Acland Papers

Scope and Content

This collection contains the personal, political and literary papers of Richard Acland. The collection includes the following:

Files containing quotes collected by Acland; photocopied and original correspondence from Acland (including some with Hugh Lawson), 1940s-1983; literary papers including 'An un-named book: an argumentative autobiography', by Acland [post-1986], photocopy of Acland's diary, 1941-1944, typescript 'Personal political memoirs', Jan 1974, file labelled 'New book' containing typescript notes and photocopies of articles, 1980s, copy typescript of Greek diary, 1944-1945; books and pamphlets written by Acland, 1930s-1980s; articles, pamphlets, videos and books collected by Acland, 1920s-1980s; papers relating to radio broadcasts and lectures, 1947-1986; press cuttings', 1943-1987; papers relating to Court of Appeal documents (Isaac Churn and the Dalton Main Collieries Ltd and the Coal Mines Minimum Act 1912'; copies of The Commoner, Common Wealth political leaflet and flyers, Common Wealth Review, and other Common Wealth leaflets, information bulletins and reports, 1940s; the following undergraduate dissertations and postgraduate theses: Maureen Taylor, 'Common Wealth and the 1945 Chelmsford By-Election' (unpublished bachelor's dissertation, unspecified university,1991); Angus L.R. Calder, 'The Common Wealth Party 1942-1945' (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Sussex, 1968); Huw Richards, 'Common Wealth and the Left 1942-5: Impact of a New Party' (unpublished dissertation, level unspecified, Corpus Christi College, university unspecified, 1980); Gary McCulloch, 'The Politics of the Popular Front in Britain, 1935-1945' (unpublished doctoral synopsis, University of Cambridge, 1981).

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Richard Thomas Dyke Acland (1906-1990), fifteenth baronet, politician and benefactor, was born in Broadclyst, Devon, as eldest son of Sir Francis Dyke Acland, landowner and liberal politician, and his wife Eleanor Margaret. He was educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read philosophy, politics and economics. He then served as a lieutenant in the Royal North Devon Yeomanry.

He stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate for Torquay in 1929, and for Barnstaple in 1931, finally winning the latter seat in 1935. By the start of the Second World War, he had moved from conventional Liberalism towards a Christian socialist concern for the transformation of the privileged world in which he had grown up. His published works include Unser Kampf (1940), The Forward March (1941), What it will be like (1942) and How it can be done (1943).

Together with the author J.B. Priestley, he brought together the Forward March movement and members of the 1941 Committee to form the Common Wealth Party in July 1942. This party adopted a manifesto which was socialist, calling for public ownership and morality in politics. In defiance of the Labour-Conservative truce during the Second World War, it fielded candidates against the Government and succeeded in returning three Members of Parliament in by-elections. Acland led the party to its by-election victories: the Party had four MPs by 1945 and appealed to the modest professional middle classes, notably in the London and Merseyside areas. However, after widespread defeat in the post-war General Election of 1945, when only one Common Wealth Party member was returned, Acland resigned. The Party was dissolved, with many of its members joining Labour.

Acland married the architect Anne Stella Alford in 1936, and the couple had four sons. On the death of Richard's father in 1939, he succeeded in the baronetcy. He donated his family's substantial Devon estates at Killerton, Devon, to the National Trust in 1943. He returned to parliament as MP for Gravesend, Kent, in 1947, representing Labour. He resigned his seat in 1955 in protest against the development of the H-bomb, becoming senior lecturer at St. Luke's College of Education (now part of the University of Exeter) from 1959-1974. He continued to write on education matters and world peace until his death at Broadclyst, Devon, in 1990.


The collection is retained in the original box order in which it was received.

Conditions Governing Access

Access restricted to correspondence files: please contact the Archivist for further details. Otherwise, usual EUL arrangements apply.


Biographical information has been taken extensively from the Dictionary of National Biography (2004) and the online catalogue of the Common Wealth Party Archive, held at Sussex University Library Special Collections (SxMs 9).

Other Finding Aids

A rough box list is available.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 15 April 2005 and revised 1 June 2005. Encoded into EAD on 1 June 2005.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying restricted to correspondence files: please contact the Archivist for further details. Otherwise, usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Deposited at Exeter University Library in 1993 via Hugh Lawson, MP and the Department of History.

Related Material

The following repositories also hold papers relating to the Acland family: Sussex University Library Special Collections (SxMs 9); Devon Record Office; Warwick University: Modern Records Centre; King's College London: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives; House of Lords Record Office: The Parliamentary Archives; British Library: Manuscript Collections; York University: Borthwick Institute of Historical Research.

Location of Originals

The original of the Acland copied diary contained within this collection is held at the University of Sussex Library.


It is not known whether this collection has been used as the basis for publication.