Sir Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook (1879-1964), the Canadian entrepreneur and politician who was proprietor of the Daily Express and Evening Standard, bought Cherkley Court from the Dixon family in 1911 and it remained his main and favourite residence for the rest of his life. The house was badly damaged by a bomb in 1943 and the main front had to be rebuilt. After Beaverbrook’s death, the house passed to his widow, Marcia (1910-94), but was then in poor condition. Following her death it was acquired by the Beaverbrook Foundation, which sold it in 2011 for conversion to a hotel, spa and golf club. Beaverbrook’s son, Sir Max Aitken (1910-85), who disclaimed the title for life, lived on the estate, but his successor, Sir Maxwell William Humphrey Aitken, 3rd Baron Beaverbrook (b. 1951), lives in London. The 1st Baron was a complex and highly influential man, whose career and political networks have been the subject of many assessments (see Sources below), to which the reader is directed for more information.
Cherkley Court, Leatherhead, Surrey
Built on recently enclosed common land in 1866-70 for the Birmingham merchant Abraham Dixon (1815-1907), brother of George Dixon, mayor of Birmingham, MP and promoter of free education, and rebuilt for him in an eclectic style strongly influenced by French Renaissance chateaux in 1894 after a fire caused by lightning in July 1893.
|Cherkley Court: south front. Image: Ian Capper per Wikimedia Commons|
Following the death of his widow in 1909 the house was sold in 1911 to Sir Max Aitken (later 1st Baron Beaverbrook) who updated it and made various additions. Wartime damage included a fire in 1942 which burned down the conservatory (not replaced), and bomb damage in 1943 which required the rebuilding of the front of the house.
|Cherkley Court: east front|
Lord Beaverbrook lived here until 1964, and after the death of his widow in 1994 the house passed to the Beaverbrook Foundation, which conducted an expensive restoration with interior decoration by David Mlinaric, and opened it to the public for a few years, 2003-10. The formal gardens were redesigned by landscape architect Simon Johnson, and a new shell grotto was created by the artist Belinda Eade. In 2010 the Foundation decided this was uneconomic and the following year sold the house for conversion to a ‘world class hotel, spa and golf club’. Plans for the development were approved in 2012 by the local council, but quashed by the High Court at a judicial review in August 2013. The grounds remain open to the public.
|Cherkley Court: shell grotto by Belinda Eade. Image: Ian Capper per Wikimedia Commons|
Descent: Abraham Dixon (1815-1907); to widow, Margaret Dixon (née Rathbone) (c.1821-1909); sold 1911 to Sir Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook (1879-1964); to widow, Marcia Aitken (née Christoforides, then Dunn), Lady Beaverbrook (1909-94); to Beaverbrook Foundation, which sold 2011 to Longshot Cherkley Court Ltd.
Aitken family, baronets and Barons Beaverbrook
Aitken, Rev. William Cuthbert (1834-1913). Second son of Robert Aitken (d. 1875) of Tartraven (West Lothian), born 28 February 1834. Educated at Bathgate Academy and Edinburgh University; licensed to preach 1858 and ordained 1864; Church of Scotland minister at Cobourg, Ontario, Canada 1864–65, Vaughan, Maple, Ontario, 1865–80 and Newcastle, New Brunswick, 1880–1902. He married, 8 May 1867, Jane (d. 1927), daughter of Joseph Noble of Ontario (Canada) and had issue:
(1) Sarah Nob Margaret Jane Aitken [Rahno] (1868-1945), superintendent of Hospital of the Good Samaritan, Los Angeles, California, m. 1907 Horatio Walker MD;
(2) Annie Anderson Aitken [Nan] (1870-1942), superintendent of Rutland Hospital, Vermont;
(3) Maj. (Robert) Travers Donaldson Aitken BA LLB (1873-1939), married 1st, 1901, Agnes Jean (d. 1906/7), daughter of Samuel Thompson KC and had issue; married 2nd, 1912, Aileen, daughter of Gen. K. Leeson and had issue;
(4) Katie Aitken (c.1875-c.1881);
(5) Capt. (Joseph) Magnus Aitken [Mauns] (1878-1950), manager, Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto, m. 1902 Katherine Margaret (d. 1954), daughter of John McAffee and had issue;
(6) Sir William Max(well) Aitken (1879-1964), 1st bt. and 1st Baron Beaverbrook (q.v.);
(7) Capt. Arthur Noble Aitken BA MD (1883-1969/70), m. 1921 Frances Emma Wargarel Hughes;
(8) Jean Noble Aitken [Gyp] (1885-1972), librarian, m. 1919 William Stickney;
(9) Maj. Allan Anderson Aitken MC [Buddie] (1887-1959), stockbroker, m. 1929 as her second husband, Phyllis Dean, daughter of Gordon Osler of Toronto and had issue;
(10) Laura Katherine Aitken BA (1892-1954), m. 1925 Douglas Monro Ramsay DL (d. 1951) of Bowland, Stow (Midl.) and had issue.
He died 13 December 1913, aged 79. His widow died 6 August 1927.
|Sir Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook. |
Image: Library & Archives Canada, per Wikimedia Commons
Aitken, Sir (William) Max(well) (1879-1964), 1st bt. and 1st Baron Beaverbrook. Third son of Rev. William Cuthbert Aitken (1834-1913) and his wife Jane, daughter of Joseph Noble of Ontario (Canada), born 25 May 1879. Entrepreneur in Canada 1895-1910; moved to England, 1910; MP for Ashton-under-Lyne 1910-16; knighted 20 June 1911; proprietor of Daily Express 1916-64 and the Evening Standard 1923-64; created a baronet 3 July 1916 and elevated to the peerage, 2 January 1917; PC 1918; Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for Information, 1918-19; Minister of Aircraft Production 1940-41; Minister of Supply 1941-42; Lord Privy Seal 1943-45; Chancellor of the University of New Brunswick, 1947-64. He married 1st, 29 January 1906, Gladys Henderson (1887/8-1927), second daughter of Maj-Gen. Charles William Drury CB of Halifax, Nova Scotia and 2nd, 7 June 1963, Marcia Anastasia (1909-94), daughter of John Christoforides of Leyswood, Groombridge (Sussex), a Greek Cypriot tobacco merchant, and widow of Sir James Hamet Dunn, 1st bt. (1874-1956), and had issue:
(1.1) Hon. Janet Gladys Aitken (1908-88), born 9 July 1908; married 1st, 1927 (div. 1934), Ian Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll (1903-73) and had issue a daughter; married 2nd, 1935, Hon. William Drogo Sturges Montagu (kia 1940), second son of 9th Earl of Sandwich and had issue a son; married 3rd, 1942, Maj. Thomas Edward Dealtry Kidd MBE (d. 1979) of Slythehurst, Ewhurst (Surrey), elder son of Hon. Lt-Col. Canon William Ennis Kidd MC MA of Kingston, Ontario and had issue one son (whose children include the model, Jodie Kidd) and one daughter; died 18 November 1988;
(1.2) Sir (John William) Max(well) Aitken, 2nd bt. (and 2nd Baron Beaverbrook) (q.v.);
(1.3) Hon. Peter Rudyard Aitken (1912-47), born 22 March 1912; educated at Westminster School; served in WW2 as Capt. in Royal Fusiliers (wounded); married 1st, 1934 (div. 1939), Janet Ruth Murrenne, daughter of Prof. Murray Macnell of Dalhousie, Nova Scotia and had issue one daughter; married 2nd, 1942, (Marie) Patricia (who m.2, 1948 (div. 1956) Richard David Raft Lycett Green (d.1969)), elder daughter of Michael Joseph Maguire of Melbourne (Australia) and had issue two sons; died 4 August 1947, aged 35, following a fall from a yacht.
He purchased Cherkley Court, Leatherhead, Surrey in 1911; after his death his widow lived there until her death; it then passed to the Beaverbrook Foundation which sold it in 2011.
He died 9 June 1964 and and his ashes were buried at Newcastle, New Brunswick, Canada, on 25 September 1964; administration of effects in England with will annexed, 9 September 1965 (estate in England £379, 530). His widow left an estate of £891,267 when her will was proved in 1997.
Aitken, Sir (John William) Max(well) (1910-85), 2nd bt. (& 2nd Baron Beaverbrook). Elder son of Sir William Max(well) Aitken (1879-1964), 1st bt. and 1st Baron Beaverbrook and his first wife Gladys Henderson, daughter of Maj-Gen. Charles William Drury of Halifax, Nova Scotia, born 15 February 1910. Educated at Westminster School and Pembroke College, Cambridge; amateur pilot; entered RAAF 1935; served WW2 in RAF (ending as Group Captain, DSO DFC); MP for Holborn, 1945-50; entered family newspaper business 1946; succeeded father as Chairman of Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd, 1964; disclaimed the peerage for life in 1964; he was a power boat enthusiast and founded the Boat Show at Earls Court in 1954; Chancellor of the University of New Brunswick, 1964-82 (Hon. LLD, 1966). He married 1st, 26 August 1939 (div. 1944), Cynthia Helen Glencairn, daughter of Col. Hugh Glencairn Monteith DSO OBE and 2nd, 15 August 1946 (div. 1950), (Ursula) Jane (who m.3, 1951, Robert Crompton), younger daughter of Capt. Orlando Rudolph Kenyon-Slaney of Hatton Grange (Salop) and formerly wife of Peter Lindsay DSO, and 3rd, 1 January 1951, Violet (who was Chancellor of the University of New Brunswick 1982-93 and Chair of the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation), third daughter of Sir Humphrey Edmund de Trafford, 4th bt. and had issue:
(2.1) Kirsty Jane Aitken (b. 1947), married 1st, 1966 (div. 1973), Jonathan Derek Morley, younger son of Brig. Michael Frederick Morley MBE of Biddlestone Manor (Wilts) and had issue two sons; married 2nd, 1975, Christopher Martin Smallwood, son of Canon Graham Marten Smallwood of Brook House, Childswickham (Worcs) and had issue one daughter;
(2.2) Lynda Mary Kathleen Aitken (b. 1948), married 1st, 1969 (div. 1974), Nicholas Saxton, son of Richard Saxton of La Jolla, California; married 2nd, 1977, Jonathan James Dickson and had issue two sons;
(3.1) Sir Maxwell William Humphrey Aitken (b. 1951), 3rd bt. and 3rd Baron Beaverbrook, born 29 December 1951; educated at Charterhouse and Pembroke College, Cambridge; with Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd., 1973-77; director of Ventech Healthcare Corporation, 1983-86, 1988-92 and Chairman, 1986, 1988-92; Chairman of the Beaverbrook Foundation, 1985-date; a Lord in Waiting (Gov whip), 1986-88 and Treasurer of the Conservative Party and the European Democratic Union, 1990-92; member of Council, Homeopathic Trust, 1986-92; chairman of National Association of Boys Clubs 1989-92; winner of European GT Racing Car Championship, 1998; Honorary Air Commodore of 4624 Squadron, RAAF, 2004 and Air Vice-Marshal and Hon. Inspector General, RAAF, 2009; married 19 July 1974 Susan Angela, daughter of Francis More O'Ferrall of Hermonges, Rudgwick (Sussex) and has issue two sons and two daughters;
(3.2) Laura Aitken (b. 1953), journalist, formerly on staff of The Tatler; married 1st, 1984 (div. 1989), David Victor Mark Mallet, son of Sir Victor Mallet GCMG CVO and had issue one son; married 2nd, 1992, Martin K. Levi, powerboat designer, son of R. Levi and had issue one son and one daughter.
He lived in a house on the Cherkley Court estate.
He died 30 April 1995, aged 75.
Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, successive editions, and Landed Gentry, 1925, p. 506; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherkley_Court; http://www.cherkleycourt.com/background.php; Oxford Directory of National Biography entry; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Aitken,_Lord_Beaverbrook; http://www.lib.unb.ca/225/tributetoLordBeaverbrook.html
Location of archives
Aitken, Sir Max (1879-1964), 1st Baron Beaverbrook: correspondence and papers 1910-64 (Parliamentary Archives, BBK); Canadian correspondence and papers 1902-64 (Lib & Archives Canada MG27 IIG1; Univ. of New Brunswick Lib, no ref.)
Coat of arms
Argent, two barrulets wavy azure between in chief two maple leaves slipped and in base a thistle eradicated gules, a bordure sable charged with eight bezants.