Walter Runciman Papers

Archive Collection
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 186 WR
  • Dates of Creation
      [c.1860]-1949, 1989
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      128 m plus 8 m of newspaper cuttings [The papers were recently conserved which greatly increased the physical size of the collection]

Scope and Content

The papers of Walter Runciman mainly relate to his political career, but also include material concerning his personal and professional life. The papers include material relating to Hilda Runciman in her capacity as MP and a society and political hostess and material relating to Runciman's father, particularly to the family shipping businesses.

The papers relating to Viscount Runciman cover his election campaigns and his political career, during the years 1894-1938, and in particular they cover the different political offices he held. The collection includes correspondence of a political, business and social nature, and a large number of cabinet documents, concerning for example, education, the treasury, shipping and domestic and foreign trade issues.

There is additional material (deposited in 1989) consisting of Hilda Runciman's diaries (1905-06, 1910-1911,1930-1940) and some documents relating to Sir Walter Leslie Runciman (1900-1989).

Administrative / Biographical History

Walter Runciman (1870-1949) was the only son of Baron Walter Runciman of Shoreston (1847-1937) and Anne Lawson. He was born in South Shields, County Durham on 19 November 1870. He was educated at South Shields High School and Trinity College, Cambridge where he gained a third class in the history tripos of 1892. After leaving Cambridge he joined his father's shipping business, but soon became involved in politics and he unsuccessfully contested the Gravesend seat as a Liberal candidate in 1898. In 1899 he won a seat for the Liberals in Oldham, but lost the seat in 1900. By 1902 however he became MP for Dewsbury and mainly remained in politics for the rest of his life, until illness in 1937 forced him to retire with the acceptance of a peerage, becoming Viscount Runciman of Doxford; Doxford being the Northumberland estate he had inherited from his father.His political career was great and would have been exceptional if it were not for the set of circumstances that beset the Liberal Party in the early part of the twentieth century.In 1905 he took on the office of Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board; in 1907 he became Financial Secretary to the Treasury and in 1908 Asquith appointed him President to the Board of Education when the new cabinet was formed. He was later to become the President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (1911-14), President of the Board of Trade (1914-16, 1931-37) and an integral part of the Mission to Czechoslovakia in 1938. In 1916, however, he resigned along with the majority of Asquith's government, eventually losing his seat in 1918 and turned his attentions to his business interests. By 1924 he had gained a new seat at Swansea West and switched to St Ives in 1931 retaining this seat until his resignation.

His commercial interests were tied up with his father's businesses in Walter Runciman and Company, as managing director of Moor Line Limited and North Moor Steamships Limited, and he was the director and member of several shipping chambers and associations.

He married Hilda Stevenson (1878?-1956) in 1898, the daughter of James Cochran Stevenson, the MP for South Shields, who became an MP herself for the constituency of St Ives in 1928. The papers also include material relating to Walter Runciman's father Baron Runciman. A gifted sailor, Runciman became a master mariner in 1871 and sailed in commercial vessels until he set up his own shipping business, Moor Line Limited. Runciman was also chairman of Walter Runciman and Company and took over the Anchor Line Limited, another shipping company, in 1935. He was at one time president of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom, the Liberal MP for Hartlepool 1914-1918 and a member of the Tyne Improvement Commission. He was an author of several books on the sea and gave part of the Northumberland coastline to the National Trust.He was created a baronet in 1906 and raised to the peerage as Baron Runciman of Shoreston in 1933.


The papers have been arranged mainly in chronological order with the correspondence fitted in with the chronological scheme.

Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to bona fide researchers; appointment in advance and proof of identity required.

Acquisition Information

The material was given to Newcastle University in 1969 by the Runciman family, additional items have been added since, in 1974, 1980, 1984 and 1990, however it is not expected that the archive will be added to in the future.


In 1997 the library was awarded a grant of 72,000 for the conservation of the papers from HEFCE's non-formula funding for research collections in the humanities initiative.

Description complied by Helen Arkwright, Manuscripts and Archives Librarian, August 2001.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue to the papers, produced in conjunction with the Historical Manuscripts Commission in 1973, available in the Enright Reading Room ref. : WRNational Register of Archives ref.: NRA 13873 RuncimanThe catalogue has indexes to subject, person and place names.

Conditions Governing Use


The library can provide photocopies (to a limit of 30 at any one time) for educational and private research purposes, provided the condition of the document does not prevent copying. Alternatively, photographic or digital images can be produced for the same research purposes. Please contact the Special Collections Librarian for further advice (email:


Permission to make published use of any material from Special Collections must be sought in writing from the Special Collections Librarian (email: and from the copyright owner if appropriate. The library will assist where possible with the identification of copyright owners, but the responsibility to obtain copyright clearance rests with the user.

Related Material

C.P. Trevelyan Papers - correspondence with Charles P. Trevelyan ref. CPT; National Register of Archives ref. : NRA 12238 Trevelyan


The political career of Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford (1870-1949) by Jonathan Wallace. 1995. [Ph.D thesis held at Newcastle University Library]

Geographical Names