John Wolfenden, Baron Wolfenden

John Frederick Wolfenden, Baron Wolfenden, CBE (26 June 1906, Swindon, Wiltshire – 18 January 1985, Guildford, Surrey[1]) was a British educationalist probably best remembered for chairing the Wolfenden Committee whose report, recommending the decriminalisation of homosexuality, was published in 1957. He was headmaster of Uppingham and Shrewsbury.[2]

Early lifeEdit

He was the son of George Wolfenden and Emily Hannah Gaukroger, both born in Halifax, Yorkshire. George Wolfenden became an official of the West Riding Education Authority based in Wakefield, Yorkshire, where John attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. He won a scholarship to Oxford.

Professional lifeEdit

Having studied in Oxford, Wolfenden became a don at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1929.

John Wolfenden was the headmaster of Uppingham School (1934–1944) and Shrewsbury School (1944–1950) and chairman of various government committees which mostly focused on education and problems with youth.

In 1950 he became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading and found time to write two books, Family Affair and The Steele Age, both part of the series of 'Take Home Books'.

In 1957, Wolfenden chaired an independent committee initiated by the Central Council of Physical Recreation which investigated the role of various statutory and voluntary groups in sport in the United Kingdom. The committee published its report in 1960, and fifty years later it was still an influential work in its field.[3]

In 1962 the Privy Council appointed Wolfenden as Chairman of the Council for the Training of Health Workers and the Council for the Training in Social Work, two bodies established by the Health Visiting and Social Work (Training) Act 1962.[4]

In 1969, Wolfenden was appointed as director of the British Museum, a post he retired from in 1973.

He was the father of Jeremy Wolfenden, foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and a British spy.[5]

Thoughts and ideasEdit

In his essay The Gap—The Bridge, Wolfenden discusses the problems with institutional dichotomy.


Wolfenden was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1942, and was knighted in 1956.[6]

He was created a life peer on 12 July 1974 with the title Baron Wolfenden, of Westcott in the County of Surrey.[7]


  1. ^ "Wolfenden, John Frederick". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/31852. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Wolfenden Report Full Text" (PDF).
  3. ^ "Sport and the Community". Central Council of Physical Recreation. 2 September 1960. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  4. ^ Ministry of Health, Circular 24/62, 19 October 1962, Copy held by Kendal Archives, WC/W/A1568/Box 9/W/2/1
  5. ^ French, Philip (24 June 2007). "We saw the light, but too late for some". The Observer. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  6. ^ "No. 40829". The London Gazette. 13 July 1956. pp. 4075–4076.
  7. ^ "No. 46352". The London Gazette. 24 September 1974. p. 7918.

External linksEdit