Sir Henry Norman, 1st Baronet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry Norman
Personal details
Born(1858-09-19)19 September 1858
Died(1939-06-04)4 June 1939 (aged 80)
Political partyLiberal Party
Spouse(s)Ménie Muriel Dowie
Florence Priscilla McLaren
ChildrenNigel Norman
Henry Norman

Sir Henry Norman, 1st Baronet PC JP (19 September 1858 – 4 June 1939) was an English journalist and Liberal Member of Parliament and government minister. Norman was educated privately in France and at Harvard University, where he obtained his B.A. For several years he worked on the editorial staff of the Pall Mall Gazette and later joined the editorial staff of the Daily Chronicle, being appointed Assistant Editor of the latter in 1895. He retired from journalism in 1899. During this time he travelled widely in Canada and the United States and in Russia, Japan, China, Siam, Malaya and Central Asia. Much of the material included in the two volumes mentioned in the description was amassed during these tours. He was knighted in 1906,[1] and made a baronet in 1915.[2]

Family and education[edit]

Norman was born in Leicester, the son of Henry Norman, a merchant and local radical politician. Norman was educated at Leicester Collegiate School and Grove House School and later studied theology and philosophy at Leipzig and Harvard University. His family were Unitarians in religion and Norman first embarked in a career as a preacher but he gave up this calling and his religion on his return to England.

In 1891 he married author Ménie Muriel Dowie (1867–1945) but they divorced in 1903 on the grounds of her adultery with a family friend, Edward Arthur Fitzgerald.[3] Norman was awarded custody of their son Henry Nigel St Valery Norman who was born in 1897.

In 1907 he married Florence Priscilla McLaren (1884–1964), the daughter of the wealthy industrialist and Liberal MP, Sir Charles McLaren. They had three children.

In 1922 he purchased Ramster Hall, Chiddingfold, Guildford, Surrey with Lady Norman.[4]


Norman became a journalist working for the Pall Mall Gazette and the New York Times. As a journalist he was famous for uncovering the truth behind the Dreyfus Affair. He was on the staff of the Daily Chronicle from 1892, becoming assistant editor. Norman travelled extensively in the East, where he took a number of photographs that are held at Cambridge University.[5] Later he founded and edited the magazine The World's Work (vols 1-42 1902-1923).


He was appointed Assistant Postmaster-General in 1910 and his interest in international communications led to a number of appointments related to wireless and telegraphy, among them Chairman of the War Office Committee on Wireless Telegraphy 1912, and Chairman of the Imperial Wireless Telegraphy Committee of 1920, the latter convened to draw up a complete wireless scheme for the Empire.[6] He was an early advocate of wireless broadcasting, opening the All British Wireless Exhibition at the Royal Horticultural Hall, Westminster in 1922 at which he predicted the ubiquitous uptake, to a very sceptical press, of the technology into all homes.[7]

In other business, Norman was a director of a number of companies connected to the coal mining and iron trades industries.

World War I[edit]

Sir Henry was the Munitions Inventions Department's permanent attaché to the French Ministry of Inventions.[8] At the end of the war Sir Henry got involved in the detailed planning for a proposed transatlantic flight using a F.B.27. Vickers Vimy. This planning included the route to be flown and of course, the hangar facilities and the provision of fuel needed for preparation of the aircraft in Newfoundland.[9]


Sir Henry Norman

Norman was a Liberal Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South from 1900 to 1910, and for Blackburn from 1910 to 1923.[10] He was an advocate for a number of causes, notably women's suffrage.[11] He was created Baronet of Honeyhanger in the Parish of Shottermill in the County of Surrey, in 1915. In 1918 he was admitted to the Privy Council. In January 1910 he was appointed Assistant Postmaster General, a position which fitted well with his interests in wireless communications. He sat on the War Office Committee on Wireless Telegraphy in 1912. In 1914, he became the first President of the Derby Wireless Club, founded in 1911. He was Chairman of the Imperial Wireless Telegraphy Committee from 1919, (The Norman Committee), which recommended wireless communications covering a range of 2,000 miles.[12] He contributed to government committees including chairing a Select Committee on Patent Medicines (specifically advertisements for them and fraudulent claims), on rent restrictions, on betting duty and on industrial paints. He championed the rights and regulation of motorists in the House of Commons even though he had himself been fined for speeding (30 mph) under a scheme he himself had advocated to the Royal Commission.[13] Norman was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Surrey.

Norman was a supporter of David Lloyd George, organising the Budget League in support of his People's Budget in 1909–10, personally representing Lloyd George in France on a number of occasions during the First World War, and helping organise the government's campaign during the "Coupon Election" of 1918.[2]

Selected writings[edit]

  • An Account of the Harvard Greek Play (1881)
  • The Preservation of Niagara Falls (1882)
  • The Real Japan (1892)
  • The Peoples and Politics of the Far East (1895)[14]
  • The Treatment and Training of Disabled and Discharged Soldiers in France (1917)
  • All the Russias (1902)
  • Will No Man Understand? a play, (1934)
  • Bodyke : A Chapter in the History of Irish Landlordism (1887)


  1. ^ The London Gazette, 28 December 1906 (issue 27980), pp. 9142–9145.
  2. ^ a b "Henry Norman". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/61020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ French, Patrick. "Norman, Sir Henry, first baronet (1858–1939), journalist and politician". ONDB. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  4. ^ "History of Ramster Hall in Surrey - Weddings".
  5. ^ "Sir Henry Norman Far East collection, circa 1890 (Y302E)". Cambridge Digital Library. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  6. ^ "BRITAIN TO LINK UP EMPIRE BY WIRELESS; Imperial Committee Recommends System of Generating Energy by Thermionic Valves" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Wireless in Every Home". The Observer. 1 October 1922.
  8. ^ Mills, Steve (2019). The Dawn of the Drone: from the back room boys of the Royal Flying Corps. Havertown: Casemate. p. 125. ISBN 9781612007908.
  9. ^ Mills, Steve (2019). The Dawn of the Drone: from the back room boys of the Royal Flying Corps. Havertown: Casemate. p. 140. ISBN 9781612007908.
  10. ^ "Sir Henry Norman". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  11. ^ "Sir Henry Norman and Women's Suffrage". The Manchester Guardian. 4 March 1912.
  12. ^ "Norman Committee's Scheme". The Manchester Guardian. 29 June 1920.
  13. ^ "Sir Henry Norman Fined: penalty for exceeding the speed limit". The Observer. 14 July 1907.
  14. ^ Henry Norman (1 January 1895). "The Peoples and Politics of the Far East: Travels and Studies in the British ..." Scribner – via Internet Archive.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South
1900January 1910
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Blackburn
December 19101923
With: Phillip Snowden 1910–1918
Percy Dean 1918–1922
Sydney Henn 1922–1923
Succeeded by
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Honeyhanger)
Succeeded by