History of the Beaverbrook Foundation

History of the Beaverbrook Foundation

The First and Second Beaverbrook Foundations were set up in 1954 by Lord Beaverbrook, and brought together as one charity in 1974. The Beaverbrook Foundation (CIO) was set up in 2013.


  From To
Rt Hon William Maxwell Baron Beaverbrook 1954 1964
Hon Janet Gladys Kidd 1954 1964
Mrs Jean Noble Stickney 1954 1972
Mr James Bromley Wilson 1956 1964
Mr William Barkley 1956 1964
Marcia, Lady Dunn, later Beaverbrook 1960 1981
Sir Max Aitken 1964 1985
Mr A G Millar 1964 1983
Sir Thomas Blackburn 1964 1974
Mr John Rutherford Gordon 1964 1975
Lady Aitken 1965 2014
Alan Douglas Monro Ramsay 1971 1973
Hon Maxwell Aitken, later Lord Beaverbrook 1973 current
Mr John Junor 1974 1977
Mr Jocelyn Stevens 1975 1977
Mrs Anne Westover 1976 1987
Lord Robens of Woldingham 1976 1987
Mr Peter Hetherington 1976 1977
Hon Laura Aitken, later Mrs L Levi 1977 current
Lord Arnold Goodman 1981 1987
Susan Aitken, later Lady Beaverbrook 1984 current
Sir Barrie Heath 1984 1988
Mr Timothy Aitken 1984 2010
Mr Basil de Ferranti 1987 1988
Mr John E A Kidd 1989 current
Hon Max Aitken 2000 current
Hon Rory Aitken 2014 current

The Beaverbrook Library

Beaverbrook LibraryBeaverbrook was a great collector of historical material which he not only used in his own published books, but also made available to other writers and historians at his country home in Cherkley, Surrey. He himself started to write as early as 1916 with ‘Canada in Flanders’ and the first draft of ‘Politicians and the War’, and in his writings he drew very largely from his own experience and memory, from his own papers and from the papers he acquired. His first windfall was Bonar Law’s papers, which were bequeathed to him. His second and greatest acquisition was his purchase in 1951 of the Lloyd George papers. He obtained other collections relevant to his work by purchase or by gift through his own personal influence.

In his Will of 10 January 1964, Lord Beaverbrook left all his personal papers to the Beaverbrook Foundation and the Library was established. It contained some of the more important private historical collections of the twentieth century, and it naturally attracted to itself further donations or deposits.

Only 8 years after its foundation The Beaverbrook Library closed on 27 March 1975. It had been built in the first instance, onto the back of the Daily Express building, by the Beaverbrook Foundation to house the extensive collection of politic papers and documents amassed by Lord Beaverbrook. The Library’s Honorary Director, Mr AJP Taylor held twentieth century history seminars in the Library at which researchers gave papers on their particular fields of study.

The greater part of the contents of the Beaverbrook Library, consisting of the political papers of Lloyd George, Lord Beaverbrook, Bonar Law and other twentieth century politicians together with over 150 books was deposited in the House of Lords Records Office, more recently known as the Parliamentary Archive. Other papers were sent to the University of New Brunswick and a collection of cartoons held at the library were sent to the University of Kent.

Miss Delia Hilton, Mrs Katherine Wheeler and Mr W J Igoe were all employed at the library, Mrs Wheeler moving with the papers to work at the House of Lords Archive. Mr AJP Taylor made all the arrangements regarding the transfer of documents and Mr AWH Longstaff was taken on with the role of archivist in 1983.

The collection is of great significance to the Parliamentary Archive and for the 12 months to 30 September 2012 the total number of boxes/files ordered to the search room was 5,330. Of these 1,213 boxes/files were from the Beaverbrook Library – representing nearly 23% of the total retrievals during the twelve months.


artBeaverbrook brought together an eclectic collection of art, much of which hung in his properties, and which belonged to the Foundation. In 1977 the National Portrait Gallery accepted the donation of a portrait of Lord Beaverbrook by Walter Richard Sickert.

In 2002 Charity Commission regulations required trustees to review their risk position. This required a full summary of the Foundation’s assets and Sotheby’s were asked to carry out a full valuation of the Foundation’s art collection, including those held at the Gallery in Fredericton. This relatively small activity snowballed into a huge dispute over the ownership of the art.

The Gallery and the Foundation could not find common ground and there was no option but to clarify the ownership question through the courts. The trustees were wary of entering into litigation, but all advice and common sense pointed to the Foundation’s ownership of the art, and it was undoubtedly their duty to act in the best interests of the charity by protecting its assets. Similarly the Gallery’s Board of Governors had a fiduciary obligation to establish true ownership of the works of art and, throughout the protracted litigation acted in the belief that the art works were a gift from the first Lord Beaverbrook. Arbitration commenced in July 2004 with over 13,000 documents being assessed and numerous hours of discovery hearings. Ultimately the Foundation was awarded ownership of 48 works of art (one third of the pictures under dispute) in March 2007; and the Appellate Arbitral Tribunal found in favour of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in September 2009 for the balance of works. Settlement was finally reached and completed in March 2011.

The Gallery continues to display much of the collection that Lord Beaverbrook brought together in New Brunswick, and is responsible for arranging a successful touring exhibition of a number of the works.


CherkleyIn March 1982 ‘The Trustees were informed that under a Deed of Settlement by Sir Max Aitken dated 13 August 1962 the Trustees of that settlement were required to deliver over to the Beaverbrook Foundation the property therein comprised namely Cherkley House and pleasure grounds, not later than this coming 30 June.’ The trustees accepted and a lease was agreed with the Dowager Lady Beaverbrook who wished to continue occupation of the property.

The Dowager remained at Cherkley until her death in October 1994. As she became more of a recluse she used fewer of the rooms in the house, and the once grand property began to feel the abuse of neglect. The trustees took on the project of reclaiming the elegance of the house by undertaking a total refurbishment programme. Lord Beaverbrook had bought the house in 1911 and it was clear to the trustees that as a heritage property it was their responsibility to restore the property for the public to enjoy. Extensive delays with planning applications, disputes over poor workmanship, and restrictions due to the Grade II Listed status, further unexpected and unscheduled works required, resulted in the property not being open to the public until 2007. But the wait and effort were worth it. In the first three months there were over 4,000 visitors.

The trustees had focussed considerable effort in also ensuring the excellence of the gardens. In 1998 the house had been married back to the estate thus giving a sense of glorious isolation for the visitor.

Obviously the running of such a property comes at a price, and funds were raised by the rental of properties and land on the estate; the house was used for conferences, weddings and other celebration events, and groups of visitors were taken round the house. Visitors to the garden flowed in. However, suffering from two consecutive wet summers and the general economic conditions the business was not sufficient for the property to be self-supporting.

The Trustees took the hard decision in November 2009 to cease the business operations at Cherkley at the end of May 2010 and the property was, in due course, sold to a group with the vision to retain the special character of the property whilst transforming it to a 5* country club hotel and golf club. Thus bringing life and energy back to a property that was once a hub of activity and partying during Lord Beaverbrook’s occupancy.