David Grenfell

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The Right Honourable
David Rhys Grenfell
Member of Parliament
for Gower
In office
Preceded by John Williams
Succeeded by Ifor Davies
Personal details
Born 16 June 1881
Penyrheol, Swansea, U.K.
Died 21 November 1968(1968-11-21) (aged 87)
Political party Labour

David Rhys Grenfell PC, CBE, LlD (16 June 1881 – 21 November 1968) was a Welsh Member of Parliament. He represented the Gower constituency for the Labour Party from 1922 to 1959.

Early life[edit]

Grenfell was born on 16 June 1881 at Penyrheol, Gorseinon, Swansea, one of ten children of William Grenfell (born in Blaenavon Monmouthshire) and his wife Alice, the daughter of William Hopkins of Aberavon. Grenfell's grandfather, John Grenfell, settled in Blaenavon where he became a coal miner, having been born in SancreedCornwall. Grenfell's paternal grandmother, Hannah, was born in the Parish of Llangyfelach Swansea.

He was educated at Penyrheol Board Elementary School; but in 1893, at the age of 12, started work underground in the coal mines.[1] While working he attended night school to study mining, geology and mathematics; and in 1903 he went to Nova Scotia, where he worked with people of many nationalities and laid the foundation of his wide knowledge of languages. While in Canada he passed his Under Managers Certificate; and in 1905 he returned to Britain, where he obtained First Class Managers qualifications.

In December 1905 Grenfell married Beatrice Morgan, daughter of John and Emma Morgan of Mountain Cottage, Brynteg, Gorseinon. They had one daughter, Eileen born in 1907, who was unmarried.

Political career[edit]

Grenfell continued to work underground until 1916, when he was appointed the miners agent for the Western Region of the South Wales Area. He became active in the local Labour Party in 1916; and in 1920 he was adopted prospective candidate for the Gower constituency. He was elected Member of Parliament (MP) in a by-election in 1922, and held the seat until 1959.

"DR", as he was known, was a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Betting, a member of the Parliamentary Administration Committee, and served on the Forestry Commission and on the Royal Commission of Safety in Mines in 1936. He became chairman of the Franco/British Parliamentary Party, for which he was later invested with the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He acted as chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party, and in Winston Churchill's coalition government during World War II he served as Secretary for Mines at the Board of Trade, 1940-45. In this role he made the case for the nationalization of the coal industry, and reiterated the call in his 1947 book, Coal.[2]

From 1948 to 1951 Grenfell was Chairman of the Welsh Tourist Holiday Board; and while holding that post he saw Gower become the first area of Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

In 1951 Grenfell was sworn of the Privy Council.

In 1953 Grenfell became the first Labour politician to hold the title "Father of the House", as the longest continual serving Parliamentarian. This was despite Churchill being older and entering Parliament before him, as Churchill had broken his time as a MP.[3]

Grenfell held office in many local bodies, and was made an Honorary Freeman of Swansea for his contribution to public service. A bust of him now stands in the Swansea Guildhall.

Grenfell was succeeded as Member of Parliament for Gower by his former agent, County Councillor Ifor Davies of Gowerton, who continued to hold the Gower seat until his death in 1982.

Grenfell's brother, William John Grenfell, was for a number of years a member of Llwchwr Urban District Council, representing the Pontybrenin ward.

Grenfell resided at "Ardwyn", Carnglas Road, Sketty, Swansea. He died on 20 November 1968 aged 87, and is buried at Brynteg Cemetery, Gorseinon. His wife, Beatrice, who was a county magistrate, died in 1976 followed by their daughter Eileen in 1992.


  • Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6. 


  1. ^ Swansea University, David Rhys Grenfell collection Archives Wales
  2. ^ Davies (2007), pg 334.
  3. ^ The Father of the House House of Commons Information Office
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Williams
Member of Parliament for Gower
Succeeded by
Ifor Davies
Preceded by
Hugh O'Neill
Father of the House
Succeeded by
Winston Churchill