Wakefield, Charles Cheers 1859 - 1941

English; British

(1859-1941) Viscount Wakefield, businessman

Charles Cheers Wakefield was born in December 1859, in Liverpool. After schooling at Liverpool Institute, he declined to follow his father into a safe civil-service job and instead joined a Liverpool oil-broking firm. Later he moved to the London office of an American petroleum company, where he was soon appointed manager for the British empire, a post which took him on several journeys round the world. His book, Future Trade in the Far East (1896), gained him a fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society.

In 1899 Wakefield started his own firm, C.C.Wakefield & Co., dealing in lubricating oils and appliances. At a time when the petrol engine was still in its infancy, he specialised in lubricants for locomotives and steam engines. But he also had the foresight to plan for a rapid expansion of the automobile market. The brand name of his products, Castrol, became known around the globe.

With Wakefield's success, in 1904 he was elected to the court of common council. He served as sheriff in 1907–8, and later became alderman. He was knighted in 1908. Despite all his wartime commitments, Wakefield served as lord mayor of London in 1915–16. He energetically promoted recruiting drives and war charities and visited the western front and the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. He received a baronetcy in 1917 and two years later was appointed CBE.

Between the wars Wakefield received a total of over £3 million from his company in dividends and salary; as a childless man he devoted the bulk of this sum to an impressive range of good causes. In the City of London, for example, he was a generous donor to the Guildhall Library and Art Gallery. He furthered the work of psychiatric treatment by acting as president and benefactor of the Bethlem and Bridewell Royal hospitals and the Mental Aftercare Association. St Thomas's and St Bartholomew's hospitals and the National Children's Home and Orphanage likewise benefited from his time and money. He was created Baron Wakefield in 1930 and advanced to a viscountcy in 1934, and he was appointed GCVO in 1936.

On the 17th February 1888, Wakefield married Sarah Frances (d. 1950), daughter of William Graham, bookkeeper of Wavertree, Liverpool. They had no children. He remained active in business until a month before he died, on 15th January 1941, at his home, Ashwell Lodge, Furzefield Road, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.