Papers of David Hylton Thomas (1910-1999)

Scope and Content

Published and unpublished papers by Thomas on industrial schools, 1980s; notes, drafts and correspondence relating to his research, 1970s-1990, including some personal accounts and notes of interviews with ex-pupils and others connected with industrial schools; copy of Reformatory and Industrial Schools, 1854-1933: An Annotated List of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools Certified by the Home Office, 1854-1933 (Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic, 1986), with ms annotations and corrections by Thomas; drafts of an unpublished book entitled Children from the Streets and Slums: the Home Office Schools of England, Scotland and Wales, 1854-1933. Also includes a print of the Certified Industrial School, Chester, 1870s and a programme for the Christmas entertainment, 1892.

Administrative / Biographical History

David Hylton Thomas was born in 1910 in Chester, where his father and grandfather had been superintendants of the Chester Industrial School. He was educated at grammar schools in Chester and Altrincham, and won a technological scholarship to university. As part of his course at the Manchester College of Technology (now UMIST), he undertook a nine-month probationary apprenticeship at the Metropolitan Vickers factory in Trafford Park. he graduated in eletrical engineering in 1933, specialising in light-current engineering; having won a further research scholarship, he took an MSc(Tech) for research on the synthesis of musical tone by photo-electrical means. Thomas also gained an external degree of the University of London during the war.

In 1934, he returned to Metropolitan Vickers to complete his apprenticeship and then took up a research post there, working on high-vacuum problems and acoustics. In 1936 Thomas was awarded the Joseph Swan Scholarship by the Institute of Electrical Engineers, which enabled him to go to Germany to study under Professor Barkhausen. His study was cut short by the approach of World War Two, and he returned home after two semesters.

Upon his return he was appointed Lecturer in electrical engineering at University College, Nottingham, 1938-1946, subsequently becoming senior lecturer and departmental head at the Nottingham and District Technical College, 1946-1947. In November 1947, Thomas became Head of the Electrical Engineering Department at the Rutherford College of Technology in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (later the Newcastle Polytechnic and the University of Northumbria), a post which he held until his retirement in 1975.

He was also an active member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1931-1999; and the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions. He travelled to Chile and West Germany as an adviser on technical education, and published numerous books and articles on electronics and teaching methods.

His other interests included music, including participation in the Northumberland Orchestra. He also invented a device for duplicating Braille simply and cheaply (The Anwell-Thomas Embosser), and founded a talking newspaper for the blind on Tyneside in 1976.

In retirement, with a grant from the Nuffield Foundation, Thomas conducted extensive research into the history of the industrial school movement, publishing eight articles on individual schools.


The collection is divided into published works; drafts of books; and research materials. This arrangement was undertaken by J.H.L Thomas, but the research files retain the geographical system imposed by David Thomas.

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Acquisition Information

Given by the family in 2000.

Other Finding Aids

Electronic and paper catalogues.

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.