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Albert Stanley (Lord Ashfield)

Date of birth: 1874 Date of death: 1948 Lord Ashfield was born Albert Henry Knattriess, near Derby, in 1874. His father was a coach painter. The family emigrated to America when Albert was a child, and changed the surname to Stanley. Albert was educated in America and was keen to become an engineer. It was arranged for him to start working with the Detroit Citizens' Street Railway Company – a horse tram operator – when he was 14 years old. Meanwhile, he attended courses at technical college. His abilities and ambition helped Stanley progress rapidly and he was made general superintendent by the time he was 28.


Poster; Travel into the heart of the shopping centres, by unknown artist, 1908

Stanley joined the Street Railway Department of the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey as assistant general manager in 1903. By 1907 he had been appointed general manager and had built a reputation as one of the leading managers of urban transit in the United States. He was then approached by the American managers of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (U.E.R.L) and appointed general manager in 1907, and managing director in 1910.

Stanley's management style astutely focused on public relations and publicity. One of his first moves was to encourage use of a common recognisable symbol. He used the word 'UNDERGROUND', written with a large 'U' and large 'D', as part of an illuminated sign. This symbol was officially adopted in February 1908.

Portrait of Frank Pick (1878-1941), London Passenger Transport Board Vice Chairman and Chief Executive, 1931

Stanley had a forceful personality and adopted a tough leadership style. When he first arrived, the Underground Group was facing bankruptcy. He persuaded banks to lend the Group money and effectively eliminated competition over the next few years by bringing most of it into the Group. Stanley recognised the potential of an integrated transport system combining trains, buses and trams, and supported its development by his deputy Frank Pick.

Stanley was knighted in 1914 for services to London's passenger transport system. During the First World War, he was appointed director general of mechanical transport at the War Office. He resigned from the Underground Group in 1916 and successfully stood for parliament. As M.P. for Ashton-under-Lyne, he was made President of the Board of Trade. Stanley left the government in May 1919, returning to the Underground Group. He became chairman in February 1921. In the following years, Stanley negotiated with the London County Council, which ran the trams in central London. Although his attempts to agree some cooperative arrangements failed, Stanley remained committed to a non-competitive system of London-wide public transport.

Toy licence badge No. 3693 embossed L.P.T.B (London Passenger Transport Board), 1930s

Stanley was created Baron Ashfield of Southwell in 1920. He played a major part in the negotiations that led to the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board (L.P.T.B) in 1933. He became chairman, a position he held until his retirement in 1947. Stanley also held directorships in other companies, including I.C.I. and the Midland Bank. During the Second World War he was also chairman of the London Aircraft Production Group.

When the British Transport Commission (B.T.C) took over London Transport in 1948, Stanley was appointed a founder member. He died later that same year. His memorial at 55 Broadway, the Underground headquarters, is the simple inscription 'Creator of London Transport'.

Record used with permission from the Exploring 20th century project

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