Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne

Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne

Thomas Lionel Dugdale, 1st Baron Crathorne PC (20 July 1897 – 26 March 1977), known as Sir Thomas Dugdale, 1st Baronet, from 1945 to 1959, was a British Conservative politician. A government minister, he resigned over the Crichel Down Affair, often quoted as a classic example of the convention of individual ministerial responsibility.

Dugdale was the son of Captain James Lionel Dugdale of Crathorne Hall near Yarm in Yorkshire. He was educated at Eton College and Sandhurst. He joined the Army in 1916, serving with the Scots Greys in World War I and the Yorkshire Hussars in World War II.

In 1929, Dugdale was elected as Member of Parliament for Richmond, North Yorkshire, where he remained until 1959. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to several ministers, including Stanley Baldwin, and Deputy Chief Whip. He was later Chairman of the Conservative Party and Chairman of the Party's Agricultural Committee. He was made a baronet in 1945.

When the Conservatives won the 1951 election, Churchill made Dugdale his Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Crichel Down was a piece of farmland in Dorset compulsorily bought by the government for defence use. Commander George Martin, son of the original farmer, wanted to buy the land back in the 1950s now that it was no longer used by the MoD. However the Ministry of Agriculture resisted, wanting to use the land for experimental farming in a time of rationing and agricultural development.However, Martin, a former equerry in the Royal Family, had very influential friends and stirred up much trouble in the local Conservative Party and government backbenches.There followed a public inquiry which criticised the department's decision and civil servants, especially their methods. It was seen as an example of an over-powerful state.Finally Dugdale announced that Martin could buy the land back and told the House of Commons he was resigning.

Dugdale's resignation went down in history as an honourable, even heroic, one: a minister taking responsibility for civil servants' actions, which would lead to the perceived code of individual ministerial responsibility. However, in papers released thirty years after the affair, it was found that Dugdale had known and approved of his civil servants' actions and had to an extent passed the buck to them himself. It was also found that the inquiry was inaccurate and biased, led by a former Conservative candidate who was very against civil servants and state interference.

Dugdale's junior minister, Lord Carrington, tried to resign too but was refused. He went on to be Foreign Secretary, and finally succeeded in resigning in 1982 over the Falklands War. Commander Martin got his land but not a Conservative seat, which he had hoped for. Dugdale himself was raised to the peerage as Baron Crathorne in 1959 and had a second political career in Europe, building links with parliamentarians in NATO and the Council of Europe.

Lord Cranworth married Nancy, daughter of Sir Charles Tennant, 1st Baronet, in 1936. He died in March 1977, aged 79, and was succeeded by his son, Charles.


*Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). "Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage" (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990.

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