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The Papers of Sir Kenneth Hutchison

Reference Code: GBR/0014/HTSN

Scope and Contents

The collection comprises: working papers connected with the writing of Hutchison's autobiography, 'High Speed Gas', including original source material, correspondence, and photographic material; copies of Hutchison's lectures, speeches, and articles; and papers relating to visits and conferences. Hutchison's working papers and background material contain gas industry publications, commercial advertising, and ephemera.


  • Creation: 1828 - 1989


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

William Kenneth Hutchison, known as Kenneth, was born on 30 October 1903 at Dooria, Assam, India, to William Hutchison, a tea planter, and his wife Barbara, née McCormack. On the death of their mother in 1906, Hutchison and his four siblings were brought up by an aunt in Scotland. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy, and graduated with first-class honours in Chemistry in the Natural Sciences tripos from Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1926.

In 1926 Hutchison became a research chemist at the Gas Light and Coke Company, where he helped bring a more scientific method to the empirical traditions of gas engineering. During the mid-1930s he took a leading role in the design and construction of a new benzole plant at Kensal Green, which opened in 1937. He was recognised for this work in 1942 with the Moulton Medal of the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

During the Second World War Hutchison was seconded to the Air Ministry's Directorate of Hydrogen Production, where he became Assistant Director, 1941, then Director, 1942, and managed the manufacture and supply of hydrogen for barrage balloons. In 1944 he was appointed Director of Compressed Gases, with responsibility for the organisation of an effective supply system of oxygen to meet the demands of the British and American air forces.

Hutchison returned to the Gas Light and Coke Company in 1945, where he was appointed controller of by-products (coke and tar), and became a Director of the company in 1947. On nationalization in 1949 he was appointed the first Chairman of the South Eastern Gas Board, and was a founder member of the Gas Council. Hutchison played a crucial role in reversing the fortunes of the gas industry, bringing about the transfer from coal, over which the state had a monopoly, to oil as its main raw material. He oversaw the development of new technology for importing liquefied natural gas and the implementation of new processes to utilise existing oil stocks more cheaply and efficiently, and was a driving force in the gas industry's involvement in the discovery of natural gas reserves in the North Sea. In 1960, he was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Gas Council, under Sir Henry Jones. Hutchison became instrumental in expanding the consumer market for gas and changing its public image in Britain, promoting the idea of whole-house heating. In April 1962, he masterminded a national advertising campaign promoting gas appliances and central heating called 'High Speed Gas'.

In 1966, Hutchison retired from the Gas Council and took up management consultancy for the oil industry. He published his autobiography, also called 'High Speed Gas', in 1987.

Hutchison was made a CBE in 1954 and knighted in 1962. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, 1966. He was President of the British Road Tar Association (1953-55), Institution of Gas Engineers (1955-56), the Institution of Chemical Engineers (1959-61), Society of British Gas Industries (1967-68), and the National Society for Clean Air (1969-71).

Hutchison married, in 1939, Dorothea Marion Eva Bluett (c. 1905-1987), with whom he had one daughter.

Hutchison died at his home in Twickenham on 28 November 1989.


12 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A copy of the full catalogue is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre and on the National Archives website,

Former/other reference

NCUACS 80.1.99 (National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was deposited by Mr. D. R. Martin via the Oxford Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre in 1999.


Sir Kenneth Hutchison, 'High Speed Gas: An Autobiography' (London: Duckworth, 1987).


A catalogue of this collection was originally compiled by Alan Hayward and Peter Harper of the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists (NCUACS, formerly Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre). The catalogue was retroconverted and updated by Heidi Egginton in November 2017.

This collection level description was prepared by Heidi Egginton in August 2017 using information from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Who Was Who (A & C Black, 2014), and from the NCUACS catalogue to the collection (1999).


Hutchison, Sir William Kenneth, 1903-1989, knight, gas industrialist

2017-08-23 12:15:19+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087