Skip to main content

Farrer, Thomas Henry, 1819–1899 (first Baron Farrer, civil servant)



Thomas Henry Farrer was the eldest of six children of Thomas Farrer (1787–1833), solicitor, of Lincoln's Inn Fields, and his wife, Cecilia (d. 1867), daughter of Richard Willis of Halsnead, Lancashire. He was born at 3 Bedford Place, Russell Square, London, on 24 June 1819. Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, he graduated in 1840 with a second in literae humaniores. He followed his father into the law and was called to the bar in 1844 but gained few briefs and ceased to practise in 1848. In 1849 Farrer was engaged to assist the Board of Trade in amending the law affecting merchant shipping, following the repeal of the navigation laws. This work led to his appointment as secretary of the new marine department of the Board of Trade in August 1850. In 1853 he became an assistant secretary of the board, handling marine business, in 1865 a full joint secretary, and in 1867 the board's first sole permanent secretary. Farrer exercised a considerable influence over the development of commercial law, and was made a baronet in October 1883 in recognition of his work on the Bankruptcy Bill carried in that year. A brief career in local politics followed his retirement in 1886. Denied election to the Surrey county council in 1889, Farrer was chosen as an alderman by the Progressive (Liberal) majority on the London county council, becoming vice-chairman in 1890. Drawing upon his Board of Trade experience, he guided the council's attempts to control London's private water companies, but he disagreed strongly with the council's labour policy, which he considered unduly favourable to the trade unions. He played little part on the council after ceasing to be vice-chairman in 1892, although he remained an alderman until 1898. In June 1893 he was created Baron Farrer of Abinger. Farrer married Frances, daughter of William Erskine of the Indian Civil Service, in 1854. She died in 1870, leaving three sons and one daughter. In 1873 he married Katherine Euphemia 'Effie' (1839-1931), daughter of Hensleigh Wedgwood. Farrer died on 12 October 1899 at Abinger Hall, the house near Dorking designed for him by Alfred Waterhouse.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


Thomas Henry Farrer, c.1892

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.10286/6/3
Scope and Contents

Single glass plate negative of man seated at a desk in a study, thought to be of Thomas Henry Farrer, c.1892.

Dates: c.1892
Conditions Governing Access: From the Fonds: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (