Worden, David (1948-)


  • Born 1948
  • Barnstaple Borough Councillor
  • North Devon District Councillor
  • Liberal/Liberal Democrats

David Worden was born in Liskeard, Cornwall, to parents who were farmers. His father was a Methodist preacher and an enthusiastic local Liberal, David remembers campaigning with his father from a very young age. He attended the local grammar school and from there went to Westminster College, Oxford to train to be a teacher.

At Oxford David was again involved in Liberal politics, arranging speakers for Young Liberals meetings by the likes of David Steel, campaigning in Abingdon, and even reporting on the Troubles from Belfast for the Methodist Recorder. On finishing university David returned to the West Country to teach in Barnstaple, before becoming head of Religious Education in Chulmleigh where he stayed for the rest of his career. He married and had three children.

David became Chairman of the Devon and Cornwall  Young Liberals, and in 1972 ran for Barnstaple Borough Council, motivated by a desire to make a difference to a deprived area of the town. He helped establish a strong team of Liberals who campaigned for the election of Jeremy Thorpe in the 1950s (see also David Verney [link] and David Butt [link]). Elected to North Devon District Council in 1974, he held his seat even after moving out of the town, before illness forced him to stand down from the Council. After his retirement as a teacher he was once again elected to North Devon District Council as a Liberal Democrat. Throughout this period he was still involved in the Liberal and Liberal Democrat parties, despite once being approached to stand as a Conservative parliamentary candidate. He still sits on the District Council, representing South Molton.


Transcript of clip

  • Clip 1: Liberalism and methodism

    With regards to your father, who inspired his politics?

    I think Methodism and Liberals went hand in hand in those days. All the members of the church I attended were good Liberals, the Tamlyn family in particular, who were quite an important family in that area, were all good Liberals.

    The link between Methodism and Liberalism is well known - what is that to you?

    I think non-conformism really. As a party, the Liberals could have gone out of existence, but there's always been that sort of group that are not wanting to necessarily conform, who want to think for themselves, and the Liberal party offers that alternative to the two parties who have been in power for such a long time.

  • Clip 2: Jeremy Thorpe in North Devon

    I stood in 1972, I was then chairman of Devon and Cornwall Young Liberals, and very involved in politics in an area where all the Labour candidates had lived and worked, which included an estate. It was called Trinity Ward. I was determined that the Liberals would take over and set out to do that. So I stood in 1972, it was a two-member ward. A Labour Councillor who had been Councillor for years just beat me, but I was second so I got elected onto the Barnstaple Borough Council in 1972. Then I stood for the District in 1974, and I topped the poll after that...I developed a team of about two hundred, not just for that particular ward, but because I was very involved with the Young Liberals we had over two hundred members in Barnstaple alone. We also set up branches in Broughton, South Molton, North Molton, Chulmleigh, Ilfracombe, it was a massive organisation in the end, which obviously helped Jeremy Thorpe get elected, because we did a lot of political things as well as lots of social things. We even produced our own magazine called 'Branch Line', which was about the different branches and what people were doing.

    Tell me about your memories of Jeremy Thorpe

    Jeremy was an absolutely amazing man. I remember when I came to North Devon first of all I met him, and then I didn't see him for abut six months, and he still remembered who I was and all about me, six months later. It was absolutely incredible, his ability to have that sort of memory. He was able to meet someone, remember their name, remember all about them, and that was one of the reasons he got on so well in this constituency. I remember how athletic he was in many ways. I remember him jumping over sheep pens, how athletic he was, he would just hurdle over them to meet people. He was just full of beans. Tremendous.

Interview Summary

Date of recording:    01/05/14
Interviewer:        Richard Foord

[00.00] Interviewer introduces David Worden, Councillor on North Devon District Council between 1974 – the present.  Family background in South East Cornwall: farming and as lay preachers in the Methodist Church.  [04.13] The interviewee’s earliest political memory: looking after / milking another farmer’s cows while his father helped others get to the polling station during the 1955 General Election.  [07.01] Political activism at Westminster College, University of Oxford, when the interviewee was studying for a teaching degree.  [08.31] Links between Liberalism and Methodism in Cornwall; a perception after 1945 that small businesses and smallholdings were best represented by the Liberal Party.  [13.36] Teaching at Pilton Community College and Chumleigh School.  [15.43] Standing for election to Barnstaple Borough Council in 1972, while Chairman of Devon and Cornwall Young Liberals.  Standing for election to the District Council in 1974 in Trinity Ward (now Forches), Barnstaple.  [18.58] The interviewee’s early work as a Councillor: creating a resident’s group; setting up community centres; delivering newsletters.  Membership of the Young Liberals.  The contribution of the Young Liberals to the re-election of North Devon MP Jeremy Thorpe (and later leader of the Liberal Party).  [24.13] The interviewee’s resumption of active political campaigning in 2006 and his election to North Devon District Council for South Molton in 2007.  [25.13] The challenge of deprivation in Trinity Ward and of the cuts being applied by Devon County Council (and by the Coalition Government) in 2014.  [29.22] Standing in County Council elections in South Molton / Witheridge and Chumleigh / Swimbridge in 2009 and 2013 respectively.  Being asked to stand as a Parliamentary candidate by the Conservative Party.  [31.06] The interviewee’s memories of Jeremy Thorpe MP – his athleticism: “hurdling sheep pens”.  The interviewee’s recollection of Thorpe’s unsuccessful campaign in 1979 after ‘rinkagate’ and subsequent campaigning in the General Elections of 1983 and 1987.  [37.40] Selection as a Parliamentary Candidate of the current Liberal Democrat MP, Nick Harvey.  The decline of political participation in Barnstaple and South Molton.  Changes to the way that politicians are perceived.  [43.18] The development of a food bank in South Molton.  [45.56] Relations with other political parties in North Devon.  The creation of an alliance in 2011 between independent councillors and Liberal Democrat councillors as the Executive of North Devon District Council.  [48.51] Prominent women in North Devon local politics.  [50.31] The Young Liberals as a social club in the 1960s and 1970s in North Devon.


  • Listen to David discussing why he believes the link between Liberalism and Methodism is so strong

  • David discusses Liberal party organisation in North Devon and the role of the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe

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