Follow your noses


1912 - 1962
Presented to CARL BARTON by BARTON TRANSPORT LIMITED in recognition of
his outstanding services in the ROAD PASSENGER TRANSPORT INDUSTRY - 4th July 1962

Besides me as I write is the rather generous, gold, long service award given to my grandfather, Mr Carl Barton, on the occasion of his completing a half of century (he eventually racked up an incredible 73 years as an employee!) of service to our old family firm, now known simply as 'Bartons'. It was, as most people always say, the bus company. We have not been a bus company now for exactly 25 years.

At first glance the inscription can be taken at face value: 1912 to 1962 is certainly 50 years; and I happen to know that the 4th of July was significant as it was his birthday. I also know he was a Director here at Bartons when he died in 1985. What the gift does not relate is the extraordinary feat he completed by starting work, according to the award, aged 11. He was born on July 4th, US Independence Day, in 1901.

Now if that was not significant enough, he used to tell his eldest child Jean (who I was chatting to on the 'phone today) that in truth he started work with lighter duties when he was aged 9, which could figure as that was after the family moved to Beeston from Derbyshire in 1908, for what was to become the stunning success of their venture into timetabled motor bus services.

charabancCarl told his daughter Jean that when the authorities occasionally questioned his age and why he was not at school, his reply had been 'that he'd been born in the East, in Constantinople, where they don't 'av birth certificates'. This was not true in the slightest - he did have a birth certificate, clearly showing he was born at Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire, which is certainly East, but not that far East.

That empire grew from one vehicle bought 'on the drip' to what was accepted to eventually become the largest independent bus operator in Western Europe - a claim that may or may not be hyperbole, but I have never seen challenged. What is more is that this was initially achieved with no major external financial backing, no public sector involvement save plenty of interference, and no blueprint of what they were trying to achieve, nor I suspect, any fixed idea of what precisely that was, save 'Civility and Service' - the old Company motto.

The Barton family that moved here to the Beeston and later Chilwell area consisted of the parents, Thomas Henry Barton and Mary (nee Elson) who were then in their early forties, and 8 children, which were four boys and four girls ranging in age from 20 to 2 years old. Papers that have only emerged in the last few months (this written in May 2014) show that although there existed massive respect for the father's extensive endeavours in making his idea of motor buses work during the preceding decade, there was also a realism that a change of luck might be required. His ventures were not then thought of as a resounding success, even by his family.

That change of luck that did come was, I believe, the input and labours of all the family, wife, boys and girls, all that could in fact be mustered to help. T.H.Barton had created his own workforce - but the family decided that the business should not be named after him, and never, to this day, has it been (although history has always given him the lion's share of the credit).

Youth was quite possibly one of the main key's to their success, as would have been 'beginner's luck' as being literally among the very first on the planet to throw themselves at an un-invented industry. Think if you will for a parallel in the young 'geeks' who were most responsible for the massive influence that personal computers had at the end of the very same century. Many were little more than children themselves, and many dropped out of education as their novel ideas outpaced the scope for their instruction by their elders.

And they were not in any way short of courage; for they took the responsibility of delivering safely and on time many thousands of people to their schools, their work or their leisure.

At Bartons, Chilwell it may well be time for youth to have its head once again. The present staff are of an age where the scene has been set by us for the potential of a fascinating future: our novel approach to the hosting and sometime provision of Events. From late spring 2014 we are cranking back up to speed the area now simply known as Bartons in Chilwell for a whole range of exciting projects, especially after the final opening of the Nottingham Express Transit Tram on our doorstep (a route originally planned for the period after 1903, until our buses came along). The new tram is due to be operating at the end of this year, with a stop right beside us.

I would hope anyone coming along to build on this Events idea would learn from the people who have come before us and that they should not be fearful that they do not know precisely what they will be creating.

Follow your noses, I'd say, using common sense (which is far from common) and ignoring received wisdom (which, you will have guessed I'm going to say, is rarely wise).

And the best of Barton luck to them.