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British Industrial History

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Hudson Ewbanke Kearley

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Hudson Ewbanke Kearley, 1st Viscount Devonport, PC, DL (1 September 1856 – 5 September 1934) was a British grocer and politician. He founded the International Tea Company's Stores, became the first chairman of the Port of London Authority, and served as Minister of Food Control during World War I.

He was the tenth and youngest child of George Ewbanke Kearley (1814–1876) and his wife, Mary Ann Hudson.

He studied at Surrey County School (now Cranleigh School) and joined Tetley & Sons in 1872.

In 1876, Devonport founded a tea importing company, known as Kearley and Tonge, and began retailing his own goods in 1878.

In 1890, he had over 200 branches trading as International Stores and in 1895, both companies were combined to form International Tea Company's Stores and shares were offered to the public.

Hudson Kearley married Selina Chester in 1888. They had three children: daughter Beryl, and sons Gerald, 2nd Viscount Devonport, and Mark.

Devonport was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Devonport in the 1892 general election. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in 1901.

In 1903, he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, assisting the President of the Board of Trade, David Lloyd George. He was created a baronet, of Wittingham in the County of Buckingham, in 1908 and became a member of the Privy Council in 1909. He retired from the lower house after the January 1910 general election.

He played an important part in the passage of the Port of London Bill in 1908 and served as unpaid chairman of the Port of London Authority from 1909 until 1925.

He was elevated to the peerage as Baron Devonport, of Wittington in the County of Buckingham, in July 1910. It was reported in The New York Times that he declined to contribute to party funds in turn for the peerage, feeling that his party contribution and unpaid services in relation to the Port of London were great enough to warrant the distinction without payment. After proposing to submit the related correspondence to the press, no money was exchanged.

He was appointed as Minister of Food Control in December 1916 by Lloyd George and he submitted a proposal for compulsory rationing in May 1917, seemingly delayed as to protect the interests of retailers. He resigned on 30 May, and became Viscount Devonport, of Wittington in the County of Buckingham, in July.

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