William Richard Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield GBE CH FRS (10 October 1877 – 22 August 1963), known as Sir William Morris, Bt, between 1929 and 1934 and as The Lord Nuffield between 1934 and 1938, was a British motor manufacturer and philanthropist. He was the founder of Morris Motors Limited and is remembered as the founder of the Nuffield Foundation, the Nuffield Trust and Nuffield College, Oxford. He took his title, Lord Nuffield, from the village of Nuffield, Oxfordshire where he lived.
Morris was born in 1877 at 47 Comer Gardens, a terraced house in the Comer Gardens area of Worcester, about 2 miles (3 km) north-west of the centre of Worcester, England. He was the son of Frederick Morris and his wife Emily Ann, daughter of Richard Pether. When he was three years old his family moved to 16 James Street, Oxford.
Upon leaving school at the age of 15 Morris was apprenticed to a local bicycle-seller and repairer. Nine months later, after his employer refused him a pay increase, aged 16 he set up a business repairing bicycles in a shed at the back of his parents' house. This business being a success he opened a shop at 48 High Street and began to assemble as well as repair bicycles, labelling his product with a gilt cycle wheel and The Morris. Morris raced his own machines competing as far away as south London. He did not confine himself to one distance or time and at one point was champion of Oxford (City and County), Berkshire and Buckinghamshire for distances varying between one and fifty miles.
He began to work with motorcycles in 1901, designing the Morris Motor Cycle, and in 1902 acquired buildings in Longwall Street from which he repaired bicycles, operated a taxi service, sold, repaired and hired cars. He held the agency for Arrol-Johnston, Belsize, Humber, Hupmobile, Singer, Standard and Wolseley cars. In 1910 he built new premises - described by a local newspaper as The Oxford Motor Palace - changed his business's name from The Oxford Garage to The Morris Garage and still had to take more premises in Queen Street.
In 1912 he designed a car, the bullnose Morris and using bought-in components (including engines and axles from USA) began to build them at a disused military training college in Cowley, Oxford. The outbreak of World War I saw the nascent car factory largely given over to the production of munitions - including 50,000 minesinkers for the North Sea Minefield - but in 1919 car production revived rising from 400 cars in that year to 56,000 in 1925. Morris pioneered the introduction to the United Kingdom of Henry Ford's techniques of mass production. During the period 1919–1925 he built or purchased factories at Abingdon, Birmingham, and Swindon to add to those in Oxford.
In February 1927, in competition against — amongst others — its creator, Herbert Austin, Morris paid £730,000 for the assets of the collapsed Wolseley Motors Limited which became his personal property. Wolseley were at this stage in fairly advanced development of an overhead camshaft 8 hp car, which he launched as the first Morris Minor in 1928. The original MG Midget, launched in 1929, was based on the Minor.
When major component suppliers had difficulties he purchased them on his own account. His American engines were now made under licence for him by Hotchkiss in Coventry. When in 1923 they were unwilling to expand production Morris bought their business and called it Morris Engines Limited. It would become Morris engines branch when he later sold it to Morris Motors. Again when back-axle manufacturer E. G. Wrigley and Company ran into financial difficulties he bought and reconstituted it as Morris Commercial Cars Limited to manufacture an expanded truck and bus offering. Following the same policy he bought the manufacturer of SU Carburettors in 1926.
Impressed by American all-steel bodies he persuaded Edward G. Budd of Budd Corporation to enter a joint venture with him called Pressed Steel Company which erected their large factory at Cowley opposite Morris's own and with a connecting bridge in 1926. But the two business tycoons had each met their match. Eventually in 1930 the High Court ended their disagreements by obliging Morris to surrender his and his colleagues' membership of the Pressed Steel board and all Morris holdings and Morris lost all the capital he had invested in the venture.
In 1938, Morris purchased the bankrupt Riley (Coventry) and Autovia companies from the Riley family and quickly sold them to his own Morris Motors Limited, with the addition of Wolseley Motors Limited later that year. After he was ennobled as Baron Nuffield the whole gallery of all his personal enterprises – he was the most famous industrialist of his age – became known as the Nuffield Organisation.
The Supermarine Spitfire was a technically advanced aircraft. Though ordered by the Air Ministry in March 1936 by early 1938 no single plane had been made so a vast new factory at Castle Bromwich was ordered by the Air Secretary and Morris, now Lord Nuffield, placed in charge of it. He had claimed he could produce 50 Spitfires a week but by May 1940, the height of the Battle of France, not one Spitfire had been built at Castle Bromwich. That month Lord Beaverbrook was placed in charge of all aircraft production, Lord Nuffield was sacked and the plant handed over to Vickers, Supermarine's parent company.
Morris Motors Limited merged with Austin Motor Company in 1952 in the new holding company, British Motor Corporation (BMC), of which Nuffield was chairman for its first year.
Morris retired as a director of BMC on 17 December 1952 at the age of 75, taking on the title of honorary president instead. He was succeeded as chairman by Leonard Lord. As honorary president, he attended his office regularly and advised his colleagues.
Morris was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1918, created a baronet, of Nuffield in the County of Oxford, in 1929 and raised to the peerage as Baron Nuffield, of Nuffield in the County of Oxford, in 1934. In 1938 he was further honoured when he was made Viscount Nuffield, of Nuffield in the County of Oxford. He was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1939, a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1941 and a Companion of Honour (CH) in 1958. He was appointed Honorary Colonel of 52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery on 4 June 1937 and continued that role with its postwar successor, 452 HAA Regiment.
Morris married Elizabeth Anstey on 9 April 1903 — they had no children, and he disbursed a large part of his fortune to charitable causes. In 1937 he gave £50,000 to fund the expansion of the Sea Cadet Corps. In 1937 Lord Nuffield donated £60,000 to Birmingham University for the Nuffield building, to house a cyclotron. In December 1938 he offered to give an iron lung (see Both respirator) made in his factory to any hospital in Britain and the Empire that requested one; over 1700 were distributed. He also founded the Nuffield Foundation in 1943 with an endowment of £10 million in order to advance education and social welfare. He also founded Nuffield College, Oxford. On his death the ownership of his former Oxfordshire home, Nuffield Place and its contents, passed to the Nuffield College who opened it to the public on a limited basis. Although a sale had been mooted, it has now passed to the National Trust and is open to the public on a regular basis. He is also commemorated in the Morris Motors Museum at the Oxford Bus Museum. Morris also has a building named after him at Coventry University, at Guy's Hospital London and a theatre at the University of Southampton. His home in James Street now has a blue plaque. He died in August 1963, aged 85. The baronetcy and two peerages died with him as he was childless. He was cremated, and his ashes lie in Nuffield churchyard, beside his wife's.