Henry David Reginald Margesson was born in 1890, the son of Sir Mortimer Margesson. He was educated at Harrow and Magdalene College, Cambridge. During the First World War, Margesson served as an Adjutant with the 11th Hussars, for which he was awarded the Military Cross. In 1916, he married Frances Legett, with whom he had 1 son and 2 daughters. The marriage ended in divorce in 1940.
From 1922-3 Margesson was the Unionist (Conservative) candidate for West Ham then for Rugby (1924-42). In 1931, he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury. Margesson served in the Conservative Chief Whips' Office for about 14 years and was Government Chief Whip from 1931-40, serving 4 Prime Ministers, Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill. As Chief Whip, Margesson sought to maintain government support through the debates on the Government of India Bill (opposition to which was led by Winston Churchill) and throughout Chamberlain's appeasement policy leading up to Word War II. From 1940-42, Margesson served as Secretary of State for War, after which he was made 1st Viscount Margesson of Rugby. He died on 24 December 1965.
Lord Margesson appears to have preserved very few personal papers. As John Hill put it "I found it extremely difficult to come across any record by or about him since almost all his whole political activity as Chief Whip was done on a verbal basis for fairly obvious reasons and no records were kept." (letter to Correlli Barnett, 28 February 1984). The small collection of Margesson's papers comprises correspondence and biographical material.
The Margesson papers in section 1 were deposited at Churchill Archives Centre by Lord Margesson's daughter, the late Hon. Mrs. Buchanan, on behalf of the family, in March 1967. In 1988 John Hill added the biographical material he had collected about Margesson which can be found in section 2.
Margesson's papers have been arranged in 2 series containing his correspondence, which has been put into chronological order, and biographical material about him.
The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.
Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.
Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of 1st Viscount Margesson of Rugby, MRGN
The National Archives holds Margesson's Private Office papers as Secretary of State for War (reference WO 259). The Bodleian Library, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, holds the Conservative Party Archive: Whip's Office records for 1923-1951 (reference WHIP).
Paper copies of the collection level description and catalogue are available at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, and at the National Register of Archives, London. They are also available on the Janus website http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk.
This collection description and catalogue were prepared by Natalie Adams of Churchill Archives Centre in January 2005, using information from the original catalogue to the collection (1970). Biographical details were obtained from the material contained in MRGN 2.