Robert Alstead

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Robert Alstead

Robert Alstead OBE JP (23 October 1873 – 9 September 1946) was a self-made businessman in the clothing trade and a Liberal Party politician in the United Kingdom.

Family and education[edit]

Alstead was born in Upholland, Lancashire, the son of a joiner and carpenter. He was educated at Wigan Elementary School and Wigan Mining Technical College.[1] In 1896, he married Sarah Ann Deakin of Wigan.[2] He and his wife had 7 children, 6 boys and a girl.[3]


Alstead started life as a newsboy on a railway book stall at the age of 10.[4] He became a self-made businessman. He was a sauce and pickle manufacturer in the 1890s, then moved into the clothing trade, eventually owning a chain of shops tailoring for men in the Wigan area and founding Robert Alstead, Ltd, woollen manufacturers and clothing manufacturers.[5]


Local politics[edit]

Alstead was an elected member of Wigan Town Council from 1913–1929 and was Mayor of Wigan in 1926–27. He was a governor of Wigan Grammar School and a governor of the Wigan Mining Technical College between 1913–1932. He also served as a Justice of the Peace.[6]


Alstead unsuccessfully contested the Wigan parliamentary constituency at the 1918 general election.

He next contested Altrincham in Cheshire at the 1922 general election. The Liberals had not contested Altrincham at the previous election in 1918 when a Labour candidate challenged the sitting Unionist. Despite this disadvantage, Alstead was easily able to push the Labour candidate into third place;

General Election 1922 Electorate 45,085
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Sir Collingwood George Clements Hamilton 19,361 53.8 -18.9
Liberal Robert Alstead 11,692 32.5 n/a
Labour George Benson 4,930 13.7 -13.6
Majority 7,669 21.3 n/a
Turnout 35,983 79.8 +11.3
Unionist hold Swing n/a

Another General Election took place a year later, fought on the issue of Free trade v Protectionism. Across the country there was a swing away from the Unionists and in Altrincham this helped Alstead, as the only challenger, to take the seat. He was the first Liberal to win Altrincham since January 1910.

General Election 1923 Electorate 45,871
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Robert Alstead 19,046 54.2 +21.7
Unionist Sir Collingwood George Clements Hamilton 16,081 45.8 -8.0
Majority 2,965 8.4 29.7
Turnout 35,127 76.6 -3.2
Liberal gain from Unionist Swing +14.9

With only a Labour minority government in office, another General Election was called a year later. With the Unionists regaining ground across the country, Alstead was defeated at Altrincham.

General Election 1924 Electorate 47,253
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Cyril Atkinson 24,439 61.0 +15.2
Liberal Robert Alstead 15,654 39.0 -15.2
Majority 8,785 22.0 30.4
Turnout 40,093 84.8 +8.2
Unionist gain from Liberal Swing +15.2

After 4 years of Unionist majority government which included a General Strike, the Liberal Party, now led by David Lloyd George, were challenging strongly again and Alstead had hopes of regaining Altrincham. However, this time, Alstead faced a Labour candidate as well as a Unionist, making winning the seat too difficult.

General Election 1929 Electorate 69,607
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Cyril Atkinson 28,512 50.7 -10.3
Liberal Robert Alstead 18,475 32.9 -6.1
Labour Alfred James Dobbs 9,242 16.4 n/a
Majority 10,037 17.8 -4.2
Turnout 56,229 80.8 -4.0
Unionist hold Swing -2.1

He did not contest the 1931 general election, when Atkinson was returned unopposed as a supporter of the National Government. Alstead did not stand for Parliament again, although he was prospective Liberal candidate for Preston in 1934-1935, but pulled out the month before the 1935 election.[7]


He received the Order of the British Empire in the 1939 New Year's Honours List.[8]


Alstead died at Gathurst, near Wigan, on 9 September 1946, aged 72 years.


  1. ^ Who was Who, OUP 2007
  2. ^ Lady’s Who Who: a List of Names of Those Women who Play a Prominent Part in Society, Art, the Professions, Business, Etc. Pallas Pub. Co., 1938 p22
  3. ^ Who was Who, OUP 2007
  4. ^ The Times House of Commons 1929; Politico’s Publishing 2003 p70
  5. ^ Who was Who, OUP 2007
  6. ^ Who was Who, OUP 2007
  7. ^ The Times, 25 October 1935, p16
  8. ^
  • Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918-1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir George Clements Hamilton
Member of Parliament for Altrincham
Succeeded by
Cyril Atkinson