December 1929), married (1) Anneliese Margaret von Thadden, two children; married (2) Margaret Ann Moon, three children; married (3) Wendy Elizabeth Christine Bartlett, one child[11]

Layton died in February 1966, aged 81, and was succeeded in the barony by his eldest son.


  1. Dennis Griffiths (ed.) The Encyclopedia of the British Press 1422–1992, London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p.364
  2. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31316. p. . 29 April 1919.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 33617. p. . 20 June 1930.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 37872. p. . 4 February 1947.
  5. Alastair Hatchett, David Layton obituary in The Guardian dated 29 September 2009
  6. "LAYTON, Hon Mrs David (Joyce E nee PARKINSON)".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Jean Eisler: 14 April 1916 – 8 July 2017". Nordoff Robbins: Life-changing music. 21 July 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Classic FM plays 100th birthday request for former pupil of Holst". Classic FM.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Telegraph death notice 27 June 2009, from Peerage News user group.
  10. "PEGNA - Deaths Announcements - Telegraph Announcements".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Person Page".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Hubback, David. No Ordinary Press Baron: A Life of Walter Layton, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1985
  • Grayson, Richard S. Walter Layton in Brack & Randall (eds.) The Dictionary of Liberal Thought, Politico's Publishing, 2007 pp206–208
  • Grayson, Richard S. Walter Thomas Layton in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography OUP, 2004–09
  • Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990,[page needed]
  • Layton, Christopher. Walter Layton (Lord Layton) in Brack et al. (eds.) Dictionary of Liberal Biography, Politico's Publishing 1998 pp217–219
  • Oxbury, Harold. Great Britons: Twentieth Century Lives. Oxford University Press, 1984.

External links

Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
Baron Layton
Succeeded by
Michael John Layton
Media offices
Preceded by
Hartley Withers
Editor of The Economist
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Crowther