District Directors

The first directors of the District Railway were set out in the Metropolitan District Railways Act 1868 and remained in post until the shareholders could appoint their own at a general meeting.

The promoters of the District were responsible for preparing the bill, guiding it through parliament, submitting the substantial deposit, paying for the various engineering surveys and producing the necessary plans, all of which was a substantial expense.

The promoters were:
The 11th Earl of Devon William Reginald Courtenay, 1807-1888 became the 11th Earl of Devon in 1859. He was very active in public life, becoming Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1866 and then President of the Poor Law Board, until 1868, when his party fell from office. He was also chairman of the Bristol & Exeter Railway, the Moretonhampstead & South Devon Railway, the Rathkeale & Newcastle Junction Railway and the South Wales & Great Western Direct Railway and a director of the Kingsbridge Railway and the Limerick & North Kerry Railway. He also chaired the Whitehaven Iron Mines and was no doubt involved in other enterprises too.
Samuel Laing Chairman of the General Credit & Finance Co. A native Scot and qualified barrister he found himself until 1847 in charge of the railway department at the Board of Trade, becoming something of an expert. He was then appointed chairman of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, 1849-55 and again 1867-94. He was also a very active politician and spent some time at the Treasury, and also in India, where he was for a while finance minister. In the early days of the District he was also a director of the Caithness Railway, the Lierre & Turnhout (a Belgian company) and the Victoria Station & Pimlico Railway (deputy chairman).
George Worms A partner in the bankers and money dealers, Messrs G & A Worms, of Austin Friars and a director of the General Credit & Finance Co and involved in various industrial and commercial affairs. He was an Austrian patriot (and later became the second Baron de Worms). The family was related to the Rothschilds.
William Arthur Wilkinson Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway
William Austin A Director of the Metropolitan Railway (and Rhymney Railway and Sambre & Meuse Railway; also of Allan’s Transatlantic Telegraph and London District Telegraph)
William Lee MP. A director of the Metropolitan Railway, the Marseille Extension Railway and sometime chairman of the Victoria Station & Pimlico Railway and at various times a Member of Parliament. Also director of London & County Bank.
The Hon Frederick Lygon MP. Though Lygon was primarily a churchman he went into politics in 1857, at first as an MP. On inheriting the Beauchamp estate in 1866 he became the sixth Earl Beauchamp and was associated with Disraeli. Lygon and Lee introduced the District bill in the Commons with no obvious concern about any possible conflict of interest.

The above seven gentlemen were also named in the Act as the first of the 13 authorized directors, together with six others. These were:
The Hon Richard Southwell Bourke MP (who wore the courtesy title of Lord Naas until he succeeded to the earldom of Mayo in 1867) A highly educated politician he was active in Irish politics and was an Irish MP before becoming Member for Cockermouth; he was onetime Secretary for Ireland. He resigned as a director on being appointed Viceroy of India.
Charles Gilpin MP A Metropolitan Railway Director and director of the South Eastern Railway, Smyrna & Cassaba Railway and Buenos Ayres Great Southern Railway.
Colonel the Hon W.P. Talbot Lieutenant-colonel the Hon Wellington Patrick Manvers Chetwynd Talbot was born and educated in Dublin and was the Duke of Wellington’s godson. After extensive training and experience in the army he found himself private secretary to the prime minister, Lord Derby. He was later a sergeant at arms for the House of Lords and founder of Wellington College. Hon. Henry Ryder (who resigned after only a very short appointment) Ryder, a younger son of the Earl of Harrowby, was a partner in the firm of Coutts & Co, the bankers. He eventually succeeded to the earldom shortly before his death in 1900.
Major the Hon Standish Vereker Major the Hon Standish Prendergast Vereker was born and educated in Dublin and succeeded to the title Viscount Gort in 1865. He was a District Railway director from its creation in 1864 until his death in 1900 and was an honorary colonel of the Royal Artillery. He was also a director of Poole & Bournemouth Railway, the Bombay, Baroda & Central India Railway and the Pernambuco Railway. Sir Henry Drummond Wolff KCMG. Born in Malta, his career began in the foreign office as a clerk in 1849, deciphering dispatches, but he later obtained a number of foreign postings, returning as private secretary to the foreign secretary, and later, to the colonial secretary.

Of these thirteen directors, the quorum was just three.

After James Staats Forbes joined the board in 1871 there were some rapid changes followed by a lengthy period where the directors virtually ceased to renew themselves, and, accordingly, the railway failed to deal with some serious issues foir many years. Forbes quickly became chairman and managing director of the District and remained there promoting inactivity for thirty years.

I have attached a list of directors in graphical formed which clearly shows how few changes there were during Forbes's term of office (directors in blue and Forbes in orange).

It may be viewed HERE.

A list of directors in order of appointment is given in next column.

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The Earl of Devon 1865-1872

James Staats Forbes 1872-1901

Robert William Perks 1901-1905

Charles Tyson Yerkes 1905

Sir George Stegmann Gibb (also managing director) 1906-1910

Lord George Hamilton 1910-1919

Sir Albert Stanley (Lord Ashfield of Southwell from 1920) 1919-1933


1864 Act created Board of Thirteen Directors

Earl of Devon (chairman) 1864-1872

Samuel Laing 1864

George Worms 1864-1868

William Arthur Wilkinson (chairman Met Railway). Died in office. 1864-1865

William Lee 1864

William Austin (Met representative) 1864-1869

Hon Frederick Lygon (7th Earl Beauchamp from 1866) 1864-1866

Hon Richard Southwell Bourke (Lord Naas, later earl of Mayo) 1864-1866

Charles Gilpin MP (Met representative) 1864-1868

Col Hon W.P. Talbot 1864-1869

Henry Ryder 1864

Hon Standish Prendergast Vereker (4th Viscount Gort from 1865)

Deputy chairman from 1886. Died in office. 1864-1900

Sir Henry Drummond Wolf 1864-1870

Alexander Clunes Sherriff MP, deputy chairman (Met representative) 1865-1869

Alexander Clunes Sherriff MP, Died in office 1869-1878

Harvie Farquhar (of bankers Herries, Farquhar, and Co) 1865

Alderman Thomas Dakin (Met representative) 1865-1869

Board reduced to Ten in 1866 and reduced their remuneration in 1867

Mr Ralph Anstruther Earle MP 1866-1871

James Nasmyth (Met representative but large District shareholder) 1868-1870

William Wagstaff 1869-1877

Charles Henry Parkes 1869

George Wodehouse Currie (deputy chairman throughout) Died in office 1869-1886

Board reduced from Eight to Seven in 1870 and to six in 1871

James Staats Forbes 1870-1903

Dr George Wyld 1871-1901

Lewis Henry Isaacs (latterly deputy chairman) 1871-1905

Mr James Murray Died in office 1877-1898

Alfred Montgomery 1886-1896

Sir Charles Dalrymple 1895-1916

Arthur Charles Lucas 1898-1901

Ernest Law 1900-1920

Robert William Perks (chairman from 1901 deputy chairman from 1905) 1901-1908

Murray Griffith 1901-1933

Charles Ainsworth Spofford 1902-1905

Arthur Lewis Stride 1902-1906

James Clifton Robinson (Sir James from June 1905) 1902-1910

Baron Herbert de Stern (Lord Michelham from 1905) 1904-1906

William Henry Brown (deputy chairman from 1910) 1905-1916

Lord George Hamilton (deputy chairman 1908-10) (also served 1919-1927) 1905-1910

Walter Abbott 1906

John Young 1906-1910

James Russell Chapman 1907-1910

William Corwin Burton (managing director from 1916) 1908-1919

Albert Stanley (knighted 1914) (managing director) 1910-1916

Henry Augustus Vernet (deputy chairman 1919-33) 1910-1933

Capt (Lieut. Col. 1916) Wilfred Chatterton Dumble 1913-1921

Lord George Hamilton (second term) 1919-1927

Sir Albert Stanley (Lord Ashfield of Southwell from 1920) (managing director 1919-28) 1919-1933

William Mitchell Acworth (Sir William from 1921) Died in office 1920-1925

Herbert E. Blain 1921-1924

Zac Ellis Knapp Died in office 1921-1926

Frank Pick (assistant managing director to 1928 and managing director afterwards) 1921-1933

Edwin Samuel Montagu Died in office 1924

Sir George Leveson Gower 1925-1933

Sir Ernest Clark 1926-1933

Lord Colwyn 1927-1933