Prime Minister William Gladstone, 1889
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Overall: 17cm (6.9in) x 18cm (7.1in) x 10.5cm (4.2in)
Hewn and varnished pine, inscribed in ink, ‘This chip was cut in 1889 / By the Right Honble W.E. Gladstone / M.P.’.
Churchill had his cigar, Mrs Thatcher, her iconic handbag and Harold Wilson, his everyman pipe; but for four time Liberal prime minister W.E. Gladstone, the prop for which he was well known was the felling axe. As his great grandson recalled, ‘He lived much of his life in cities, but he was a countryman at heart and his absolute love was chopping down trees. It sounds a bit whacky nowadays but his hobby served two purposes. First, there were a lot of trees to be chopped on the family estate in Hawarden, and he was as good a person as any to perform this task …’ Many groups of the Liberal faithful made the excursions to Hawarden to be treated to a political harangues and witness the great man in action. As one biographer has commented, ‘Gladstone’s prowess as an axe-man and woodman was taking on something of the same cult status as [President] Lincoln’s respected skills as a rail-log splitter’. Moreover, Lord Randolph Churchill once quipped to Parliament, ‘The forest laments, in order that Mr Gladstone may perspire’.
Gladstone Tree felling at Hawarden
William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), nocturnal friend to fallen women and one of the greatest statesmen of his age, died in his bed at Hawarden Castle, Flintshire in May 1898. Gladstone was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He entered Parliament in 1832 as Member for Newark. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1852 and 1855; became Prime Minister in 1868 and passed the bill abolishing the purchase of commissions in the Army. He was Prime Minister again in 1884 when he passed legislation in continuation of the Great Reform Bills of 1832 and 1867, and by which the franchise was widened to include the agricultural labourer. Prime Minister again in 1886 when his Home Rule Bill for Ireland was defeated. In 1892 he was Prime Minister for a fourth time, whence his second Home Rule Bill suffered the same fate as his first