Articles tagged with: University of Nottingham


T.H.Barton OBE – what would he say?

Categories // Bartons News

Mr Malcolm Webb wrote eloquently and justifiably in your last edition, lamenting the tram’s extension to Chilwell causing the destruction of trees, homes and a farm, and asking Trent Barton

‘Just think if your great-grandad was here, what would he say to you?

th barton obeI believe Mr Webb is referring to T.H. Barton, and as one of his very many great grandsons and great granddaughters, I am probably as qualified of any of his descendents would be to know what he might say.

Especially as I have the singular privilege of writing from THB’s own office desk and chair, in the head-quarters building he built, the fourth generation Barton doing the managing director’s job he created, and with his genes in my blood, and many of his possessions around me.

In my opinion he would say:

‘ Some of the fine and ancient farmland over which the tram will enter Chilwell was my dear eldest son’s, Tom’s; bought when the bus business we built up from nothing together finally had the money to pay him properly for the previously 20 or more years of freely invested toil.’

The cherished farm was sadly to be compulsory purchased after the Second World War for less than it had been bought for; cynically, the council then used the land for residential development.

Of the houses on High Road Chilwell and Chilwell Road he would say,

‘Goodbye to my garden at 58, where I fired up experimental engines; goodbye to my dear daughter’s land at 38, 40 an 42, goodbye to the low tubular metal fence that children to this day walk along holding their mother’s hands in front of Barton House, and the long lost front gardens of our houses beside Barton House. And goodbye to Mary’s and my old home and our old head office on the corner of Ellis Grove, where my family of 10 moved to Beeston from my dear, native Derbyshire hills. Where the girls made stockings to support the boys and the buses in their infancy, when we had no money but just a good idea and indomitable determination.’

‘And what of my old Garage and Works, amongst the biggest the country ever saw, where redevelopment has been consistently resisted by the local Council since 1947 when they said it was ‘premature’.

‘If town centre brownfield sites are not required for development, then surely no possible argument can be made for building on green fields? Stand up to them lad, you’re a Barton.’

Of central Beeston, a town described in the 1920s as a ‘beautiful residential town’ he would say

‘See what your grandiose town planning got you here’

Of University Boulevard, now desecrated, THB would say this:

‘Remember when Alderman Huntsman, (who was Jesse Boot’s solicitor) came to me and persuaded me to give up the option I had to buy Highfields House, because together Boot and Huntsman had a great plan, which was eventually to become the University of Nottingham, Highfields Park (‘for the people of Nottingham, forever’) and University Boulevard. ‘

‘And I gave up that option to my respected friend in return for just a charitable donation, because their idea was an even grander one than mine - but happily included the building of the road I wanted so my buses would not have to grind their weary way up Adams Hill.’

He would look the current trustees of Highfields Leisure Park Trust in the eye and get an answer to this:

‘What on earth have you allowed to happen to Jesse Boot’s Great Gift to the People of Nottingham?’

‘Where has the Leisure Park at Highfields gone?’

‘How can it be that it has been built upon?’

‘What money the trust must have made from this! Where is that money now?’

But he would also make this point:

Barton motor buses were freely chosen in vast numbers over trams and trains by passengers when they were given the option to use their own money as they saw fit. The service was, and was always intended to be, ‘the cheapest and the best’. Even now, 23 years on after the company left the industry they had been pioneers in creating, people still remember with real affection the level of service that had been consistently provided for generations. And the rewarding, happy jobs provided for local people in their thousands.

So if Thomas Henry Barton OBE was here now (and if you were with me as I sit late at night in a silent building he built, that operated for nearly 80 years, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, through wars, strikes , an earlier Great Depression and an abdication, you’d find it hard to believe he is not here, I believe he’d say this:

‘The business we in Beeston built up, although it is no longer ours, will continue, and with deserved local support, to prosper. It is a superb service, far in advance of anything even I had envisaged with my foresight when I set up with one vehicle with solid tyres and open sides.  

That the tram was conceived in 1988 by politicians not transport operators, and then we were destabilised and picked off, is history. To build the tram was inevitable as the people concerned will never learn. Do not waste your breath to discuss the matter; it was ever going to be thus. No protests would have prevented it; protests would have just used up valuable resources and energy and disheartened us.

So let the City build it, using money other than our own.

Let it be built quickly and efficiently and well, and with not the slightest thought of hindrance from us.

And, as the once Queen of the Midlands creaks under its mountains of debt, debt that is to be foisted without choice on future generations of businesses and children as yet unborn, let Beeston build itself up, free from such folly.

Let Beeston be strong, confident, defiant.

And when the moment is right and they see the financial result of their vanity, and come to us to ask us to join up with them to pay for their ill-conceived strategies, we’ll say ‘No thanks, we’re from Beeston, a fine old town. We like our buses, thank you very much, we pretty much invented them, you see, with help from a strange, dear old chap called Barton who washed up here out of the blue with his family in 1908, and changed the way we lived out of all recognition and for the better’

But if you find you want to see how we do things around here, to see our fine old town and the exuberant renaissance we are experiencing, by all means come. You will be most welcome.

Feel free to use your tram – that is, of course , if you find you can afford it’


Simon Barton
Managing Director Bartons plc (b 1960 Beeston)      

pp    T.H. Barton OBE
Managing Director Barton Transport Limited (b 1866 Duffield)

Barton House, Chilwell, Nottinghamshire