Dr A W Barton

Dr Arthur Barton (1899-1976) was Head at KES from 1939 until 1950, when he became Headmaster at the City of London School, and was succeeded at KES by N L Clapton.

His father was Professor Edwin H. Barton (1858-1925) FRS, Professor of Physics, University College, Nottingham.

Obituary in the Times, Aug 76

Comments on Fr ReU from City of London School

Added by Brian Pollack on 24/09/2001



 Bad Result

 I was amused by Brian Pollack’s memory of a bad rugger result. I remember Arthur Barton giving sports results out at assembly and him reporting that a Colts 15 (again!) had lost to another school by something like 72-0. There was a general titter from the audience to which Barton flew into a rage saying “IT WAS NOTHING TO LAUGH ABOUT...” - happy days...

Added by Martin Lester on 20/12/2002     Year: 1961

Arthur Barton (head teacher)

At a cricket match down at Grove Park, he was talking to the team after a match and said to Tiff (Peer) “I was watching your balls swing through my binoculars”. The team fell about laughing and never stopped teasing Tiff

Google search on “Dr A W Barton”

Barton Soccer Referee

XI. Olympiad Berlin 1936 Football Tournament

7 August 1936 Poststadion, Berlin Att: 50,000 Ref: Dr. A.W. Barton (Eng)
HT: 1-0 NORWAY  2 (Isaksen 2) GERMANY 0

Norway: Johansen - Eriksen, Holmsen - Ulleberg, Juve(cap), Holmberg - Frantzen, Kvammen, Martinsen, Isaksen, Brustad.
Germany: Jakob - Munzenberg, Ditgens - Gramlich(cap), Goldbrunner, Bernard - Lehner, Siffling, Lenz, Urban, Simetsreiter.

11 August 1936  Olympia Stadion, Berlin (Semi final) Ref: Dr. A.W. Barton (Eng)
HT: 1-0 AUSTRIA 3 (Laudon, K.Kainberger, Mandl) POLAND  1 (God)

Austria: E.Kainberger(cap) - Kargl, Kunz - Krenn, Wallmuller, Hofmeister - Werginz, Laudon, K.Kainberger, Fuchsberger.
Poland: Albanski - Martyna, Galecki - Kotlarczyk II, Wasiewicz, Dytko - Piec, Musielak, Peterek, God, Wodarz.

THE F. A. CUP FINAL - 25th April 1936

Arsenal 1 (Drake) Sheffield United 0

Arsenal - Wilson, Male, Hapgood, Crayston, Roberts, Copping, Hulme, Bowden, Drake, James (Captain), Bastin.

Sheffield United - Smith, J, Hooper (Captain), Wilkinson, Jackson, Johnson, McPherson, Barton, Barclay, Dodds, Pickering, Williams.

Referee H Nattrass (Durham) Linesmen: J MWiltshire (Dorset) and Dr A W Barton (Amateur FA.)

Attendance 93,384


Barton at City of London School

 (Source: http://www.jcc.org.uk/news/gazette/). […] denotes omitted material not related to AWB.)

Letter from Adrian Hewlett (44-51)

I have only seen two editions of The Gazette, sent to me on my applying to rejoin the J.C.C. after a gap of nearly 50 years, but I am delighted to find this means of updating my knowledge of what goes on or has gone on at the School, and I look forward to learning a lot more.


Theo Johnson's comment on Dr A.W. Barton "I think this man must have had a charisma bypass at birth" splendidly sums up all I remember of that odd man in his first and my last year at CLS. One act of his might be of interest to those who have been discussing sport's "long decline from the centre of School culture" as John Emerson has put it. Before Barton, the highest honour a boy could be given for sporting achievement was "Half Colours". The tradition was that the full Colour, with the all-red cap, was held by Prefects, who were presumed, often accurately, to show both athletic and academic prowess. This half-colour oddity was too much for the new Headmaster who unilaterally, and despite considerable opposition from some masters and senior boys, announced that in future "Half Colours" would be called "Full Colours", and "Quarter Colours" would become "Half Colours''. The insignia were unchanged. Perhaps this heralded more emphasis on sport after my time.

My memory of the School is that sports were by no means the centre of its culture in my day. I am certain that none of my contemporaries doubted that study and the preparation for public exams were the main purpose of our being there. F.R.D. [Dale, Barton's predecessor] reminded us daily of our membership of one of the "seminaries of sound learning". Sport was certainly encouraged, but never wholly compulsory, and the same went for other extra-curricular interests which abounded, such as dramatics and the choir, musical appreciation, debating, photography, philately (Barton couldn't pronounce that), chess and other esoteric pursuits. I should be sad to think that such sport as there was has gone, but not sorry to hear that it is not the School's cultural heart.

Letter from John Rix (50-57)

I've thought for a long time that I ought to write and thank you and everyone else involved in the production of the Gazette for the amount of pleasure that you bring us three times a year. As so often happens, it took something that upset me to make me put finger to keyboard.

I was sorry to read Theo Johnson's comment on Doctor Barton (... this man must have had a charisma bypass operation at birth). It seems to me to be a slight on a person for whom I personally had a lot of respect, perhaps because of the influence that he had on my whole life. I joined CLS the same day as AWB, in September 1950, a young scholarship lad from Essex, and was put into N2A with Narbo Taylor as form master. The changes that AWB made at the end of his first year with the abolition of Modern, Classical and Science third forms in favour of A, B, C, D and E streams did not strike me as important at the time, but later I realised that it had probably allowed me to follow a rather broader curriculum than might otherwise have been the case. My real gratitude to AWB stems from the time that he took with a very sceptical father, to whom it had never occurred that his son might aspire to a university place, in persuading him to at least send the lad up for an entrance exam. A further debt stems from the fact that he recommended Queen's, Oxford, a college with strong Northern connections that he had been closely associated with as Head of King Edward VII School in Sheffield. In fact there were quite a lot of us who finished up there; I went up as a freshman together with Corby, Jenner and Tobin and I remember Ettinghausen being a year ahead of us.

As for my teachers at CLS, […]

Dr Barton - from John McGeorge (50-60)

May I enter the fray in defence of Arthur Barton, who taught me physics in 4A and for my two terms in the third year of the sixth form, as well as Divinity in the sixth form? I recall Jef Harris's and Paul Zec's Declamation Prize speeches very well - just as Jef Harris described: Arthur Barton's kind disqualification of Jef's speech ("decry does not mean declame") showed another side of Dr Barton's personality.

I think though that Brian Millo has assessed Dr Barton very fairly and very accurately: on an individual basis he was friendly and he certainly worked very diligently both as a teacher and on behalf of boys trying to get into university. He was - his Nottingham origins perhaps - very forthright and direct and had no time for pretentiousness, conceit or euphemism. It seems evident that Dr Barton did not change with the times and his managerial style did not endear him to his staff, even though he always had the school's interests at heart. Yet Lance Kramer, writing in the Gazette some years ago, referred to a very kind letter from Dr Barton when he, Kramer, left CLS for Eton.

Three incidents involving Dr Barton come to mind: they may serve to illustrate my point. In the sixth form Divinity class, Foster (ex-Mercers - won an award in Classics - I forget his first name) was debating a point with Dr Barton. At one stage Foster interrupted: "But, sir, that's absolute heresy! Not so long ago you'd have been burned at the stake for saying a thing like that!" Dr Barton conceded the point with a smile: "I'm very glad I didn't live in the days of the Inquisition."

In the third year Sixth Form physics class - gravitation - Dr Barton asked if any member of the class could prove Kepler's First Law of Planetary Motion: Martin Stern raised his hand in affirmation. Dr Barton's response: "Fair play to you. It's more than I can do!"

During Dr Barton's and my first term at CLS he announced at assembly one morning that he had acquired an important photograph from about 1910 showing distinguished gentlemen - I forget whether they were OC's, benefactors or whatever - and that he would be happy to show the photograph to any boy who wished to see it. A notion came over me, all of nine years old, to take up the offer, so off I marched at lunch time and boldly knocked on the door of the Headmaster's Study. Dr Barton appeared right away. He couldn't have been more friendly; he stood behind me with one hand on my shoulder and with the other hand he pointed out the various figures. I don't suppose many took up his offer: I could well have been the only one. Later that afternoon at Grove Park, the news had reached Messrs Vokins, Hall and Baker who remarked: "Well, Mac (as they always called me) we hear that a small boy, at his own request, had a meeting today with the Headmaster!"

I would agree with Brian Millo's remarks on Arthur Campbell, […] I would agree completely with John Rix's letter too: the abolition of Classical, Modern and Science third, fourth and fifth forms led to a much broader education, and for that we have Dr Barton to thank.

[…] Forgive my long and rambling letter, sir, but like John Rix, I was disappointed to read the rather harsh critique of Arthur Barton, a man who, as he saw it, always did his best for the school and its pupils. He did not take kindly to criticism, which is why if I had discovered the error in his Textbook on Light, I might have questioned it, but I would have taken a diplomatic, perhaps cowardly, route and, pace Brian Millo, and would have kept to myself my proof of AWB's error, at least until I had left school.

As a postscript, in response to Ray Braham, I believe the Prefects' decision to relinquish their right to cane was taken some years after we (including Peter Levene) had left CLS.

Dr Barton - from Peter Levene (51-60)

Having read with interest the September issue and seeing that your closing date for January is tomorrow, I thought that I might write to you with a few additional reminiscences.

I read with much interest the note from Jef Harris on page 14 of the last issue. His famous speech on the Declamation Prize is something I will never forget. As he rightly points out, he had not bothered to check what "declamation" meant. He had decided that it actually meant to decry something. I do remember that Arthur Barton thought that this was extremely unfunny, whereas most of the rest of us considered it to be hilarious.

The other "Barton" memoir which might be of interest concerns a visit I made as Lord Mayor to Israel. Whilst I was there, the rather large group of Old Citizens who are now living in Israel arranged a reunion, to which they invited me. It was a very enjoyable occasion, when I met a number of people whom I had not seen for about forty years.

Of rather more interest, however, was that in telling the British Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Francis Cornish, where I was going, he said to me, "Did you know Dr Barton?". I replied that of course I did, and asked how he knew him. He told me that Arthur Barton was his uncle. I then said to him, "Well, that means that you must be one of the fourteen nephews, and you must have taken your holidays climbing in Saas Fee". He asked me how on earth I knew that, and I said, "If you had been at the School, then Arthur Barton's termly homily over his fourteen nephews and their climbing in Saas Fee was something never to be forgotten". It was fascinating talking to someone from the other side of the table.

The Barton Era - from C.A.K. "Guy" Stark (50-56)

Like John Rix I can only cover the initial years. Did Barton fail his selectors for the reason neatly summarised by Theo. Johnson? For our younger viewers let us recall the circumstances of his arrival to replace Dale.

Attlee was in power. The "Tribune" group was hell bent on destroying independent schools. Although the 1950 General Election saw the middle-class regain some composure, its fee-paying schools were by no means safe.

Our patron, the City Corporation, enjoyed little income from the acres of bomb-sites still remaining so soon after the Blitz. The first post-War devaluation of sterling had unsettled the City. Why should the City fund CLS anyway? Few pupils resided in the Square Mile. Even fewer met John Carpenter's concept of the deserving poor, let alone Tribune's. Running costs were high and the three principal buildings (Boys', Girls' and Guildhall School of Music) obsolescent and mostly without central heating. Other former City schools had migrated to the suburbs and seemed happy under local authority control. Rebuilding at Grove Park by a new patron - London County Council - must have been a temptation, especially as Unilever would pay handsomely for the Embankment frontage.

CLS faced a further problem. Over-reliance on fees for "scholarship boys'' (20% of income) from the counties of London, Middlesex and Essex was risky. Surrey and Kent had delisted CLS and Middlesex was introducing new American-style "high schools". Over-taxed and worried parents could not be expected to pay higher fees to make up any further loss of income.

What could CLS offer post-Dale which would keep its present clientele enthusiastic, not upset the rabid wing of the Labour party, and ensure a leading role in London's educational circles?

My recollection whilst sitting at the feet of the indignant Haynes and Hunt was that the Committee for Science & Technology (or some such name) had published forecasts in 1948 or 9 that the UK economy was doomed if it did not produce an additional 2,000 scientists. This had been taken up by the then President of the Board of' Trade, who coincidentally had been deputed by Attlee to calm down a City still reeling over devaluation. At some luncheon or other somebody got the bright notion to turn CLS into a science-aware super-school which could produce many of these young scientists, and this seemed to please the President.

But how to pioneer the curriculum for a modern post-war science-aware school? There would be no-one in the London area with the correct qualifications but there might be "up north" in that incomprehensible world of heavy industry and people who all spoke like Wilson.

And "up north" they discovered a big fish in a small pond, conceited enough to believe he could successfully jump the north-south divide of mutual dislike, a distinguished science scholar, author of a textbook and numerous papers, mouthpiece for the development of civilian atomic power, the confident head of a "good" school ... Outstanding by any criteria. Give him a little grooming in City circles and he would have the potential to become a nationally important educator, not just a first-rate head for CLS.

Ho, hum. I guess this all came true after we left CLS? Poor Nobbs: never even considered for the post.

Perhaps, good Editor, you will indulge me for a moment more. I hesitate to doubt John Rix's recollections although many years in the hot sun may have played tricks with his memory of forty-five years ago. Mr Haynes was never ill-disciplined in class although that is less true of holiday trips abroad. He could become rather over-excited, particularly when queried about the exact date for the arrival of Utopia. The best course of action was to stand him in the corridor until he felt better. On really bad days he could be sent back to the Staffroom.

May I further suggest that the term "wilder elements" is better confined to the days of open fires in the older parts of the building? The concealment of` surplus CCF ammunition or chemicals borrowed from an indulgent "Steve'' and/or stolen Southern Railway fog detonators (the single benefit of being forced to Grove Park on a cold Saturday morning for compulsory sports) in the porter's coal buckets was "wild". Although the fires were banked up by the porters at mid-morning break and over lunch-time, delayed-fuse techniques pioneered by the science-aware "E" stream were used to target the unwary teacher. The puce-faced luvvie who used to put on the school play was, I recall, a very rewarding target.

 50 Years Ago

The Gazette for April 1950 contains a long and eloquent appreciation by Second Master C.G. Nobbs of F.R. Dale, who was to retire at the end of that summer term. Here are just the first and last paragraphs. (The L.A.U. was the Literary and Athletic Union, which later evolved to become the School Parliament; its Chairman was C.G.N.)

At an L.A.U. meeting nearly ten years ago the boys were struggling with the wording of a resolution when the Chairman suggested that the interpretation could safely be left to the discretion of the Headmaster. The proposer, to all appearances an ordinary boy, replied in these memorable words, "yes, but we shall not always have this Headmaster." ... Mr Dale takes with him the best wishes of the School, the Old Boys, the Staff and the Governors for a long, happy and active retirement. He takes with him our thanks for all he has meant in the life of the School, for his principles, steadfastly maintained, for his fair mindedness, for the breadth and depth of his interest in everyone connected with the School. We are grateful for the trust he has always given to masters and boys; his eager desire to achieve the best has been matched by a wise forbearance; having set the tasks, he has been content to let masters and boys work them out with no unnecessary interference. He could be severe when necessary as, no doubt, many Old Boys well remember, but it is true to say that the masters have come to look upon him more as a colleague than a headmaster. Not that he has been at all easy-going; most of us have endured that withering look of scorn which he bestows on anyone suspected of "letting the School down." We have seen with pride the honours that have come to him recently and still he is the same shy, utterly sincere person we have always known. We respect his scholarship, his love of beauty, his analytic mind and powers of organisation, but we also know his delight in a day at Lord's or in homely tasks about the house or in the garden. We know the height of his eloquence on a great occasion, but we treasure the wit and humour which have graced staff meetings and more intimate conversations. He can move in another world, but he also moves in our world. Is it any wonder that his memory and influence will live on in the School as long as any of his colleagues remain there? For a long time yet he will be remembered wherever Old Boys gather. Let us imitate his own habit of understatement and say that F.R. Dale's headmastership at the City of London School is "a pretty good story”.

Dr Barton - from Stephen N. Dray (53-60)

I was interested to read in the 'The Gazette' that memories of the Barton Era are the current interest (if not quite the rage). I do not know if the correspondence is closed but as my time at CLS was from 1953 to 1960 1 jotted down my own experiences.

My recollection of Dr. Barton was of an austere aloof person who was not very approachable. Perhaps this was because I did not occupy a place in the higher educational streams or a sports first team. I remember the school assemblies when he declaimed lists of sporting achievements and scholarships and tripos gained, together with the successes of those that had left years before. My only personal exposure to him was in the Confirmation Class when he started the physical and social development session by fixing the group with a gimlet stare and suddenly shouting 'Balls!!, or testicles to the better informed'. He was alleged to have a humorous streak, perhaps this was it.

Dr Barton - from Chris Gooderidge (54-62)

Although the image is perhaps softening with the passage of time, he is often referred to as a remote and austere figure but I would like to counter that by referring to an incident which occurred in the early 1960's when my greatest friend at school, David Blundy (the war correspondent, who was tragically killed in South America 10 years ago) was fooling about with another 6th former in Villiers Street by Charing Cross Station. They were hitting each other with rolled up newspapers and apparently making a general commotion, so much so that they were arrested and taken to the local police station where they were charged with a public order offence. They were subsequently summoned to appear at Bow Street Magistrates Court.

David Blundy was extremely rebellious but he was very concerned about how the Headmaster would take this. In fact Dr Barton interviewed him in his study and amazed Dave with his understanding and patience.

AWB obviously discussed the situation with Joe Hunt, the Form Master of the History 6th and Joe was at the back of the Court when the case came on, when as far as I can remember they were bound over to keep the peace in the usual way. The incident was not referred to again by AWB with Dave.

I also remember that as I was bad at Physics AWB allowed me to give that up and take O level Art which was pretty radical in those days. One must bear in mind that this was almost 40 years ago when things were a lot less relaxed and flexible.

When I left School, Dr Barton was very encouraging at the start of my legal career.

One of my other most abiding memories of CLS in the 1950's and the beginning of the 1960's is of the Masters who did not actually teach me but who had a great influence on me. I am thinking of, for example, Cyril Bond, who I came across both in the Rowing Club and in the CCF, Pat Whitmore, who I had a lot to do with in the CCF, Gordon Nobbs who took assembly from time to time when AWB was not there, Jock Law-Robertson who supervised the Public Examinations and so on.

Added to that memory is that relating to Masters who taught me, but who also participated in other activities, for example Jimmy Riddle who I came across in the Rowing Club, (as well as teaching maths), David Elloway who taught me English but who I also came across in the CCF, Fluffy Lee-Uff and many more.

I think that it says a lot for the characters of the Masters concerned that one remembers them even when they did not actually teach you, also that one got on with them so well when the Masters did teach you!

I hope that those brief memories are of interest.

Dr Barton - from Professor John Honey (49-52)

The assessments by OCs who attended the school under A.W. Barton reflect the range of reactions to a man who had many gifts but who also attracted a good deal of criticism, even (for some) a measure of contempt. The circumstances of his appointment provide essential clues to that diversity of judgments.

When I was practising my former craft of historian of British schooling, I had many reasons to recall a saying I first heard from the lips of Joe Hunt, our revered Senior History Master: the first principle of success in a headmaster is to chose one's predecessor wisely. It was Barton's misfortune to have succeeded a man of a quality and a stature which inevitably outclassed even Barton's undeniable strengths and made for unhappy comparisons on many scores.

F. R. Dale was a distinguished classical scholar, of immense physical presence and natural authority, who emerged from the Great War high in military rank and covered in glory. He epitomised the conception of the educated English gentleman as it prevailed in the first half of the 20th century. Barton, though tall in stature, could not really hope to compete in these things. A competent scientist but an essentially modest intellect, in a period when science had not yet come into its own in the private sector of British education, he also suffered cruelly from comparisons in other ways. After modest research in physics at Cambridge, outshone by a number of eminent contemporaries, he had wisely chosen schoolmastering and was fortunate to serve at Repton under a headmaster who conveniently went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury, a powerful support for Barton's promotion to headships at a state school (King Edward VII, Sheffield) and then (in 1950) CLS.

Minute traces of a 'northern' (in fact, Nottingham) accent, a marked lack of social graces (and even of dress sense), but above all a lack of general culture, were combined with a limited sense of humour and a lack of confidence in dealing with his own staff which he covered up with a kind of abruptness which could sometimes prove actually shocking. It was, again, Joe Hunt of whom the incident was reported of his approaching AWB for leave of absence to go and be with his dying mother. He met stiff reluctance. "But is there any point?" asked the head. "I mean, will she know you?"

Geoffrey Clark - the "Nobby" so warmly remembered as a formative influence by Michael Apted and many others of our generation (myself included) - was one master who strove for well over a year after AWB's arrival to conceal in class the staff room's generally jaundiced reaction and emphasise his good points, but even that effort wore thin after a while. A catalogue of social gaffes of this kind came to be so widely exchanged among his staff - and leaked outside - that a written record was begun, one which I heard was later lost (but perhaps it still exists somewhere). It included numerous examples of his shortcomings in general culture - his minor grammatical lapses, his mispronunciation of Shostakovich and comparable indices of the conventional culture of the educated at that time; and his reference in the School Prayer to 'this seeminary of sound learning' - I remember the gasp when this first appeared, and was present a year or two later at the moment when he changed to the standard pronunciation, which went almost unnoticed. (Who tactfully briefed him, I wonder?) He unwisely chose in his first year to take one period a week with the whole of the Sixth (or was it only the Upper Sixth?) for Divinity, introducing us to the Book of Job. I personally will always be grateful for what I learnt from this, but his well-intentioned but utterly pedestrian approach - based surreptitiously on a crib, of which one boy soon circulated a copy, enabling us to forestall his questions - served to lose the new head the intellectual respect of the whole of the top end of the school. Was it really not possible to be a scientist and a wise and cultivated person? Fortunately several other CLS science masters gave the right answer to that question. And there was also that admirable role-model of the mathematician - C G Nobbs. It was rumoured that the staff Barton took over already included one or more refugees from his reign at KES Sheffield; but in fairness it must also be mentioned that one of the best of his own new appointees followed him from that school.

Co-existing with this maladroitness was an odd form of snobbery which, for Barton, elevated public school and Oxbridge above all other forms of education. I remember when I was running the debates of the School Society his very evident disappointment when I reported that one of our debating triumphs involved Epsom Grammar School and not the College. "Sam" Presswood, much-loved Sixth Form French master appointed in Dale's last year, told me that he could never have been appointed by AWB, since his (impressive) degrees were Sheffield and the Sorbonne, not Oxbridge.

Yet behind AWB's awkward and socially under-confident manner there was a genuinely kind man. In dealings with boys, where there was no feeling of inferiority, he was unfailingly helpful, and many a pupil can, like me, bear witness to such acts of kindness and practical help, not least in encouraging boys to find the right university. His testimonials to leavers were often gems of constructive euphemism. And he took great pains with parents. Many of his administrative reforms were far-sighted and beneficial - after the war-wearied F R Dale it was indeed time for change. As an individual AWB was a really good man whom one could not readily imagine doing anyone down, and is surely now enjoying his reward in heaven. But, at the time, many of his good points were obscured by the long shadow of his truly exceptional predecessor.

Dr Barton - from Rob Riddle (1947-54)

To understand our reactions at the time of the handover of power from F.R. Dale to Dr Arthur Willoughby Barton, you need to bear in mind that CLS was very much a southern school. This was the late 1940's and travel was not within the experience of many. Some of us had heard of Yorkshiremen, but not in any flattering sense. True we had a few sturdy northerners, Scots rather than Northern English (Theo Johnson, coiner of the 'charisma by-pass', comes inevitably to mind), but by and large the school was populated by parochial Londoners and Southerners. I doubt if we knew of Watford Gap, but if we did we probably thought it was somewhere near Manchester.

We were accustomed to hearing the ascetic, accent-free tones of Dale at assembly. The sudden manifestation of Barton was a huge culture shock. (John McGeorge says he came from Nottingham: he may be right, but I thought he came from further north than that). To see and hear this towering, quite ugly man intoning at us in his strange northern accent and lecturing us in assembly about the conduct expected of members of 'a graat pooblic school' was quite disturbing, as well as being a gift to the mimics. I think, in our self-conscious southern style, we reckoned that if we really were a graat pooblic school it wasn't really the done thing to boast about it.

Occasionally humanising touches leaked out. One that stretched the imagination was that apparently this unbending man was a very respected soccer referee (of course, we were a rugby school, so that didn't impress us) but the image of this colossus tearing about in a pair of shorts and a whistle was difficult to visualise.

But Barton, if charismatically challenged, presided over a remarkable and gifted set of masters. I remember the immortal Geoff Clark […]

Yes, Barton was an oddity. It was the first time I had heard the cynical comment 'Well, he means well', but I think he did, and he was very fortunate in his staff.

Barton at the Cavendish, and after

[This piece by Peter Stokes (44-54) seems to me to justify the lifting of the editorial moratorium on discussion of Dr Barton. Your comments will be welcomed. Editor]

On public display at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge are three photographs of A W Barton (Headmaster 1950 - 1965). For from 1922-25 he was in Lord Rutherford's group, generally acknowledged as the greatest research team of all time. The 1923 photograph shows Barton in the back row (to be promoted to the front row by 1925). Six others had or soon would have a Nobel prize: Sir J J Thompson (discoverer of the electron), Lord Rutherford (first to transmute chemical elements), Sir James Chadwick (discoverer of the Neutron, key contributor at Los Alamos), Peter Kapitsa (low temperature physics, Director of Nuclear R & D in the USSR), F W Aston (Mass Spectrograph, discoverer of 212 isotopes), and Lord Blackett (cosmic radiation, founder of Operational Research). Two other Nobel prizewinners, C T R Wilson (Wilson Cloud Chamber) and E V Appleton (work on the ionosphere), absent from the photograph but part of the team, made eight Nobel Laureates in all! Also here is the Polymath G I Taylor, expert in Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, Aviation, Parachuting, Meteorology, Fog Dispersal, Fluid Dynamics and Shell Disintegration.

The team had a strong corporate ethos. Barton knew them all, had a wealth of anecdotes about them, and had learned Rutherford's way of driving a research team mercilessly to get results. Understanding how these great men tackled research and the extension of knowledge was an asset in classroom teaching and in setting a framework for the school. So too was his own Cambridge research on the disintegration of radium, supervised by Lord Rutherford himself, demonstrating the existence of Radium C' and measuring its half-life - no easy task for it exists for only one hundred-millionth of a second.

When Barton succeeded F R Dale as headmaster change was necessary from Dale's easy going attitude in the post-war years. Loyalty to Dale from masters and boys depended more on what he was than what he did - see Hinde's school history. An achievable strategy was needed which avoided, for example, Dale's uncontrolled expansion of numbers in the late 1940's and subsequent cut-backs to maintain standards. Improved science status was needed to reverse Dale's negative attitude portrayed by his speech at the opening of the 1948 Science Centenary Exhibition, when he told a packed Great Hall: "You know, and I know, that this is not Education" (School Magazine, 1948). A return was needed to Dr Abbott’s 'Science teaching to all' achieved in 1869 but discontinued by Dale so that, for example, the Classical and Modern 'A' streams had merely a token weekly Biology period (and no other Science) in just one year out of three (the Fourth form), viewed by the boys as sex education.

Barton aimed to get results; and he did: academic, sporting and in other cultural activities. (See Hinde). He did it through a well thought-out plan, an attempt to achieve greater corporate spirit at the School and by greater interaction with the boys himself. He introduced a new teaching and form structure, a daily hymn in Assembly, with boys reading the lesson, and an annual school service in St Paul's Cathedral.. He put pressure on individual boys, myself included, to take a greater part in school sports. He spent more time teaching in the classroom than other modern headmasters (see Hinde), not only Physics (including tutorials in the Headmaster's study), but also the daunting task of taking a religious class himself for the whole sixth form together. His experiences under Lord Rutherford at the Cavendish taught him the importance of careful planning, driving a team mercilessly, meticulous attention to detail, and building a corporate ethos. These enabled him to achieve a more marked improvement in school performance than any other of his predecessors since Dr Abbott.

[Photo, with acknowledgment. Photograph reproduced by courtesy of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University. Not to be reproduced without permission.]


Obituary, The Times Sat Aug 28, 1976

Dr A. W. Barton headmaster of the City of London School from 1950 to 1965 died on August 24 at the age of 76. Before coming to London he was headmaster of King Edward VII School, Sheffield.

Arthur Willoughby Barton, younger son of Professor E. H. Barton, FRS, Professor of Physics, University College, Nottingham [Professor Edwin H. Barton (1858-1925)], was born on September 14, 1899, and was educated at Nottingham High School, 1908-18, where he was captain of the school. In December, 1916, he won an Exhibition in Natural Sciences to Trinity College, Cambridge, but he did not go up till January, 1919, on completion of his military service with the Royal Engineers, in which he served as a second-lieutenant.

At Cambridge, he took First Class Honours in Parts I, and II, of the Natural Science Tripos in Physics and in November, 1922, he was awarded First Class Honours in Physics in the London BSc examination. From 1922 to 1925 he was demonstrator and research Student at the Cavendish Laboratory and supervisor in physics at Trinity and several other Cambridge colleges.

In 1925, he was appointed Chief Physics Master at Repton and served there during the headmastership of Dr Fisher, later Archbishop of Canterbury. While at Repton he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of London University for a thesis in Radioactivity (the measurement of the half-period of Radium C.).

Barton was the author of text-books on Heat and Light.

In 1939, he was appointed headmaster of King Edward VII School, Sheffield, he served as a member of the Diocesan Ordination Candidates' Committee and as chairman of the Sheffield Council of Boys' Clubs.

In sport, he distinguished himself as a referee in First Class Association Football. He had refereed the Final of the Arthur Dunn Cup, the final of the FA Amateur Cup, the Semi-final of the FA Cup, and a large number of international matches, both at home and abroad, including the Semi-final between Austria and Poland in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

He was a member of the panel of Referee Instructors and Lecturers of the Federation Internationale de Football Associations. From 1968 to 1971 he was schools liaison officer, U.C.L.

He married in 1935 Alison Mary, second daughter of Colin Read Shaw.