The Stevenson Papers

Scope and Content

The collection comprises correspondence, notes of meetings and for addresses, diaries and newspaper cuttings relating to Lord Stevenson's public career between 1919 and 1925, in particular the organization of the British Empire Exhibition of 1924. There is a file of obituary notices appearing on his death.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Stevenson, Baron Stevenson of Holmbury (1873-1926), was born in Kilmarnock on 2 April 1873, and was educated at Kilmarnock Academy. He joined John Walker & Sons, the local distillers, and worked his way up to the position of Managing Director. Under his guidance the company prospered.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Stevenson offered his services to the Government gratuitously in any capacity in which he might be useful, and on the formation of the Ministry of Munitions under Lloyd George in 1915 he was appointed Director of Area Organization. In 1917 he was made Vice-Chairman of the Ministry of Munitions Advisory Committee, and in 1918 the member of the Munitions Council for ordnance. He was created a baronet in 1917.

After the war Sir James Stevenson was appointed Chairman of the Munitions Council s Committee on Demobilization and Reconstruction. From 1919 to 1921 he served as Surveyor-General of Supply to the War Office and as a member of both the Air Council and the Army Council. During 1919-20 he was Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Civil Aviation. In 1921 he was appointed Personal Advisor on Commercial Affairs to the Secretary of State for the Colonies - then Winston Churchill - a post which he held until 1923. During this term he served as Chairman of the Rubber Investigation Committee which produced the Stevenson plan to restrict the output of the rubber industry. In 1922 he was created GCMG.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography 1922-1930 (1937, pp. 810-11), The most striking example of Stevenson's powers of organization, however, was his management of the British Empire Exhibition, held at Wembley in 1924, and reopened the following summer. When it was decided to hold this great display, the biggest effort of the kind hitherto attempted in Great Britain, Stevenson was chosen to be the chairman of the Exhibition board. Exhibits from every part of the British Empire were collected and there was hardly any industry or art which was not represented. Wide interest was, of course, aroused, and the exhibition proved, as was expected, the event of the summer. The control of this vast enterprise, with all its various sections, was in the hands of Stevenson ... Furthermore, Stevenson's initiative and support ensured the successful reopening of the exhibition for a second year, whereby added stimulus was given to the growing sentiment of trading within the Empire .

Sir James Stevenson allied himself to no political party but worked for all governments alike with the same impartial energy. He was created Baron Stevenson of Holmbury in 1924. He died at Holmbury St. Mary, Surrey, two years later. Though twice married, he left no children and the barony became extinct.

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

These papers were preserved in Lord Stevenson's family until 1979 when they were presented to the University by Mrs P. Johnstone of Lewes.


Prepared by John Farrant, August 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.