Tireless by the Trent

Bertrand Hallward
August 16, 1996

As an undergraduate at Cambridge, Bertrand Hallwood was influenced by The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Anyone meeting him then or in later years would see why. Tall, athletic, highly intelligent, bursting with energy and perennially handsome, for Hallwood the temptation to put these attributes to personal use and to trample on others in the process must have always been there.

Hallwood chose otherwise. After an uncertain start as an undergraduate, renewed commitment brought him the highest academic honours. In 1924, aged 23 and after two terms teaching at Harrow, he was offered a lectureship in classics at Pembroke. This was the beginning of a 15-year career at Cambridge, a time that saw the start of a long and happy marriage, a successful but ultimately unsatisfying venture into historical research and a move, both within Pembroke and the wider world of the university, into that mixture of academic and institutional administration to which Hallwood was later to commit himself wholeheartedly.

In 1939, he was appointed headmaster of Clifton College. His capacity for resolute action was soon tested. In 1940, bombs began to fall on Britain. Despite resistance from school governors and a degree of resentment among senior staff, Hallwood forced through what turned out to be the right decision for what turned out to be the wrong reason. He moved the school to Bude. As he did so, the bombing stopped.

Moving a boarding school into a range of seaside hotels required all the energy, self-belief and enthusiasm the young headmaster had to offer. Hallwood did not make himself universally popular in the process but when he brought the school back to Clifton in 1945 it was in far better financial and academic shape than when it had left. No one who was at Clifton in those years could doubt the degree to which Hallwood's leadership and example contributed to that success.

In 1948, after nine years at Clifton, it was time to move on. Hallwood's appointment, as first vice chancellor of the University of Nottingham, came at a good time for both. In that appointment, Hallwood was fortunate in having Sir Francis Hill as his president. With that crucial support, maintained over 17 years, the work of building the new university was pursued, as Hallwood would exclaim, with "vigour, vigour, vigour".

Inevitably, buildings or reports bearing their name tend to be what heads of universities are remembered for. Hallwood's single-minded attention to the development of Nottingham University drew him away from national ventures and the fame that report-writing sometimes brings. But the buildings remain. Those executed or planned between 1948 and 1965, the years of Hallwood's vice chancellorship, justify what was said of him at his retirement: "He found a college and left a university."

For a university to be as successful as Nottingham now is requires sound academic and management structures, the appointment of distinguished scholars and an absolute commitment to excellence. These are essential foundations Hallwood succeeded in providing, sometimes uncomfortably but always with an uncompromising insistence on standards as high as his own.

Derek Winterbottom's biography is an account of a lifetime of successes. Both at Clifton and at Nottingham, Hallwood commissioned histories of the institutions he led with such distinction. It is fitting that, in retirement at Cambridge, he should be presented with this excellent biography of himself.

Sir Peter Newsam was formerly director, Institute of Education.

Bertrand Hallward: The First Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham

Author - Derek Winterbottom
ISBN - 0 85358 045 6 and 046 4
Publisher - University of Nottingham
Price - £25.00 and £12.95
Pages - 244

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