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The Papers of Baron Gordon-Walker

Reference Code: GBR/0014/GNWR

Scope and Contents

The most interesting items in the collection are the diaries, interleaved with letters and papers, which Lord Gordon-Walker kept throughout his political career and which shed fascinating light upon his fellow Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers and upon the events and personalities involved in international -and especially Commonwealth - affairs. There are numerous articles and speeches by Lord Gordon-Walker together with notes and reviews pertaining to his book ‘The Cabinet’ and a typescript of his last (unpublished) book on "Downing of Downing Street" and voluminous bundles of press cuttings illustrating every phase of his career.


  • Creation: 1883 - 1980

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from the Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

7 April 1907: Patrick Chrestien Gordon Walker was born at Worthing, son of Alan Lachlan Gordon Walker, a Scottish Judge in the Indian Civil Service. Educated at Wellington College and Christ Church Oxford (MA and B.Lit.). 1931-40: Student and History Tutor at Christ Church. 1934: Married Audrey Muriel Rudolph, with whom he had twin sons and three daughters. 1935: Stood for election as Labour candidate for Oxford City but withdrew his candidacy. 1935: Published "The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries". 1939: Published "Outline of Man's History" for the National Council of Labour colleges. 1940-44: BBC European Service, by 1942 arranging the BBC's daily broadcasts to Germany. 1945: Assistant Director of BBC's German Service working from Radio Luxembourg, from where he travelled with the troops and broadcasted on the liberation of the German concentration camp at Belsen (about which he published "The Lid Lifts"). 1945-64: Labour M.P. for Smethwick. 1946: Parliamentary Private Secretary to Herbert Morrison (Lord Morrison of Lambeth), then Lord President of the Council. 1947-50: Under-Secretary of State, Commonwealth Relations Office. 1948: Attended Ceylon [later Sri Lanka] independence celebrations and visited India and Pakistan. 1949: Went to India, Pakistan and Ceylon [later Sri Lanka] as one of Prime Minister's emissaries to other Commonwealth Prime Ministers to discuss Indian independence and position in the Commonwealth. 1950: Visited Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Ceylon [later Sri Lanka]. P.C. 1950-1: Walker became Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, attaining Cabinet rank after less than 5 years in parliament. He was associated with the unpopular exile of Seretse Khama, head of the Ngwato tribe in Botswana, who had married an English woman, Ruth Williams and this led to Walker being accused of racial prejudice. This incident overshadowed his achievements in the promotion of Commonwealth relations. 1951: Published "Restatement of Liberty" Toured South Africa, Southern Rhodesia [later Zimbabwe], Bechuanaland [later Botswana], Basutoland [later Lesotho] and Swaziland [latre Eswatini]. Walker represented Britain at Victoria Falls Conference on formation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland [now Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi] but returned to England for the 1951 General Election which Labour lost. 1951-53: Represented Britain at Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. 1957: Led the United Kingdom delegation to the Karachi meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. 1962: Published "The Commonwealth". 1963: Walker did not accept nomination for the leadership of the Labour Party and Harold Wilson made him shadow Foreign Secretary. Accompanied Harold Wilson to Moscow for talks with American and Soviet leaders. Oct. 1964-Jan 1965: Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. 1964: Defeated at General Election and lost his Smethwick constituency after a racist campaign against him by his Conservative opponents which has been described as "the first major eruption of racism in modern British politics" (Pearce). 1965: Wilson and the Labour party decided to use special powers to find Walker a safe seat at Leyton, where R W Sorensen was persuaded to accept a life peerage. Despite Sorensen's majority of 7,926, Walker was defeated in the ensuing Leyton by-election and resigned as Foreign Secretary the following day. His obituarist noted "Perhaps his greatest contribution to political life was the example he set of courage and dignity under heartbreaking disappointment and the resolute patience with which he fought his way back from apparent disaster" (The Times). 1965: Sent on fact finding mission to South East Asia. 1965-67: Chairman Book Development Council. 1966: Leader UK Delegation to Council of Europe. 1966-74: Labour M.P. for Leyton. 1967: Minister Without Portfolio. 1967-68: Secretary of State for Education and Science. 1968: Companion of Honour 1970: Published "The Cabinet". 1974: Created Baron Gordon-Walker of Leyton. 1975-76: Member of European Parliament. 2 Dec 1980: Died


25 archive box(es)

Language of Materials



The papers have been arranged into eight series.

Other Finding Aids

The collection has been catalogued and paper copies of the catalogue are available for consultation in the reading room at Churchill Archives Centre and at the National Register of Archives in London.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of Lord Gordon-Walker were given to Churchill College in May 1981 by his son, Mr. Robin Walker, acting on behalf of his family.


The Gordon-Walker papers are a concise archive and his son, Robin, noted "my father tended to chuck out letters etc. after immediate use" (letter to Correlli Barnett, 15 March 1981). The Gordon-Walker archive deposited at Churchill Archives Centre did not include the hundreds of letters of sympathy and congratulation sent to Lord Gordon-Walker respectively on his loss and gain of the Leyton seat in Parliament. The Historical Manuscripts Commission informed Churchill Archives Centre in January 2002 that these had been offered for sale at auction.


Gordon-Walker's diaries have been published "Patrick Gordon Walker: Political Diaries 1932-1971" ed. Robert Pearce (The Historical Press, London, 1991).


This collection level description and catalogue were prepared by Natalie Adams of Churchill Archives Centre in December 2004 using information from the original catalogue which was prepared in 1981, Gordon-Walker's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Robert Pearce, ‘Walker, Patrick Chrestien Gordon, Baron Gordon-Walker (1907-1980)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004), and his obituary in the Times. The majority of the collection was catalogued in 1981 and a further 10 boxes of press cuttings and literary material were catalogued by Natalie Adams in December 2004. Updated by Natalie Adams in January 2010.

Date information

DateText: The main date range of material is 1932-1980.


Walker, Patrick Chrestien Gordon, 1907-1980, Baron Gordon-Walker, politician

2004-12-20 11:05:25+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087