Papers and correspondence of Christopher Hinton, Baron Hinton of Bankside

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers are extensive. Although they cannot be said to present a full account of Hinton's life and work, being largely concerned with his later activities, they contain important documentation of his earlier career in the form of personal diaries, unpublished autobiographical writings, and frequent allusions and reminiscences in correspondence with former colleagues, historians of science and others. The biographical material is dominated by Hinton's unpublished autobiography and the 'non-secret diaries' on which it was based. His interests in atomic energy and electricity supply are represented by lectures selected and arranged by Hinton and general correspondence and papers, 1966-1983. His association with engineering institutions is extensively documented especially the Council of Engineering Institutions, 1967-1983, and the Fellowship of Engineering, 1975-1983. There are correspondence and papers relating to Hinton's House of Lord's committee work, 1968-1983, and to his Chancellorship of the University of Bath, 1966-1980. There are also records of his consultancies for the Ministry of Transport in 1965 and the World Bank, 1965-1983, and of his association with the World Energy Conference, 1962-1983. The remaining general correspondence is relatively slight since most of Hinton's correspondence on his activities was kept with the related material. There are, however, daily carbons, 1978-1983, which record his total activity over a given period of time and at the very end of his career. There is a photographic record of Hinton's official career from the 1950s, a film entitled 'Christopher Hinton', 1956 and gramophone records of talks by Hinton for the BBC on 'The ABC of atomic energy' c 1959.

Additional material subsequently deposited: Letters of Hinton to Gavin Edward Wyatt, 1970-1983. 5 items.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hinton was born at Tisbury, Wiltshire. The son of a schoolmaster, he became at 16 an engineering apprentice with the Great Western Railway at Swindon. At 22 he was awarded the William Henry Allen scholarship of 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 C.E. Inglis. 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 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 into fuel elements for the nuclear reactors, for building Windscale with its production piles and 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 until his death in his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Electricity Supply Research Council.

Hinton continued to make many important contributions to public service in his retirement. 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, 1962-1968, retaining an interest in its affairs for the rest of his life. He was the first Chancellor of the University of Bath, 1966-1980. He was much involved 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 1977, President of the Council of Engineering Institutions from 1976 to 1983 and from 1976 to 1981 first President of the Fellowship of Engineering (later Royal Academy of Engineering) which he did so much to found. Hinton was elected FRS in 1954 (Tercentenary Lecture 1960, Rumford Medal 1970). He was knighted in 1951 (KBE 1957), made a life peer in 1965 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1976.


By section as follows: Biographical and autobiographical, Energy, Engineering, House of Lords, University of Bath, Lectures and publications, Consultancies, Societies and organisations, Correspondence, Non-print material. Index of correspondents.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open access by appointment. Some files within the collection are classed as personal and confidential - requests for access for stated purposes are treated sympathetically.

Other Finding Aids

Printed catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Christopher Hinton, Baron Hinton of Bankside (1901-1983), by J. Alton, P. Harper and M. Erskine, CSAC catalogue no. 116/7/86, 214 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Separated Material

Additional material was deposited by Hinton during his lifetime at Churchill College Archives Centre, Cambridge: 5 boxes re lectures in the 1950s and 1960s; papers and autobiography. Reference: GB14 HINT.

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing in 1984-1985 by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre via the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Returned to the IME 1986.

Related Material

Institution of Mechanical Engineers Council Minutes (COU) and Council Papers (COP) give background to Hinton's period in office, both on Council and as President of the Institution.