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Godfrey Benson, 1st Baron Charnwood

Godfrey Rathbone Benson, 1st Baron Charnwood (6 November 1864 – 3 February 1945) was an English author, academic, Liberal politician and philanthropist.

Benson was born in Alresford, Hampshire, the fourth son of William Benson, a barrister, and Elizabeth Soulsby Smith. The actor-manager Sir Frank Benson and the designer William Arthur Smith Benson were his brothers. He was educated at Winchester and Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1887 with a First in literae humaniores, and would later become a Philosophy lecturer at Balliol. He was called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1898.

Benson was involved in Liberal politics and represented Woodstock in the House of Commons from 1892 to 1895, when he was defeated. He then unsuccessfully stood in St. Pancras West in 1900 and Worcestershire West in 1906. He served as Mayor of Lichfield between 1909 and 1911. In the latter year Benson was raised to the peerage as Baron Charnwood, of Castle Donington in the County of Leicester.

Lord Charnwood was the author of many works, including two biographies, Abraham Lincoln (1916) and Theodore Roosevelt (1923). He was also involved in charitable work with the deaf and disabled, becoming the first President of the National Institute for the Deaf from 1924 until 1935.


He married Dorothea Mary Roby Thorpe, daughter of Roby Thorpe, in 1897. They had four children including Hon. Eleanor Theodora Roby Benson; John Roby Benson (2nd Baron Charnwood) and Antonia Mary, Viscountess Radcliffe; Dorothea died in 1942. Charnwood died in London in February 1945, aged 80, and was succeeded in the barony by his second but only surviving son John.


  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
  • Lundy, Darryl. "FAQ". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
  • N.I.D.Annual Reports 1924–1935

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