Ashley, Wilfrid William, Baron Mount Temple 1867-1938, politician, was born in London 13 September 1867, the only son of (Anthony) Evelyn Melbourne Ashley [qv.], by his first wife, Sybella Charlotte, second daughter of Sir Walter Rockcliffe Farquhar, third baronet. He was a grandson of Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury [qv.]. He was educated at Harrow and Magdalen College, Oxford, and served in the Ayrshire Militia (1886-1889), the Grenadier Guards (1889-1898), and the Hampshire Militia (1899-1903).
By family tradition, environment, and temperament it was inevitable that Ashley should enter upon a political career. In addition to military training and experience he was an extensive traveller, and had made a particular study of the social, economic, and political life of the United States of America and the British Dominions and Colonial Empire. Through his great-grandmother, Lady Palmerston, he inherited Broadlands, and as high steward of Romsey he could claim the town as part of his estate. He was par excellence the county squire and the country gentleman; with a lofty sense of public duty he became justice of the peace, deputy lieutenant, and alderman of the county of Hampshire. He became early attached to the conservative party, but always entertained broad and discriminating views on imperial and foreign affairs during his whole political life. He was elected member of parliament for Blackpool at the general election in 1906, and sat for that constituency until the general election of 1918, when he became member for the Fylde division of Lancashire until 1922. In that year he transferred to the New Forest division of Hampshire, which he represented until 1932, when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Mount Temple, of Lee, in the county of Southampton.
Ashley served as a conservative whip in the years preceding the war of 1914-1918, and from 1914 to 1915 commanded the 20th battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment. In 1915 he became parliamentary private secretary to the financial secretary to the War Office. He first reached office in 1922 when he became parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Transport, and in the following year was appointed under-secretary of state for war. From 1924 to 1929 he was minister of transport, and was responsible for the reorganization and practical operative structure of that ministry. He planned the introduction of the round-about scheme of one-way traffic in London and the larger provincial cities. He was for several years chairman of the Anti-Socialist Union and president of the Navy League, and was one of the founders of the Comrades of the Great War, from which arose the national movement of the British Legion. In 1924 he was sworn of the Privy Council.
The Irish estate, Classiebawn, on the west coast of Ireland, also inherited from Palmerston, received Ashley's constant attention. He was twice married: first, in 1901 to Amalia Mary Maud (died 1911), only child of Sir Ernest Joseph Cassel [qv.], and had two daughters, the elder of whom, Edwina, married Lord Louis Mountbatten (later Admiral Earl Mountbatten of Burma); secondly, in 1914 to Muriel Emily, elder daughter of the Rev. Walter Spencer, of Fownhope Court, Hereford, and formerly wife of Arthur Lionel Ochoncar Forbes-Sempill, fifth son of the seventeenth Baron Sempill. He died at Broadlands, Romsey, 3 July 1939 and the peerage became extinct.
What has been said of the previous owner of Broadlands may be applied with more justice to Ashley, that he possessed pluck combined with remarkable tact, unfailing good temper associated with firmness almost amounting to obstinacy.
In addition to a picture and a crayon drawing of Mount Temple in childhood by Edward Clifford there are also at Broadlands a crayon drawing by Eva Sawyer, a picture by Mrs. Blakeney Ward, and another by Emil Fuchs.
The Times, 4 July 1939
Contributor: P. J. Hannon.