ONE of Yorkshire’s most significant benefactors, Raymond Montague Burton who has died in South Africa at the age of 93, was a son of Montague (later Sir Montague) Burton and his wife Sophia.
As a director of Burton’s, Raymond founded Top Shop, of which he was very proud, but it was his exceptional generosity which marked him out.
From a shop in Chesterfield, his father developed the idea of affordable quality clothing, and went on to invent made-to-measure tailoring at prices the working man could aspire to.
After the War, a Burton jacket, trousers and waistcoat, shirt and underwear became known as the Full Monty, and by the time of Sir Montague‘s death in 1952, the company was the largest multiple tailor in the world, its headquarters a huge complex on Hudson Road in Leeds.
Raymond had an older sister, Barbara and an older brother Stanley, both of whom predeceased him. He also has a twin brother, Arnold, who survives him.
He started his schooling at Grosvenor House in Harrogate before going to Clifton College in Bristol. He took his first degree at Trinity College, Cambridge and then studied for an MBA at Harvard.
During the war, he was in the Army, serving in Ceylon and India with the artillery, and was made up to Major. After the war, he joined the family business as a director. He took particular responsibility for the property portfolio of the company which operated from 600 shops at that time.
In 1955, he relocated to London where he took on the chairmanship of Peter Robinson, the ladies’ fashion store at Oxford Circus which had been acquired by the company. He oversaw the rollout of Peter Robinson to the regions, while Top Shop, which he had set up, became a fashion phenomenon. Raymond remained with the then Burton Group until he retired in 1981 having served as joint chairman and then president.
For many years he supported numerous good causes in Yorkshire, Israel, London, St Petersburg and elsewhere. In 1995, he was awarded the CBE for charitable services to museums in recognition of the support he gave to the Jewish Museum in London of which he was president and a former chairman.
Raymond Burton combined a great enthusiasm for all things “Yorkshire” with a wholehearted commitment to helping initiate and support new ventures, such as the Kew at Castle Howard Arboretum and the Ryedale Festival. He always tried to support innovations that would make an enduring contribution to Yorkshire life.
This convergence of interests was nowhere more evident than in his support for the University of York from its start in 1965, not least through his sponsorship of the music department’s concert series over many years. But his scholarly enthusiasm for collecting Yorkshire material – mainly books, playbills and manuscripts from the 18th and 19th centuries – led to his major project with the university, The Raymond Burton Library for Humanities Research, which was later to receive his valuable collection. This admired new building was fundamental to the university’s reputation for humanities research.
Raymond endured fanfares and fuss as unavoidable nuisances, and typically he was reluctant to have the library named after him. The wishes of the university, however, prevailed.
One of his gifts to the library was a 600-year old gild roll which yielded important clues about the origins of the York Mystery Plays. It was among documents he had purchased from a London antiquarian books dealer.
He contributed to many other causes, including York Civic Trust, and the Merchants of the Staple (which he helped to re-establish)
A lover of the arts, he was especially drawn to opera, ballet and music which he enjoyed watching and listening to in opera houses and concert halls around the world.
He was a member for many years, and former mayor, of the Merchants of the Staple in the city of York He is a past Master and long time-member of the Worshipful Company of Loriners in the City of London and a Freeman of the City of London. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).
Raymond had a lifelong interest in motor cars and in the 1950s enjoyed international rallying with his twin brother, Arnold.
In 1946 Raymond married Pamela Flatau and they were happily married for over 50 years. They had two daughters, Jane and Harriet, who survive him. Pamela died in 2002.
In 2005, Raymond married Diana Stuttaford from Cape Town who also survives him. They continued to commute between Yorkshire, London, and Cape Town until their final journey to the South Africa city last September.