Obituary: Sir Maxwell Entwistle

T. F. J. Costigan
Thursday 03 March 1994 00:02 GMT

John Nuttall Maxwell Entwistle, solicitor and local politician: born 8 January 1910; qualified as a solicitor 1931; Notary Public 1955; Councillor, Liverpool City Council 1938-63, Leader 1961-63; Kt 1963; Councillor, Cumbria County 1979-82; married 1940 Jean Penman (died 1993; two sons); died 10 February 1994.

MAXWELL ENTWISTLE was instrumental in assisting business development in Liverpool and, as leader of the City Council, he played a leading role in the approval of the development plan for the city centre which helped to pull Liverpool out of the planning morass from which it had suffered since the blitz.

Entwistle was born near Bolton in Lancashire in 1910. When he was seven his father moved his successful dog-food business to Liverpool. The family lived in New Brighton, where Maxwell recalled seeing a boat torpedoed in the Mersey and the local ferry changing course to collect the survivors. For most of his life he lived near the shore on Merseyside. This love of the sea never left him and during the last week of his life he asked to be taken to see it one last time.

Entwistle went to Merchant Taylors' School in Great Crosby near Liverpool, where he was a moderate scholar and not interested in sport except athletics, for which he won the one- and five-mile cross-country races when he was 16. When in later years his house was burgled, above anything else he was most relieved that his two running cups had not been stolen.

In 1926 he became articled to a solicitor in Liverpool and qualified with honours in 1931 at the age of 21. He became a partner in Gee, French & Entwistle in 1934 but on 1 April 1940 he set up in practice on his own under the name of John Maxwell Entwistle. Shortly afterwards the name of the firm was changed to Maxwell Entwistle & Byrne, which it remains today.

From dealing generally with all aspects of the law (one client still remembers with gratitude his help with her claim for injuries suffered when she was blown off her bicycle by a German bomb), Entwistle came to specialise in property law. His forte was his quick grasp of matters financial and arithmetic. He anticipated at an early date the need for solicitors to lose their 'ivory tower' image, in taking his practice to the public through branch offices.

Shortly before he married Jean Penman in 1940 Entwistle became interested in local politics and he won his first election as the Conservative candidate in the Low Hill Ward of Liverpool in 1938 by a margin of 141 votes out of an electorate of 15,000. After the Second World War he continued to serve on the council and eventually succeeded Sir Alfred Shennan as the Conservative leader in 1956. The leader of the Liverpool Council was then Jack Braddock, husband of Bessie Braddock MP. The city was at that time represented by nine MPs, of whom six were Conservatives. Today there are no Conservatives MPs in Liverpool.

Entwistle always got on well with Jack Braddock and away from the party-political forum they would often support each other if it was for the good of Liverpool. They both helped to ensure that Ford brought car production to Halewood, despite serious unofficial strikes; another car manufacturer, Standard, came to Liverpool at this time and both companies greatly helped ease the serious unemployment.

In May 1961 the Conservatives won control of the Liverpool City Council and Entwistle was elected an Alderman and became Leader of the Council. Most of his proposals were carried out but Entwistle was always disappointed that later City Councils never completed the proposed Inner City Ring Road.

After the Conservatives lost control in May 1963 Entwistle stepped down as leader of the Conservatives, having been on the council for 25 years. He was knighted in 1963 for services to Liverpool City Council.

His only further political position in Liverpool was being President for some years of the Edge Hill Liverpool Conservative Association. In 1966 the association chose Michael Howard, the present Home Secretary, as their parliamentary candidate. Howard was then only 25 and not even on the Conservative Central Office approved list of candidates, but greatly impressed the selection committee. (Since 1983 he has been MP for Folkestone and Hythe.)

Entwistle was considered by both main parties to be fair and honest. He was not a tub-thumping politician but earned respect and support by obviously doing his best for the people of Liverpool. He brought much-needed new industry and jobs to the city, improved housing conditions and initiated a master development plan. He avoided the religious element of Liverpool politics and retired without any hint of scandal or corruption during his 25 years on the council.

Before leaving Merseyside he gave some woodland at Formby to the National Trust to help preserve the red squirrels. In 1988 Maxwell and Jean Entwistle were the principal benefactors of the new European sculpture gallery at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. He was bereft after his wife's death six weeks before his own but never complained and kept his sense of humour and good company until his last day.

(Photograph omitted)

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