NOEL-BAKER, Philip (1889-1982)
Plaque erected in 1992 by English Heritage at 16 South Eaton Place, Belgravia, London SW1W 9JA, City of Westminster
Philanthropy and Reform, Politics and Administration, Sport
PHILIP NOEL-BAKER 1889-1982 Olympic Sportsman Campaigner for Peace and Disarmament lived here
The building also bears a GLC plaque to Lord Robert Cecil.
Nobel Prize-winner Philip Noel-Baker was both a statesman and a sportsman. A medallist in the 1920 Olympics, he was also a committed campaigner for peace and disarmament and was deeply involved in the foundation of the League of Nations and the United Nations.
Noel-Baker’s former home at 16 South Eaton Place bears not one, but two blue plaques – a rare sight. It was Noel-Baker himself who suggested the erection of the first plaque, to his friend and fellow Nobel Prize-winner, Viscount Cecil.
Noel-Baker lived at nearby 43 South Eaton Place from the 1920s, but moved to live with Cecil at number 16 around the time of the Second World War. During this period he acted as private secretary to Cecil, who judged that the younger man possessed ‘almost every intellectual gift that a politician can desire coupled with unsparing devotion to the cause of peace’.
Noel-Baker took over the lease on number 16 upon Cecil’s death in 1958, and inherited, among other things, Cecil’s favourite chair. Noel-Baker’s own plaque now rests below that of his friend.
SPORT AND PEACE
Born Philip John Baker in Brondesbury Park, London, he was a finalist in the 1912 Olympics and, in 1920, captain of the British Olympic team and a silver medallist in the 1,500-metre race. He retained a profound belief in the positive role that sport could play in fostering good international relations.
During the 1920s Noel-Baker – who adopted the additional surname following his 1915 marriage to Irene Noel – held a chair in international relations at the University of London and was involved in the work of the League of Nations. Having been elected to Parliament in 1929, he went on to hold several ministerial portfolios in the post-war Labour government, including Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (1947–50). Writing in her diary in 1936, Noel-Baker’s contemporary Virginia Woolf concluded ‘Phil Baker shd do half what he does, and should drink wine’.
In 1959, a year after the publication of his most famous book, The Arms Race: A Programme for World Disarmament, Noel-Baker was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ennobled in 1977, he died at number 16 five years later.