Runciman, Viscount Walter
1870 - 1949
Walter Runciman was born on the 19 November 1870, the only child of the ship-owner Walter (later Baron) Runciman (1847–1937). He attended Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in history in 1892.
Walter entered parliament in 1899, successfully contesting Oldham for the Liberal party at a by-election. He was defeated by Winston Churchill at the general election of 1900. He was re-elected to the Commons in a by-election at Dewsbury in 1902. He served successively as President of the Boards of Education (1908-11), Agriculture (1914-16) and Trade (1914-16). In January 1916 his department took over the building of merchant ships. He lost his seat in 1918, which allowed him to focus on his father’s shipping businesses. By 1928 he was back in parliament as MP for St Ives, and in 1931, when the National Government was formed, he was re-appointed to the Board of Trade. He was removed from office following the formation of a new government by Chamberlain in 1937 and elevated to the peerage as first Viscount Runciman of Doxford. The title was taken from the country house at Doxford, Northumberland, which the Runcimans had bought, in 1909.
Runciman’s major act of philanthropy was a £75,000 donation in 1927, more than half of the £143,000 raised to construct a major extension to the Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary. This extension is still in use and forms a major part of the current hospital.
The Runciman family connection with the North East has proved enduring. His grandson, Lord Garry Runciman, is a well-known sociologist and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He received an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University in 2012.