Arthur Godley, 1st Baron Kilbracken

John Arthur Godley, 1st Baron Kilbracken, GCB (17 June 1847 – 27 June 1932), was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat and British civil servant and the longest serving, and probably the most influential, Permanent Under-Secretary of State for India.[1]

Arthur Godley
Arthur Godley in later life.jpg
Lord Kilbracken in later life
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
In office
Prime MinisterWilliam Ewart Gladstone
Preceded byMontagu Corry
Succeeded byEdward Walter Hamilton
Personal details
John Arthur Godley

(1847-06-17)17 June 1847
Died27 June 1932(1932-06-27) (aged 85)
Sarah (Sarina) James
(m. 1871)
RelativesHugh Godley
John Robert Godley
Charlotte Godley
A. D. Godley
Alexander Godley
EducationRadley College
Rugby School
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
AwardsGCB (1908)

Early lifeEdit

Godley painting by Mary Townsend (July 1851)

Arthur Godley was the only son of John Robert Godley, a colonial reformer, and Charlotte Godley, a letter-writer and community leader. From April 1850 to December 1852, he was with his parents in New Zealand; his father has become to be regarded as the founder of Canterbury.[2][3] Godley Jr. was painted by Mary Townsend in 1851; the original is held by Canterbury Museum.[4] He studied at Radley, Rugby, and Balliol College, Oxford (where he won the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse).


His first important role was acting as Assistant Private Secretary to William Ewart Gladstone, then Prime Minister, during the years 1872 to 1874 and called to Lincoln's Inn bar in 1876.[1] He was elected a fellow of Hertford College, Oxford for the period 1874 to 1881. In 1880 Godley was appointed Commissioner for Inland Revenue, a position he held till 1882. Appointed Under-Secretary of State at the India Office in 1883, he remained there for 26 years, retiring in 1909. He was a member of the 'Royal Commission on Indian Finance and Currency' in 1913.[1]

He was bestowed a GCB in the 1908 Birthday honours list,[5] and on 8 December 1909 he was raised to the peerage as The Baron Kilbracken, of Killegar in the County of Leitrim.[6]

His autobiography, Reminiscences of Lord Kilbracken, was published in 1931, the year before he died.[7]

Personal lifeEdit

Lord Kilbracken was a first cousin of the classical scholar A. D. Godley.[8] He was married to Sarah (Sarina) James daughter of 1st Baron Northbourne on 26 September 1871 until her death on 13 September 1921. The union bore 2 sons and three daughters.[9] The baronetcy was inherited by his eldest and only surviving son, Hugh.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Hesilrige 1921, p. 515.
  2. ^ Hughes, Beryl. "Charlotte Godley". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  3. ^ Hensley, Gerald. "Godley, John Robert". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  4. ^ "Painting: John Arthur Godley". Canterbury Museum, Christchurch. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  5. ^ "Page 4642 | Supplement 28151, 23 June 1908 | London Gazette | The Gazette". Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  6. ^ "No. 28317". The London Gazette. 14 December 1909. p. 9514.
  7. ^ Kilbracken 1931.
  8. ^ "Part 1: A. D. Godley, Doyen of Magdalen College, Oxford". Anglo Celt. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  9. ^ "Person Page". Retrieved 12 February 2022.

Book citedEdit

Government offices
Preceded by Permanent Under-Secretary of State for India
Succeeded by
Preceded by Principal Private Secretary
to the Prime Minister

Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
Baron Kilbracken
Succeeded by