John Wolfenden, Baron Wolfenden

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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.[2]

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 and became a don at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1929. John Wolfenden was the headmaster of Uppingham School (1934–1944) and Shrewsbury School (1944) and chairman of various government committees which mostly focused on education and problems with youth.

He became Vice-Chancellor of University of Reading in 1950 and during this period wrote two books, Family Affair and The Steele Age, both part of the series of 'Take Home Books'.

Wolfenden was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1942, and was knighted in 1956.[3]

Wolfenden chaired an independent committee initiated by the Central Council of Physical Recreation in 1957, which investigated the role of various statutory and voluntary groups in sport in the UK. The committee published its report in 1960 and it remains an influential work in its field.[4]

In 1969, he was appointed as director of the British Museum, a post that he left in 1973. He was created a life peer on 12 July 1974 with the title Baron Wolfenden, of Westcott in the County of Surrey.[5]

He was the father of Jeremy Wolfenden, foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and British spy.[6]

Thoughts and ideas[edit]

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


  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. ^ The London Gazette: no. 40829. pp. 4075–4076. 13 July 1956.
  4. ^ "Sport and the Community". Central Council of Physical Recreation. 2 September 1960. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 46352. p. 7918. 24 September 1974.
  6. ^ French, Philip (24 June 2007). "We saw the light, but too late for some". The Observer. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 

External links[edit]