William Henry Grenfell

Member of The Hundred

William Henry Grenfell (First Baron Desborough)
Birth and death
1855 - 1945
Profession details
Athlete, Sportsman, Politician
Related place
Alistair Grant

William Henry Grenfell, first Baron Desborough, (1855 - 1945) was an athlete, sportsman, and politician. Grenfell began as a Liberal, but defected to the Conservatives in opposition to Gladstone's second Irish Home Rule Bill. He returned to parliament as a Conservative in 1900. He and his wife, Ethel [Fane], became members of the social and literary salon called 'The Souls'. In 1905, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Desborough. His eldest son was the poet, Julian Grenfell, who was killed in the First World War in 1915. His second son Gerald William was killed two months later. His younger son Ivo George was killed in a car accident in 1926. He was an intrepid sportsman: He rowed for Oxford, rowed the Channel, swam the Niagara rapids, and climbed the Matterhorn. Later he headed numerous sports organisations: He was President of the Amateur Fencing Association, Marylebone Cricket Club, and the Lawn Tennis Association, as well as President of the London Olympics in 1908, and is regarded by many as the saviour of the modern Olympics. In addition, he was President of the Thames Conservancy Board for thirty-two years, constructing the channel and island in the Thames between Walton and Weybridge, which are named after him: 'The Desborough Cut' and 'Desborough Island'.

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