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Sir Robert Woolley Walden

Spalding’s forgotten Knight. 
Born in 1851 in Spalding, Lincolnshire, Sir Robert’s parents were Mark and Mary nee Woolley. Mark was a widowed baker residing on London Road in Spalding.
Robert was educated at Spalding Grammar School, then went to Leamington College.
He registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain on 22nd of May, 1872. By 1885, he had established his own business at 65 Elizabeth Street, Westminster, London, SW1. The shop front is listed, and the business still trades under his name today.
He was first knighted on the 17th of November in 1908 by the King of Sweden, being appointed Officer first class of the “Royal Order of Vasa”. This was the year that he was Mayor of the City of Westminster.
King Gustaf V & Queen Victoria of Sweden made a state visit to Great Britain in the Autumn of 1908. During their visit, 15 Royal Swedish Orders and 4 medals were awarded to British Citizens. On 18th of November, the Royal couple arrived from Windsor to Paddington station where they proceeded to the guildhall in London. At Oxford Circus, the Royal couple received addresses from the Mayors of Westminster, Marylebone, and Holborn.
The address given by Robert Woolley Walden was as follows:-

“We, the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors of the City of Westminster beg on behalf of the Citizens, to accord your majesties a most hearty welcome on the occasion of your visit to our City.

We trust your visit to our beloved King, Queen, and Country will strengthen still further the bond of friendship which exists between the Swedish and English Races. You have the happiness to rule over a law-abiding and contented people, who though descended from a Nation of heroes, are yet lovers of peace.

We rejoice to note the great increase of commerce between the two nations of late years, and it is our earnest desire that your Majesties may have a long, prosperous, and peaceful reign.”

Given under our Common Seal this 18th day of November 1908. 

(Swedish National Archives 1902 års dossiersystem, vol 3565 b)

It was for this address that Robert Woolley Walden received his first Knighthood.

In 1913, Robert Woolley Walden was appointed Chair of the Metropolitan Asylums Board (a body which ran the healthcare services in London for people with infectious diseases, the poor, and the mentally ill.) He kept this role until he stepped down after the War in 1919. It was during the War that his name was first put forward for a British Knighthood. One proposer was Liberal Unionist MP for St Pancras South and Mayor of Westminster 1902-03, Herbert Jessel (later Lord Jessel) in a handwritten letter to Lord Walter Long:

“My Dear Walter,

I am sorry to bother you but I believe that this is about the time that the lists are being prepared for January Honours. I enclose the dossier of R.W. Walden whom you know and who has been Chairman of the M.A.B. for the last four years. He has done yeoman service on the local bodies of Westminster & from the record you can see he has got to be head of every one. He is quite well off as he was in business as a chemist from which he retired, I believe, some years ago.
The real point about his case is that he is sixty two years of age and people do not get younger. What he wishes is to be made a Knight and I personally think that he well deserves it. He was I believe cut out of the list last time – not the only one as you know.I am still very busy here and there is always something new going on. Since July a process of counting (?) out and something like 1,200 recruits to be made into rough riders & grooms. Not an easy job with ex confectioners – bootmakers factory hands from the North of England but it has to be done. We have had also to send two squadrons abroad. France & Salonika & this means replacing them. Now we have received orders to train & condition horses for artillery as the reserve Brigades are not able to send the required number. However it is all very interesting & our turn over is wonderful. Hope you are fit & well.

Yrs ever H M Jessel

P.S . Let me have a reply. I can send Walker though I sincerely hope that it will come off.”
 (The Political Papers of Walter Hume Long, 1st Viscount Long of Wraxall, 1854-1924
Wiltshire & Swindon Archives 947/772)

A typed dossier was included:-

“Robert Woolley Walden, J.P Co. London
Member for past 16 years. Present and for the fourth time Chairman of the Board.

The work of the board and the responsibility of its Chairman and officials has never in its past history been more onerous or of more importance. Since the outbreak of war all the Board’s resources have been placed at the disposal in relief movements of national urgency.

Member Appeal Tribunal, County of London, including City of London – Deputy Chairman at F Section.

 METROPOLITAN WATER BOARD – Member for 9 years and Present Chairman of Water Examination Committee. POOR LAW WORK:- President Metropolitan Poor Law Conference – 1915.

Has served 17 years as a Guardian and for the seven of them as Chairman of the Board (three times for St George Hanover Square Union).
In the fusion of the three Unions within the City of Westminster he took the inceptive part and was largely instrumental in bringing the amalgamation into being. The creation of the larger Union has affected an annual saving of from £40,000 to £50,000. He still, in the fourth successive year, holds that position.
Chairman of the Mental Defective Committee, County of London.

CITY OF WESTMINSTER. Elected a member of the first Council in 1900, and subsequently Alderman. Mayor – 1908-9. During his mayoral term important work fell to be done in connection with the re-organisation of the Territorial Force, and the movement for the feeding of Necessitous Children.
Knight of the Royal Order of the Vasa (Sweden).

 Held commission as Captain in 1st Volunteer Battalion Royal Fusiliers – Brigade Cyclist Officer. NATIONAL RESERVE. Is a member of the Joint Committee. 1916”

The response from Lord Long:

“My Dear Herbert,

Many thanks for your letter. I had already included the name you mention on my list and I hope the result will be satisfactory this time.
I am very glad to hear you are getting on. You seem to be doing excellent work.

Yours ever Col. Walter H Long”

 As it was, Robert Woolley Walden did not receive his British Knighthood until the 4th of June, 1921.

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Sir Robert Woolley Walden

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