Catalogue description Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of CHRISTOPHER HINTON OM, KBE, FRS, FEng BARON HINTON OF BANKSIDE (1901 - 1983)

This record is held by Institution of Mechanical Engineers Archive

Details of CSAC 116.7.86
Reference: CSAC 116.7.86
Title: Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of CHRISTOPHER HINTON OM, KBE, FRS, FEng BARON HINTON OF BANKSIDE (1901 - 1983)



CSAC 116.7.86/A.1-CSAC 116.7.86/A.12 Autobiographical writings


CSAC 116.7.86/A.13-CSAC 116.7.86/A.117 Diaries


CSAC 116.7.86/A.118-CSAC 116.7.86/A.133 Biographical articles and material


CSAC 116.7.86/A.134-CSAC 116.7.86/A.221 Career and honours


CSAC 116.7.86/A.222-CSAC 116.7.86/A.226A Family and personal correspondence


CSAC 116.7.86/A.227-CSAC 116.7.86/A.231 Miscellaneous


SECTION B ENERGY CSAC 116.7.86/B.1-CSAC 116.7.86/B.144


CSAC 116.7.86/B.1-CSAC 116.7.86/B.58 Lectures


CSAC 116.7.86/B.59-CSAC 116.7.86/B.141 General correspondence and papers


CSAC 116.7.86/B.142-CSAC 116.7.86/B.144 Background material


SECTION C ENGINEERING CSAC 116.7.86/C.1-CSAC 116.7.86/C.266


CSAC 116.7.86/C.1-CSAC 116.7.86/C.6 American Society of Mechanical Engineers


CSAC 116.7.86/C.7 British Association Co-ordinating Group


CSAC 116.7.86/C.8-CSAC 116.7.86/C.75 Council of Engineering Institutions (CEI)


With an introductory note


CSAC 116.7.86/C.76-CSAC 116.7.86/C.248 Fellowship of Engineering


With an introductory note


CSAC 116.7.86/C.249 Institution of Civil Engineers


CSAC 116.7.86/C.250 Institution of Electrical Engineers


CSAC 116.7.86/C.251-CSAC 116.7.86/C.260 Institution of Mechanical Engineers


CSAC 116.7.86/C.261-CSAC 116.7.86/C.264 National Academy of Engineering


CSAC 116.7.86/C.265, CSAC 116.7.86/C.266 National Academy of Engineering (Mexico)


SECTION D HOUSE OF LORDS CSAC 116.7.86/D.1-CSAC 116.7.86/D.176


Introduction to Section D


CSAC 116.7.86/D.1-CSAC 116.7.86/D.20 General correspondence


CSAC 116.7.86/D.21-CSAC 116.7.86/D.107 European Communities Committee (Sub committee F)


CSAC 116.7.86/D.108-CSAC 116.7.86/D.127 European Communities Committee (Sub committee G)


CSAC 116.7.86/D.128-CSAC 116.7.86/D.142 Select Committees (private Bills)


CSAC 116.7.86/D.143-CSAC 116.7.86/D.172 Speeches in debates


CSAC 116.7.86/D.173-CSAC 116.7.86/D.176 Printed and duplicated material




Introduction to Section E


CSAC 116.7.86/E.1-CSAC 116.7.86/E.7 General correspondence


CSAC 116.7.86/E.8-CSAC 116.7.86/E.10 Development appeal


CSAC 116.7.86/E.11-CSAC 116.7.86/E.14 Appointments


CSAC 116.7.86/E.15 Convocation


CSAC 116.7.86/E.16 University Court


CSAC 116.7.86/E.17-CSAC 116.7.86/E.19 Degree Congregations


CSAC 116.7.86/E.20-CSAC 116.7.86/E.65 Speeches, addresses, writings




CSAC 116.7.86/F.1-CSAC 116.7.86/F.109 Speeches and lectures


With an introductory note


CSAC 116.7.86/F.110-CSAC 116.7.86/F.113 Radio and television


CSAC 116.7.86/F.114-CSAC 116.7.86/F.141 Articles


With an introductory note


CSAC 116.7.86/F.142-CSAC 116.7.86/F.198 Books


CSAC 116.7.86/F.199-CSAC 116.7.86/F.207 Book reviews


CSAC 116.7.86/F.208-CSAC 116.7.86/F.212 Letters to the press


CSAC 116.7.86/F.213-CSAC 116.7.86/F.228 Correspondence with publishers and editors




CSAC 116.7.86/G.1 Electricity Council


CSAC 116.7.86/G.2-CSAC 116.7.86/G.8 Ministry of Transport


With an introductory note


CSAC 116.7.86/G.9-CSAC 116.7.86/G.83 World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development)




CSAC 116.7.86/H.1, CSAC 116.7.86/H.2 Cambridge University Engineers' Association


CSAC 116.7.86/H.3 City University


CSAC 116.7.86/H.4 Dulwich Society


CSAC 116.7.86/H.5 Economic Research Council


CSAC 116.7.86/H.6-CSAC 116.7.86/H.8 European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities


CSAC 116.7.86/H.9 European Nuclear Society


CSAC 116.7.86/H.10-CSAC 116.7.86/H.12 Opportunities for the Disabled


CSAC 116.7.86/H.13-CSAC 116.7.86/H.16 Österreichischer Gewerbeverein


CSAC 116.7.86/H.17 Royal Institution


CSAC 116.7.86/H.18-CSAC 116.7.86/H.41 Royal Society


CSAC 116.7.86/H.42-CSAC 116.7.86/H.161 World Energy Conference


With an introductory note




Introduction to Section CSAC 116.7.86/J


CSAC 116.7.86/J.1-CSAC 116.7.86/J.69 Correspondence with individuals and organisations


CSAC 116.7.86/J.70-CSAC 116.7.86/J.72 Shorter unindexed correspondence


CSAC 116.7.86/J.73-CSAC 116.7.86/J.79 References, appointments, recommendations


CSAC 116.7.86/J.80-CSAC 116.7.86/J.84 Daily carbons




CSAC 116.7.86/K.1-CSAC 116.7.86/K.18 Photograph albums


CSAC 116.7.86/K.19-CSAC 116.7.86/K.29 Loose photographs


CSAC 116.7.86/K.30-CSAC 116.7.86/K.34 Slides


CSAC 116.7.86/K.35 Film


CSAC 116.7.86/K.36 Gramophone records


The collection represents Hinton's selection of the material in his possession. The many requests he received for information on the historical events he had witnessed, notably perhaps the contacts with M.M. Gowing during the preparation of her history of the British atomic energy project and the consequent writing of his own memoirs, had encouraged an interest in history. His service on the Royal Society's Sub-committee on Contemporary Scientific Archives had contributed to his sense of the problems involved in evaluating and sorting the extensive accumulation of paper amassed by distinguished public figures. Accordingly he and his long-time secretary, Phyllis Ellis, conducted regular pruning exercises on his papers. Many of the folders in which the material was received bore dates 'Examined by Lord Hinton', some as early as 1972 but mainly between February 1979 and April 1982; thus, while some material may be missing, what remains is what he deemed of interest. Another feature is his bringing together of documents on a particular topic, with his own title and comments (for example, the grouping of lectures on atomic energy and electricity supply) and his frequent and outspoken manuscript comments on letters, articles or other documents which he received. Attention is drawn to these features in the relevant catalogue entries.


The collection is a substantial one. Although it cannot be said to present a full account of Hinton's life and work, being largely concerned with his later activities it contains important documentation of his earlier career in the form of personal diaries, unpublished autobiographical writings, frequent allusions and reminiscences in correspondence with former colleagues, historians of science and others, not to mention his own comments and assessments written on folders or manuscripts.


The papers are presented in the order shown in the List of Contents. Additional explanatory notes accompany many of the Sections, sub-sections and individual entries in the body of the catalogue. The following paragraphs aim only at drawing attention to matters of particular substance or interest.


Section A (Biographical and autobiographical). In terms of historical interest this section is dominated by Hinton's unpublished autobiography and the 'non-secret' diaries on which it was based. The autobiography entitled 'The Memoirs of Christopher Hinton' (CSAC 116.7.86/A.1-A.8) covers the period from its author's birth to the time of writing (1970) in 29 chapters and was supplemented by a 'Memorandum of Activities from 1970 to 1980' (CSAC 116.7.86/A.9) written in 1981 at the request of M.M. Gowing. The autobiography has been drawn upon in compiling catalogue entries and reference has been made to it in the form 'Memoirs p...'. Hinton's personal diaries survive for the period 1941-1983; it is clear from the autobiography that he kept a diary from 1916-1923 but early diary entries survive only in abstracted from (CSAC 116.7.86/A.13). Much of the remaining material in this section documents (albeit scantily) the events of his career, notably his successive moves to Swindon, Cambridge, ICI, Ministry of Supply, UKAEA and CEGB, and honours received especially the knighthood, life peerage and Order of Merit.


Section B (Energy). This section brings together lectures (selected and arranged by Hinton) on atomic energy and electricity supply and general correspondence and papers on the same topics. The atomic energy lectures include a number of items of particular interest, for example Hinton's notes for the Risley induction lecture (CSAC 116.7.86/B.2) which formed the basis of the BBC radio series 'The ABC of Atomic Energy' and the talk on safety to the people of Thurso in respect of the first Dounreay fast breeder reactor (CSAC 116.7.86/B.7). The section also includes the contents of Hinton's nuclear power files 'excluding AEA papers and BNFL', material for Hinton's two investigations of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Dounreay undertaken at the request of the Central Policy Review Staff in the mid-1970s and for his last work for the Electricity Supply Research Council, unfinished at his death in 1983, also on Fast Reactors.


Section C (Engineering). This section documents Hinton's association with the various engineering institutions and organisations. Of special importance are papers relating to the Council of Engineering Institutions, 1967-1983, and the Fellowship of Engineering, 1975-1983. The CEI papers include the period of Hinton's Presidency and his work for the MacRobert Award which was administered by the CEI during Hinton's chairmanship of the evaluation panel. The Fellowship of Engineering papers record almost all aspects of its early years except the selection of fellows. Hinton's papers relating to the Finniston Committee of Enquiry into the Engineering Profession are presented in a separate subsection under the general heading Fellowship of Engineering.


Section D (House of Lords). This section brings together correspondence and papers relating to Hinton's House of Lords committee work, especially the European Communities Committee and his contributions to debates, principally on energy and engineering questions.


Section E (University of Bath). Although this is the smallest section in the catalogue, the surviving material documents well Hinton's contributions to the life of the university as its first Chancellor, including his work for the development appeal 1966-1968 and his addresses at degree congregations and other university occasions.


Section F (Lectures and publications). This section brings together notes, drafts and correspondence for the very numerous lectures and articles by Hinton covering a period of over 30 years. It includes some work for radio and television and Hinton's books on Engineers and engineering (1970) and Heavy current electricity (1979) and his contribution on atomic power to the Clarendon Press's History of Technology (1978).


Section G (Consultancies). Documentation for three consultancies undertaken by Hinton in retirement is presented here: the very slight material with the collection in respect of the Electricity Council, the more substantial record of the 1965 Ministry of Transport investigation and the especially full documentation of Hinton's work for the World Bank. This involved visits to Taiwan, Turkey, Brazil, East Africa and West Pakistan to assess projects and make recommendations. It was during a visit to East Africa that Hinton sustained an injury to his spine which left it permanently damaged.


Section H (Societies and organisations). This section brings together material relating principally to non-engineering organisations with which Hinton was associated. While some entries are relatively trivial, there are extensive sequences of material for the Royal Society and the World Energy Conference.


Section J (Correspondence). This section is relatively slight since most of Hinton's correspondence on his many and varied activities was kept with the related material and has been left in place in the appropriate sections of the catalogue. Of interest however are the daily carbons, 1978-July 1983, which record Hinton's total activity over a given period and at the very end of his career.


Section K (Non-print material). This section assembles a photographic record of Hinton's official career from the early 1950s. A photograph of Hinton as a GWR apprentice is the only one of him in the collection as a young man. The section also includes a 1956 film entitled 'Christopher Hinton' and gramophone records of Hinton's 'ABC of atomic energy' series for BBC radio.


Compiled by:


Jeannine Alton


Peter Harper


Margaret Erskine


The work of the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre, and the production of this catalogue, are made possible by the support of the following societies and institutions:


The Biochemical Society


The Charles Babbage Foundation for the History of Information Processing


The Institute of Physics


The Institution of Electrical Engineers


The Institution of Mechanical Engineers


The Nuffield Foundation


The Rhodes Trustees


The Royal Society of London


The Wolfson Foundation




We are grateful to Mr. E.P. Davies of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers for help in assembling the material, to Professor M.M. Gowing and Mrs. A.V. Martin for information, and to Lady Phillips for assistance in the early stages of sorting and listing.

Date: 1913-1983
Related material:

This collection of Lord Hinton's papers comprises those in his possession at the time of his death. However, the records of his extremely important work for ICI, Ministry of Supply, UKAEA and CEGB were contained primarily in their own files and this catalogue cannot provide detailed guidance on these holdings. Information about the archives of ICI and CEGB should be sought from those bodies; Ministry of Supply and UKAEA papers are covered by the Public Records Act and will at the appropriate time be available in the Public Record Office at Kew (UKAEA papers under the reference AB). This is also the case with the papers of the Production Group of the Authority which later became British Nuclear Fuels. Booklets giving the references to material used in M.M. Gowing's two volumes of Independence and Deterrence, the history of the UK atomic energy project in the period 1945-1952, are available on request from the Historian's Office, UKAEA, 11 Charles II Street, London SWI.


A little material was deposited by Hinton during his lifetime at Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Held by: Institution of Mechanical Engineers Archive, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Hinton, Christopher, 1901-1983, Baron Hinton of Bankside, engineer

Physical description: 93 boxes
Access conditions:






Immediate source of acquisition:

The collection was received via The Institution of Mechanical Engineers in September and October 1984 and December 1985.

Administrative / biographical background:



Lord Hinton was born at Tisbury, Wiltshire, in 1901. The son of a schoolmaster, he became at 16 an engineering apprentice with the Great Western Railway at Swindon. He regarded the six years he spent there, first on the shop floor and then in the drawing office, as the foundation of his subsequent success in engineering. At 22 he was awarded the William Henry Allen scholarship by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers which sent him to Trinity College, Cambridge. He took a first class degree in the Mechanical Sciences Tripos in two years, spending the final year on research under Sir Charles Inglis on vibration of railway bridges.


Hinton's first post on leaving Cambridge was on the staff of Brunner Mond & Company (later part of ICI) where he became Chief Engineer at the remarkable age of 29. In 1940 he was seconded to the Ministry of Supply becoming, in 1942, Deputy Director General in charge of the Royal Filling Factories. At the end of the war he was asked to take charge of the production organisation of the newly-formed Department of Atomic Energy and when the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) was set up in 1954 he became a Member of the Board and Managing Director of the Industrial Group. In the ten years 1946-1956 his organisation was responsible for designing and building the factory at Springfields for extracting uranium from ore, purifying it and making it into fuel elements for the nuclear reactors, for building Windscale with its production piles and its immensely complex chemical plants, the diffusion plant at Capenhurst, the first industrial nuclear plant at Calder Hall and the fast breeder reactor with its ancillary fuel element and chemical plants at Dounreay. In 1957 Hinton became the first chairman of the newly-created Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) - a position he held until his retirement from full-time salaried employment in 1964. One of Hinton's interests during his chairmanship was the development of the Board's research organisation; this interest continued into retirement, and indeed up to his death in 1983, in his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Electricity Supply Research Council. Hinton's chairmanship of the CEGB was also marked by his great sensitivity to the problems of visual amenity which the Board's programme of generation and transmission construction work necessarily involved.


Although Hinton (in the last chapter of his unpublished autobiography) describes his immediate post-retirement activities as those of an 'odd job man' he nevertheless continued to make many important contributions to the public service. In 1965 he worked for six months in the Ministry of Transport and afterwards became a Special Adviser to the World Bank. He served as Chairman of the International Executive Committee of the World Energy Conference (WEC) 1962-1968 retaining an interest in its affairs for the rest of his life. He was an active member of the House of Lords having been made a life peer in 1965. He was a highly successful first Chancellor of the University of Bath 1966-1980. In particular, the years of retirement enabled Hinton to involve himself with the activities and organisation of the engineering profession. He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers 1966-1967, Chairman of the MacRobert Award Evaluation Panel from the award's inception in 1969 to March 1977, President of the Council of Engineering Institutions (CEI) from 1976 and from 1976 to 1981 first President of the Fellowship of Engineering which he did so much to establish.

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