Thomas Hatton was born in Manchester in 1876. He came to Leicester in the late 19th century and worked as a junior clerk in a corset factory in Market Harborough, earning £10 a week. He later joined the Lennard Brothers (Boot and Shoe Manufacturers) as a factory leader and later started his own business.
He had many interests, including starting a crossword puzzle company after he retired in 1926. He also was a boxing promoter, and helped to build the Leicester Greyhound Stadium.
Among these interests, one that has contributed a lot to the university is the collection of many valuable books. His collection of works by many 19th century British authors was described in the newspapers as the second best private collection in the country, ranging over England, Wales and part of Scotland. Following that, he collaborated with publishers Arthur Waugh, Hugh Walpole, and Walter Dexter to publish Nonesuch Dickens, which became a very popular edition of Charles Dickens.
In addition, he was involved in the book trade and invented a new method of binding books by using special glazed goatskin. He catalogued the books in his collection, which are now placed in the Special Collection and Archives at the University of Leicester. Thomas went on to become an expert on the works of Charles Dickens.
In November 1920, Mr. Hatton wrote a letter to Dr. Astley Clarke offering to donate more than 2,000 volumes of topographical works to the forthcoming Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College.
The donation contains many rare and valuable collections. 'It includes Caradoc of Llancarfan’s “ History of Cambria” ( first edition, one volume), published in 1584, profuse in woodcut illustrations, and with a title page which is a revelation of 16th century decorative design and good craftsmanship, and first and second editions of Burton's Leicestershire.' These collections can still be found in Archives and Special collection or the English Local History area in the library. They can be identified from Thomas's bookplate, usually inside the front cover.
In order to thank him for his generosity, the College Council voted unanimously to name his collection ‘The Hatton Topographical Library.’
Hatton continued to support the university as a member of the Library Committee from the foundation, and worked in the University College Sports Field Sub-Committee. In 1943, at the age of 67, Hatton's colorful life ended in Birmingham.
Page curated by Ya-Chu Hsieh
Leicester Daily Post, 11 December 1920, 'A Public-Spirited Gift: Valuable Library Presented to Leicester University College.'
Leicester Mail, 11 December 1920, 'Books for the University.'
Archives and Special Collection of the University of Leicester, 7 August 2020, 'Twitter thread.'
University of Leicester, 2020. Our Founders — University Of Leicester. [online] Www2.le.ac.uk. Available at: <https://www2.le.ac.uk/library/find/specialcollections/our-history/our-founders-1/our-founders#annie-clephan> [Accessed 8 August 2020].