Sir Josiah Charles Stamp (later Lord Stamp of Shortlands)

Josiah Charles Stamp was born in Kilburn, London, on 21 June 1880. He was the third of seven children (one of his brothers Dudley was to become at least as famous) of Charles Stamp who had managed a railway bookstall at Wigan, then owned a provision shop in London. He was brought up as a Baptist and was educated at Bethany House in Goudhurst and left school at 15. In 1896 he entered the civil service by examination and began as a boy clerk in the Inland Revenue. His progress was swift, but he had the energy to study for an external degree in economics.  and at 23 he was assistant inspector of taxes in Hereford: at 29 1st class inspector in London and at 36 assistant secretary to the Board of Inland Revenue. In 1903 he married Olive Jessie Marsh. He developed as one of Britain's leading economists, working with inexhaustible energy. When nearly 39 he left the civil service for business, in March 1919 becoming secretary and director of Nobel Industries Ltd from which Imperial Chemical Industries later developed. In January 1926 he became the first President of the LMSR ; Sir Josiah Stamp (later Lord Stamp of Shortlands) was a very able and successful man as his CV reveals. He had so many fingers in so many pies, however, that he was criticised for not (so the critics said) spending his time concentrating on LMSR problems. He was a Government adviser to many departments and would read learned papers to anyone anywhere, at the drop of a hat. He was not, however, experienced in the railway industry in any way and (like another ICI director some years later) thought that all large organisations could be approached in a similar manner. What he did not know, or if he did, would not accept, was that "A service industry such as a railway derives its efficiency more from that intangible thing, staff morale, than any other single source

Sir Herbert Walker said of Stamp: "[He] had a fine brain and he brought discipline to the LMS but he didn't know how to use it and he chose an American system which didn't work".

A. Pearson, an LMS man who was at the centre of affairs at Euston for many years, said "Stamp was a great believer in the ability to steer the show and also in the ability of the people on the show to work in a team. . . This was Stamp's mistake. He thought that to be able to work in a team was the best thing, the acme, the test of everything.. . If you got one that did not, that whs a misfit, he avoided him. He encouraged the agressive marketing policy pursued by Ashton Davies from 1932.

As an economist Stamp had been on the Dawes Committee in Germany and a party to the setting up of Deutsches Reichsbahn Gesellschaft — the state railway company reorganised on commercial lines and once removed from direct state control.

Stamp's judgement could be seriously flawed, however. In 1936 he had written to The Times arguing that Britain's universities should still send representatives to Heidelberg's 550th anniversary ceremony even though 40 Jewish lecturers had been sacked. He argued that this was not the University's fault but the responsibility of the Nazi government. Two years later, however, he was writing articles for Herman Goering's magazine Die Vierjahresplan and attended the Nuremburg Party Rally as a guest of Hitler.

Roland Bond in his Lifetime with locomotives (page 139) noted that Stamp was a kindly man who had the ability to put his less exalted staff completely at their ease. He had a remarkably retentive memory and great powers of observation. Bond fondly remebered the Memorial Service conducted by the Rev. George McLeoad at Glasgow Cathedral.

Stamp's important contribution to locomotive matters is always said to be his appointment of Stanier from 1st January 1932 in order to end feuding in that area once and for all. Rutherford argued that it should be pointed out, however, that Stamp was in charge for a full six years before this appointment was made and it indicates corporate procrastination more than decisive action.

In his Presidential Address to the Institute of Transport in 1929 entitled Scientific Research in Transport, Stamp again revealed his preference for intellectual solutions to problems and it was no surprise, therefore, when in 1930 Sir Harold Hartley CBE FRS, a Balliol don, became Vice-President (Works and Ancillary Undertakings) and Director of Scientific Research of the LMS. The appointment of the brilliant electrical engineer Fairburn in 1934 is an interesting reflection on Stamp's methods. Much of the above is due to Hamilton Ellis who castigates him for his teetolalism and (almost) for his vigorous Christianity. The latter was the inspiration for some of his writings. His bibliography is extensive. Ellis includes the following [he] "was a perfect example of the good puritan boy who made better, while having a geniality about him that was not generally associated with his type. His way to success was to develop his mind as a cerebral filing system, and to condition himself for maintaining a capacity for continual work...encyclopaedic memory...prodigious energy...". [KPJ: the bold type was added by myself: having been aware of his brother's work since being a teenager, he was amazed to find that the pair were brothers, although Hamilton Ellis's words would be equally apt for him.

He was created a GCB in 1935 and received a peerage in 1938. Lord Stamp, his wife and eldest son, Wilfred, were killed in a direct hit on their home "Shortands" situated in Bromley, during an air raid on the night of 16 April 1941. His brother was Sir Dudley Stamp, CBE, the famous geography professor, ecologist, and co-founder of the New Naturalist Series (and author of several titles in that series). One is tempted to ponder whether the father's involvement in a railway bookstall had led to the encouragement of his children to read extensively: certainly, both the Stamp brothers mentioned herein had an amazing ability in the written word, and this must have been based on an equal ability to digest information at an awesome rate.

Rutherford made some sharp comments in Backtrack 16 515 concerning his close ties with senior management on German railways, notably with Dr Julius Dorpmuller, his strong involvement in appeasement, etc, but notes that "Stamp was the saviour of the LMSR" as he welded the disparate parts together.

Sources: Ellis, C.H. The London, Midland & Scottish Railway in retrospect
Biography in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography by Beveridge revised by Jose Harris.

Nock, O.S. Railway enthusuast's encyclopedia


Railways. (with W.V. Wood). 1928.
Fundamental Principles of Taxation in the Light of Modern Developments (1921, rev. ed. 1936),
Financial Aftermath of the War (1930)
Christianity and Economics (1939).


Essery, R.J. and Harris, N. LMS reflections: a collection of photographs from the Hulton Picture Company. 1986.
Contains several interesting pictures: page 41 William Stanier "showing" Sir Josiah Stamp the turbine locomotive at Euston Station on 27 June 1935. Page 142: "human interest" picture of Lord Rutherford's grandson (Pat Rutherford) being presented with model of Jubilee locomotive by Stamp whilst standing on front of 5665 Lord Rutherford of Nelson presumably at St Pancras prior to departure for Derby on 10 December 1935 for openinng of LMS Research Laboratory. Page 81 posing in a buffet car with snack meal on 2 June 1932. Portrait of Stamp in his office on 1 February 1937 with his back to blazing coal fire (page 139) and on 12 July 1938 detonating explosion at Caldron Low Quarries from his office (same page). Also includes a brief biographical sketch.

Updated 2005-10-31