Educated at Foyle College in Derry and at the East India Company College, Lawrence went to India in 1829 as a magistrate and tax collector in Delhi. In 1849 he became a member of the Punjab Board of Administration and negotiated a treaty with the Afghan ruler Dost Mohammed Khan. He later led the troops which recaptured Delhi during nthe Indian Mutiny. For this, he was created a baronet and received an annual pension from the East India Company of £2,000.
In 1859 he returned to England, but in 1863 was appointed Viceroy of India, holding the office until 1869. On his return to Britain he was raised to the peerage as Baron Lawrence, of the Punjaub and of Grateley in the County of Southampton.
When the first London School Board was elected in 1870, he became one of the representatives of elected for Chelsea. He was the first chairman of the board, serving from 15 December 1870 - 10 December 1873.
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