F.A. Barton & F.L. Rawson


Francis Alexander Barton was born at Dover on 17 May 1861, son of Dr. F.E. Barton. He was educated at Harrow, by a private tutor, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He proved an excellent oarsman, winning the gold and silver sculls and the pairs and, in October 1882, rowing in the winning trial eight. After graduating in the Natural Science Tripos, Barton went to St. George’s Hospital and eventually set up in practice at Beckenham. He always had an eye for mechanical invention, and ran a motor-car as early as 1897.

Meanwhile, Frederick Lawrence Rawson (born 27 July 1859 at Cape Torre, Republic of South Africa, son of Sir Rawson William Rawson) had become a distinguished practicing engineer, and achieved a marked success in his profession as consultant and as businessman. Among other things, he was a pioneer in the field of the practical use of electricity and engineer of the first company in the field of electric lighting. He laid the first electric railway in England. He was also interested in other things and drew up plans for the first gas-driven automobile.

By the spring of 1899 Dr Barton has been engaged for sixteen years in experimenting with navigable balloons and, after he had made several models, he was convinced that 'he had found the right principle. Dr Barton, by then the president of the Aeronautical Institute, approached the British Government, and two years later he received a letter from the War Office stating that they were prepared to give an order for one of his airships. Barton engaged Rawson as consulting engineer on the project and work began on building the machine at Alexandra Palace in 1902. However, with work taking longer to complete than anticipated, the War Office cancelled the contract.

Barton continued to work to make the dirigible a success, and in July, 1905, his frail structure actually made a free flight from the Alexandra Palace to Romford, with Rawson as helmsman, Henry Spencer (one of the Spencer family of Aeronauts and Aviators) controlling the motors and Auguste Gaudron, Spencer’s brother-in-law, as chief aeronaut. Unfortunately the machine was virtually uncontrollable and was wrecked on landing.

By now Bartons interest had turned to heavier than air flight. A twin-floatplane of bamboo construction was built at St. Helens, Isle of Wight, in 1905 by Dr. Barton, his son Dudley and Rawson with the intention of being powered. Owing to the lack of a light-weight engine, it was tested by towing behind a launch, but was wrecked in the course of these trials on 26 September 1905.

Having exhausted all his money, Barton next went to Beausbleil, in the South of France, to experiment in the production of non-alcoholic wines. He made various inventions from time to time, and became interested in music, Christian Science, and Free-Masonry, among other things.

Just before WWI he was again engaged in aeronautical work, and his Britannia airship was at one time supported by an influential syndicate and offered to the Admiralty – without result. During the War Barton took over a medical practice in Norwich, and in 1918 he was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Medical Services to the Ministry of Pensions for the county of Berkshire. In 1925 he went abroad for reasons of health, and latterly conducted a remedial centre at Alassio.

Dr. F.A. Barton died at Nestalas, Romsley Hill Top, Worcestershire, on 18 April 1939. Rawson had predeceased Barton, having died in New York on 10 November 1923.

Project Data top

Project No
Type No
Alternative Name(s)
Spec (Requirement)
     Hydro-multiplane    1905    Pro(n)  1  1S, 1E float equiped multiplane   1,2,3

Project References
  1. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
  2. British Aircraft 1809-1914, Peter Lewis (Putnam, 1962)
  3. Aeromarine Origins, H.F. King (Putnam, 1966)

Production Data

   Total Barton-Rawson Production     1   

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