Lord and Lady Bamford: who are the billionaire JCB-owning family linked to Boris Johnson?

Former prime minister reportedly living ‘rent-free’ in properties owned by Conservative donor’s wife

Lord and Lady Bamford
The Bamfords own properties in London and the Cotswolds
(Image credit: Luke Walker/Getty Images for Starlight Children’s Foundation)

Boris Johnson has reportedly been living in a luxury London property “around the corner from Harrods” that is owned by the wife of a wealthy Conservative donor, Lord Bamford.

Since being forced to stand down as prime minister last September, Johnson has reportedly been staying in a £20m Knightsbridge property belonging to Carole Bamford, the wife of JCB mogul Anthony Bamford, said The Independent.

The Mirror also reported that Johnson and his family made use of another Bamford-owned property since stepping down as PM, with Johnson, his wife Carrie and their son living in a cottage on Lord Bamford’s Daylesford estate in the Cotswolds.

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The paper claimed Johnson has been living “rent-free” in these properties since being ousted from No. 10 despite his earnings on the speech circuit amounting to “over the million pound mark”. Johnson has accepted some £40,000 worth of accommodation from Lady Bamford in the four months since he stepped down, the paper claimed, although it added that an aide said Johnson did pay “some” rent, but did not reveal exactly how much.

It’s not the first time Johnson has been linked to the billionaire mogul and his family. The Bamfords let Boris and Carrie use their 18th-century mansion, Daylesford House in Gloucestershire, as the venue for their wedding reception last summer, said The Guardian.

Who are the Bamfords?

Lord Bamford, a prominent Conservative peer and ardent supporter of Brexit, serves as chairman of construction equipment manufacturer JCB. The billionaire entrepreneur has been a significant donor to the Conservative Party for decades, and provided donations and gifts totalling “more than £10m” since 2001, said The Guardian.

In 2013, Bamford was made a life peer by David Cameron, having been knighted in 1990. He lent his support to Johnson’s successful bid for Conservative Party leadership in 2019.

Bamford, now 77, attended Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire – sometimes known as the “Catholic Eton” – going on to study at Grenoble University in France before taking over the family business in 1975, at the age of 30.

In 1974, he married Carole, described by the Financial Times as “a grammar-school girl from Nottingham” who had a career as a flight attendant before meeting Bamford.

The family have long rubbed shoulders with the UK’s most rich and powerful – making their close relationship with Johnson an unsurprising one.

In 2006, The Independent described the “yellow-digger tycoon” as having a “social standing virtually unrivalled in modern Britain”, with his “vast wealth” giving him “clout in aristocratic circles” as well as “influence in politics at the very highest level”.

The paper added that he was on “first name terms” with the then prime minister, Tony Blair, David Cameron and the Prince of Wales – now King Charles III.

His wife, Carole, was also said to be popular in exclusive circles, dining with “Joan Collins, Sir David Frost, and Nick Mason”, while “various Goldsmiths, Weinbergs and Rothschilds were said to have attended her lavish 60th birthday party”. Since 2002 she has run the luxury organic retailer Daylesford Organic from a 1,500-acre estate near Chipping Norton, which in 2020 reported profits of over £11m.

Where does their wealth come from?

The family’s “extraordinary” success story began in 1945 when Bamford’s father, Joseph Cyril Bamford – whose initials, JCB, make up the company name – began his business selling excavating machinery in Staffordshire, said The Independent.

The company thrived in the wake of the post-war construction boom, and by 1975, when Anthony assumed leadership, annual sales had reached £44m. Four years later, sales had risen to £120m and JCB had been successfully transformed into one of the most valuable private companies in Britain.

The last few years have been difficult for JCB, however, with business operations affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

The Sunday Times Rich List reported that profits “more than halved to £130.1 million in 2020, with turnover falling by almost 25 per cent to £3.1 billion”. Following the invasion of Ukraine, JCB suspended all operations in Russia, a move that is expected to further hit the company’s revenue. Nevertheless, the net worth of Lord Bamford and his family stood at £4.32bn in last May’s Rich List.

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 Sorcha Bradley is a writer at The Week and a regular on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. She worked at The Week magazine for a year and a half before taking up her current role with the digital team, where she mostly covers UK current affairs and politics. Before joining The Week, Sorcha worked at slow-news start-up Tortoise Media. She has also written for Sky News, The Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard and Grazia magazine, among other publications. She has a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London, where she specialised in political journalism.