Papers of Jack Hilton (1900-1983), socialist and novelist, 1912-1982

Scope and Content

The collection comprises:

  • Personal papers: photographs, certificates, miscellaneous biographical material;
  • Literary papers: correspondence relating to the publication of Jack Hilton's works, drafts of autobiographical works including Caliban Shrieks, manuscripts of published novels including Champion and Laugh at Polonius, manuscripts of short works, manuscripts ofunidentified literary works, and published works.
  • Literary papers of Mary Hilton.

Administrative / Biographical History

Jack Hilton was born in Oldham, Lancashire on 21 January 1900, the sixth child of George Hilton(1866-1952), a railway goods checker. Soon after, the Hilton family moved to Rochdale where Jackgrew up. He left school in 1914, entered the army in 1916, and returned to Rochdale in c.1918 wherehe entered the plastering trade, joining the Plasterer's Union in 1924. He married Mary Jane Parrot(d.1955) in 1922. Jack Hilton received lessons in literature during a spell of unemployment and in1935, his first creative work, the autobiographical Caliban Shrieks, was published byCobden-Sanderson. Hilton studied at Ruskin College, Oxford between 1935 and 1937 following hissuccessful application for a Cassel scholarship. In 1939, he returned to Oxford; to employment as aporter-carpenter at Somerville College and a fireman.

He was invalided out of the fire brigade following the effects of a blast and later undertookbuilding work in Hackney, London. Hilton was active in the trade union movement, demonstratedagainst unemployment and was a member of the Socialist Labour Party.

As a writer, Hilton drew on his working experience, understanding of working class conditions,and socialist beliefs, producing narratives with a strongly polemical tone. His published worksincluded: Champion (1938), English Ribbon (1950), English Ways (1940), andLaugh at Polonius (1942). Short stories or sections of his full length works appeared inliterary periodicals including Adelphi and Left Review.


The collection has been divided by document type into two main groups; personal papers andliterary papers. Within these groups, items have been arranged in chronological order within series.

Access Information

ACCESS: Accessible to registered readers by advanceappointment; some series are restricted pending full cataloguing.

REPROGRAPHIC: Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposesonly, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright in thedescription belongs to The University of Nottingham.

Conditions Governing Use

COPYRIGHT: Permission to make published use of any material from this collection must be soughtin advance in writing from the Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections(email TheDepartment will try to assist in identifying copyright owners but this can be difficult and theresponsibility for copyright clearance before publication ultimately rests with the person wishingto publish.


Custodial History

The collection was acquired by The University of Nottingham's Department of Manuscripts andSpecial Collections in May 1992.


  • Champion (Jonathan Cape: London, 1938)
  • English Ribbon (Jonathan Cape: London, 1950)
  • English Ways (Jonathan Cape: London, 1940)
  • Laugh at Polonius (Jonathan Cape: London, 1942)
  • Caliban Shrieks (Codbden-Sanderson: London, 1935)